For Cole Kozloff
, clothing is as much about keeping warm as it is artistic expression. Kozloff, 27, is the founder and co-owner of One Mountain Clothing in Bellingham, a collaboration of artists, photographers and snowboarders from the Mt. Baker area who strive to put the Mt. Baker experience into wearable art.
The company, which Kozloff
started as an art project for a graphic design class in Western Washington University's
fine art program, has turned into a blossoming business with revenues growing at an average of 100 percent per year.
"I was sitting there, constantly checking the snow report when it just kind of hit me," Kozloff
...Kozloff, who had dreams of becoming a photojournalist or a documentary photographer, moved to Bellingham in 2002 to attend Western's Huxley College of the Environment, later transferring to the university's art department.
By the time he
graduate d in 2005 with his
bachelor degree in fine art with an emphasis in photography, he
had already started his
own business and enlisted the help of his
sister Amy, who had recently graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in fabrics and fibers from Parson's School of Design
in New York City. Kozloff, who now co-owns the company with his sister, also hired graphic design manager Erin Power, as well as three part-time employees: one in Colorado, one in Utah and one in Bellingham.
added they have plans to hire a fourth full-time employee by the end of the year.
Reflecting back on his
career choice, Kozloff
is still able to create images that communicate his
passion for nature and snowboarding , and make a living with a degree in fine art.
"I think what I was after is the documentation, documentary photography," he
said."But I can still document the snowboarding subculture without necessarily recording it through photographic images."He
added: "The job market is so limited for someone with an art degree.I could be a curator in a museum somewhere, but those jobs are hard to come by.Art students don't get jobs; we have to make them ourselves."
Inspired by the mountainWhen asked what he
liked about Mt. Baker as opposed to other ski areas, Kozloff
cited a combination of strong community, being a family-run, non-corporate ski area, and the mountain itself, with Shuksan looming over in the background.Kozloff
added that a majority of One Mountain's designs are inspired by scenery of the Mt. Baker area.
"We just kind of look around and try to find ways to capture the feeling you get when you're out there on Mt. Baker," he
said."Being there on the mountain or just in the ski area, there is a presence that you don't find easily at other places.Sometimes it's just riding the chair lift watching the sun come up through the fog and thinking ,How do I represent that to someone in the form of a t-shirt design so they'll get that feeling when they're not there?'"
One of their most popular items is their "Cedars" hoodie ($55), a heavyweight cotton full-zip sweatshirt that features a dark road through towering cedar trees and beautiful Japanese woodblock calligraphy that, when translated, reads "Peace, progress, snow."Kozloff
said the characters reminded him of the snowy regions of Japan and the unity all snowboarders around the world have in their quest for snow.
"It's probably one of our two top-selling items," he
The tree that wraps around the back is more reflective of the human brain, Kozloff
"There are some literal physical comparisons there and also some metaphorical examples with the heart and the brain and the root system in that design," he
Sweat-shop freeOne Mountain
purchases most of its wholesale material from American Apparel clothing, a Los Angeles-based company that markets its products as sweatshop-free and made in the U.S. Kozloff said he
associates liked the quality of their material and the fact they pay their employees more than the market-clearing wage.Kozloff
said, however, as American Apparel moves away from wholesale and into retail business, One Mountain
is searching for other suppliers to keep up with their demand.
"We're still going to work with them, but we need to look into other options so we can have a consistent supply," he