Since entering the European market officially in 2016, BlackYak has quickly established itself in the global outdoor industry thanks to numerous innovations and very distinctive design. Also contributing to this success were 24 Ispo Awards, which the South Korean outdoor specialist has so far received for its products targeting serious mountaineers and alpinists.
Since the ideas for new designs and technologies are supplied almost exclusively by the European headquarters of the company, led by the managing director of its international business operations, Maximilian Nortz, the distances between Munich, Germany, the brand’s design agency in Zurich, Switzerland, and the prototyping facility in South Korea sometimes resulted in waiting times of several weeks, slowing down the workflow. Repeat shipments of prototypes and numerous business trips to Asia also generated excessive CO2 emissions.
To create prototypes faster, optimize development processes, and improve the carbon footprint, the company recently decided to set up a new technology center directly at its European headquarters, in one of Munich’s trendy quarters near the city center. More than a dozen sewing machines and special machines for ultrasonic welding, taping and bonding as well as cutters, presses, cutting tables and various testing machines were installed on the office’s premises to develop new ideas and implement them under real production conditions.
BlackYak also decided to move the design agency from Zurich to Munich and fully integrate it into the company. According to Nortz, this allows BlackYak to move the product more into the center of the company’s business. Shorter processes allow BlackYak to involve its team of experts and athletes better and react quicker to their feedback and requests.
The company had to expand the European team to operate the new equipment and make maximum use of it. With the relocation of their operation, the design agency’s owners, Marcel Geser and Thomas Deutschebaur, also moved to Munich. The staff was expanded with additional designers and cutting experts, who had to be trained in the processing techniques. For this purpose, BlackYak entered into collaboration with the Bartenstein Academy, a new, Munich-based academy for innovative design and development founded earlier this year by a textile designer, Alexa Demel, and a sports entrepreneur, Gerd Bittl-Fröhlich.
Demel has worked for several sports and fashion brands in the past and founded the Performance Forum at the Performance Days trade show in Munich. Bittl-Fröhlich is one of the sons of a late sports retail veteran, Gerd Bittl of the Sport Bittl store in Munich, and owns an internet retail training portal, sportsella.com. Academy students can also use the machines in the technology center; in return, Nortz hopes to find suitable young talents for BlackYak.
After the design and prototype process, BlackYak products will continue to be manufactured in the brand’s facilities in China, Vietnam and Europe. All production partners are members of the Fair Labor Association or the Fair Wear Foundation.