By Eric Peterson | Sep 20, 2020
"I've spent most of my career building things," says Ciciora.
Condo construction in Winter Park led him into metalwork, and he'd wear denim as he worked inside and outside, no matter the weather. "You'd have a big icicle on the bottom of your leg by the end of the day," he laughs. "We all just kind of accepted it. It was a drag, but we didn't know anything better."
A trip to Europe about a decade ago proved illuminating. "I started looking around, and I was like, "Wow, these guys here that are doing the same work I'm doing in the U.S. are working in garments that are as technical as what I've been climbing and skiing in," he says. "It dawned on me how capable and versatile a soft-shell work pant could be in the building environment."
Ciciora started working in soft-shell ski pants himself when he got back to Colorado, then launched Truewerk "to bring technical fabrics and garment construction from the outdoor industry and the military and apply those to jobs in the skilled trades." The first four products debuted in 2015.
The collection comprises "an integrated workwear system" with shirts, pants, shorts, bibs, and outerwear, says Ciciora, that is designed for layering. Double-stitched from four-way stretch fabric, the T2 WerkPant is the "centerpiece" of the catalog. "The piece is kicking off what I call the soft-shell revolution in the work market," he notes. "Nobody's doing this today in the work market. . . . Our T3 WerkBib is as good or better than most snowmobile pants today, and ski pants.
Ciciora outlines "a global supply chain" that spans production in Asia, decoration and customization in the U.S., and fulfillment from Next Level Resources in Denver. "We've got one family-owned facility in Bangladesh that we do a fair bit of our cut-and-sew with," he adds. "We're very tightly partnered. We control our own production lines there."
Truewerk "changed the supply chain game" for workwear by going to the outdoor industry's top fabric suppliers, says Ciciora. It's done some interesting things. Today in the work market, there's not a lot of people that talk about the environment. If you're using supply chains that are focused on the outdoor industry, you get a very environmentally friendly supply chain."
Arborists, linemen, and other "work at height" professionals were prime early adopters, but construction and HVAC workers, mechanics, and heavy equipment technicians are also big parts of Truewerk's market.
The direct-to-consumer sales model applies to both the B2C and B2B channels, providing "an alternative to the e entrenched uniform market" for the latter, says Ciciora. That allows Truewerk to work with more expensive fabrics than if it competed at wholesale, he adds. "The amount of value we can deliver, because there's so much more cost going into the quality of the fabric and the garment construction, is not something that can be done through retail. That's a really important distinction."
Truewerk's growth curve "has been steep," says Ciciora. "People want modern, functional workwear."
Challenges: Keeping up with growth, says Ciciora, who also points to the need to promote skilled trades as a career path to develop the workforce of the future. "The biggest challenge in front of Truewerk right now really stems from our mission as a business to help bring about the next generation of licensed trades. Beyond the product, we exist to try and build a platform that gives voice to a community of people who are underrepresented and undervalued relative to the value they provide to society. That's our biggest challenge: How do we help our community gain the level of significance that it rightly deserves?"
Opportunities: Ciciora says Truewerk's big opportunity revolves around maintaining "a leading position in performance workwear."
He forecasts the T2 will continue to be the top-selling Truewerk product, but adds, "At the same time, we're an innovative company." That means new products for 2021: a fire-resistant line and a new coverall.
Another opportunity, he adds, is "continuing to blur the line between work and play" with Truewerk's EDO (Everyday Operation) collection. "Workwear is about more than durability."
Needs: "The need is really to get great engagement from our community and understand what they need from us to support where they're going," says Ciciora.