Our sister blog AllOutdoor.com recently did a nice review on the Triple Aught Design (TAD) Stealth Hoodie LT (which I also own, and love), and so as a complement I want to give you some insight into the company based on a factory tour I recently took here in San Francisco where TAD is based.
Triple Aught Design is a small company, employing around 30 people, many who I met seemed to really enjoy working there. This is a really important cultural aspect to me since happy employees feeds into building pride behind their products and helps promote innovation.
TAD has two storefronts in San Francisco, their “outpost” location in the Hayes Valley, and then their “base” in the Dogpatch district. When I visited their base location, their Marketing Manager, Skylar, along with Chief Operating Officer Rex & Senior Pack Designer Dan, took me on a tour of their operations.
The storefront is a medium sized warehouse room which is split between merchandise, a big truck, and training classrooms. The Gama Goat truck is essentially a loan from a company friend who needed a place to store it, and TAD was able to offer space for him to display it in the store. Easy peasy.
The classrooms are simple open areas with folding tables and chairs. Many types of classes are offered: survival courses, hand-to-hand combat, edged weapons, and field forecasting amongst many other topics. Naturally, I encouraged them to offer weapons courses using airsoft and/or laser training guns.
We then visited the warehouse and then where they design and assemble concept products. The warehouse is busy most of the week shipping out online orders and processing incoming supplies. Each outbound package gets a personalized touch with a hand-stamped TAD logo on each box.
On the design front, what I thought was most interesting is that TAD has every single apparel component on site so they can build prototypes at will. In our discussions, I noticed a very strong “launch and iterate” mentality which reminded me of my days working at Google, where Silicon Valley is all about kicking products out the door quickly to get user feedback and make improvements.
One example of taking action on customer feedback was the cord zipper pulls were often coming undone, so they switched to a grosgrain ribbon pull. My host Skylar explained a number of other design improvements that were implemented based on customer feedback such as moving to a three-piece pattern for the hood on their Ranger Hoodie to make it look more stylish and streamlined when up on a user’s head. Another improvement is stitching inner folds more cleanly. The attention to detail is impressive.
Lastly, TAD delivers high quality products via the way they send their products to factories. I learned that many of their competitors will simply provide a factory with a general layout of where zippers, stitches, and such go, but the factory often has a lot of leeway to cut corners by using cheaper materials and indiscriminately making changes. TAD compensates for this deficiency by giving their factory a 100% completed product with a build template which has explicit instructions for where everything goes, down to single stitches.
I really enjoyed meeting the TAD team and getting an inside look at their operations and company culture. Hopefully you found my insights useful and/or interesting.