Toad&Co was born humbly in Telluride the way many other businesses have been: with one person inside a garage. But rather than tinkering with bits of tech, founder Jessica Nordhaus was crafting fleece toque hats for her friends (head-to-toe fleece was cool in the ’90s). The company has come a long way in the last few decades. It moved to Chicago and then to Santa Barbara, where Nordhaus and co wholeheartedly grew the comapny’s early commitment to social and environmental responsibility in all facets, from internal operations to fabric selection and production.
Toad&Co isn’t making fleece hats anymore. Instead, the company is producing a full line, from pants, to shirting, base layers and jackets, 90 percent of which are eco-friendly, and all of which are built for a long life. They’re designed to move seamlessly from “trail to tavern,” as they like to say.
“We’re the kids in class that ask too many questions,” says Materials Manager Ciara Cates. “It takes a lot of research and legwork to find materials that will meet our aesthetic, eco and performance standards.”
Every piece of cotton Toad&Co uses is organic and grown with biodynamic methods — a far cry from conventionally grown cotton. They’re also using soft Tencel® made from responsibly forested trees, recycled polyester from post-consumer plastic waste and recycled wool made from upcycled wool garments and mill scraps, just to name a few of the materials on their roster. “For every fifty fabrics that are researched, roughly two fabrics get selected — sometimes none at all,” says Cates. “Gems aren’t easy to find, but each one is worth every painstaking search.”
Every fabric is researched and all vendors are vetted — and what’s more, the company strives to find fabrics that are Bluesign® approved, which takes into account the use of energy, water, chemistry, emissions and worker safety during fabric production. There are currently 13 fabrics across 23 of Toad&Co’s styles meeting that standard.
“Each fiber has to be evaluated for its strengths and weaknesses because no fiber is perfect,” Cates says. “We consider a fiber’s environmental impact, look, feel, performance — or lack of performance — when determining which fibers and manufacturing methods will fit the function of the garment. It’s like we’re looking for the ‘eco-glass slipper’: which fibers will fit the demands and functions of long-term wear?”