Local start-up Ripton & Co. brings modern jorts to the outdoors, sports world
Elliot Wilkinson-Ray set out to give jorts — or jean shorts — more than a simple tune-up. He wanted to give them a whole new engine, one that would jive with today’s fashion culture.
“The idea was to create a young brand with a lot of spunk, a lot of personality,” Wilkinson-Ray said. “We are taking an object from the ’90s that was ubiquitous in that time period and we are making it really comfortable, we are making it a little bit technical — we are just updating it.”
Late last year, Wilkinson-Ray officially launched Ripton & Co., an online-only start-up based out of Aspen’s Skier Chalet, where he lives. They quickly sold through their first version of “technical sports jorts” during the winter and will soon be shipping their second version out to customers.
The Ripton & Co. jorts are unique as they are designed more like activewear with thin, stretchy material and are quickly finding their place among the outdoors-types, including mountain bikers and skiers.
When activewear companies, like Lululemon, exploded in popularity, denim took a nosedive. Wilkinson-Ray saw this as an opportunity. His inspiration for athletic jorts goes back to around 2014 when he was working for Kitsbow, a San Francisco-based company that makes cycling apparel, including with denim. With a more sophisticated clientele, Kitsbow didn’t take to Wilkinson-Ray’s idea of athletic jorts, something he brought with him to Aspen when he moved to the area three years ago.
“I thought the sports jorts for the athlete was something that was not happening. It was kind of a fun idea,” the 33-year-old said. “It will be something people want to wear to the Fourth of July or to a baseball game or to go hiking or mountain biking with our buddies — kind of a broad range. We did a lot of skiing in them this spring.”
The name comes from the small mountain town of Ripton in Vermont, near where Wilkinson-Ray grew up. The denim factory that currently makes their product is in Los Angeles, and their second shipment of 1,000 jorts was delayed until this month as that factory moved over to making facemasks and other personal protective equipment as the coronavirus pandemic broke out.
About 150 of those pairs were sold as pre-orders, and Wilkinson-Ray hopes to have the rest sold by the fall. At this time, they are only sold through their website or via word of mouth. Live locally and want a pair? Simply shoot them a message on Instagram (@ripton_co) and they can make it happen. Both men’s and women’s version 2.0 action jorts sell for $89 a pair.
While having an Aspen storefront is a dream to chase down the line, Ripton & Co.’s immediate strategy will be to sell online to the world and target niche markets, like ski towns, that would have a need and desire for athletic jorts. Wilkinson-Ray mostly runs the company by himself, but has a few friends, including his brother, who help out. The idea would be to have a couple of official staff members by next year as Ripton & Co. looks to take its next step.
“There is room for fresh blood,” Wilkinson-Ray said of the post-COVID world. “A lot of people are questioning the role of cities in our economic realities and landscapes. There is no reason why you can’t create the next big lifestyle brand from an even smaller town than here.”
To order a pair, go to riptonco.com.
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The pandemic’s impact on Aspen’s retail economy and the city’s sales tax coffers in June wasn’t half as bad as predicted.