In the summer of 2007, Jeremy Litchfield ran a race in a new red T-shirt. By the end of the race, sweaty from the heat and humidity, Litchfield looked down and noticed that the lower half of his body was dripping with red dye.
He found himself wondering, with concern, about the chemicals that might have been seeping into his skin. He researched, and after learning how most clothing was made, he decided he wanted to create an alternative to cheap, fast fashion. He founded Atayne (pronounced “attain”), a performance-apparel company in Maine that manufactures eco-friendly clothing.
The company prides itself on being progressive on many levels. Each item of performance wear from Atayne is made only after an order is placed, and many shirts speak loudly on issues from LGBTQ rights to environmental protection. The company has a National Parks Collection, which feature scenes from parks from across the United States. Litchfield has committed his company to using as many recycled materials as possible in the production of its clothing. We spoke with Litchfield about sustainable business growth, innovative manufacturing and leading an outspoken business. And why he’s shaking up the fashion industry by refusing to make stuff people don’t need.
The company tagline is, “Performance with a point of view.” What do you consider to be the point of view of Atayne?
We say we make progressive outdoor and active apparel, and that gets broken down into a few different things. Number one, progressive operations across the board, from our commitment as a Certified B Corporation, to applying what we call a localized manufacturing process using recycled materials. Localized manufacturing isn’t about “Made in the USA,” it’s about making products where people are buying them and supporting the economies where people are buying your products.
Beyond that, it goes to progressive manufacturing using really innovative processes and technologies to develop new models. It’s progressive design. If you look on our website at the products we sell, they’re all based around what we call “cause” collections. It’s this idea of giving athletes an actual voice beyond a billion-dollar logo so they can express messages important to them. So this idea of progressive outdoor and active apparel is a thread that runs through our company and defines everything we do.
Atayne clothes swim against the corporate tide by eschewing logos. It’s almost as though you want to be a stealth brand that only the green cognoscenti embrace. Is this a formula for controlled growth, or even a way to stay small and “niche-y”?