Dudley Stephens and Polartec Collaborate for Limited-edition Collection

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Dudley Stephens, the elevated fleece brand cofounded by sisters Lauren Stephens and Kaki McGrath in 2015, is collaborating with Polartec to celebrate the textile company’s 30th anniversary, leaning on the current ’90s mania for inspiration.

The relationship between the two companies is not new, Stephens said. “We’ve partnered with Polartec since we launched. They’ve helped us grow. They’ve come to us with new, innovative sustainable fabrics that we then subsequently used. We like to lean on them for R&D and new research.

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“When we launched we had this idea to make fleece clothing stylish and cute. We knew that there was recycled fleece fabric and so for us it was a no-brainer to use recycled fabric,” she continued. “Polartec was a household name and a brand name that we definitely wanted to source fabric from.…To date we’ve recycled over 4 million plastic bottles and it continues to be the DNA of our brand. Whenever we’re looking for new fabrics, it has to be recycled.”

Dudley Stephens’ Vello Fleece, a recycled fabric with a traditional fleece feel, and recycled Terry Fleece, a hook-and-loop textured fabric, are Polartec fabrications that sit at the core of the Dudley Stephens collection.

Out today, the limited-edition drop, which seems to give a wink to Princess Diana skiing in Klosters or Lech, is comprised of two fleeces, the Wynn Pullover and the Bleecker Pullover, with oversize fits offered in color-blocked neon pink, yellow and cobalt. This collaboration is part of Polartec’s “Peaking Since ‘91” 30th anniversary campaign. The fleeces will retail at $188 and come in sizes XS to 2XL.

Inspiration for the collection.
Inspiration for the collection.

Made with Polartec Thermal Pro shearling fleece, the shaggy texture has been updated for performance since its debut in the ’90s, and is made from postconsumer recycled plastic.

“Dudley Stephens has been an incredible, longstanding partner of Polartec. We’re inspired by the way they reinterpret our performance fabric technologies for everyday essentials,” said Polartec president Steve Layton in a statement. “They’re an obvious partner to help us celebrate our 30th anniversary as the Polartec brand evolves for today’s consumer valuing both function and fashion.”

Kaki McGrath and Lauren Stephens wearing Dudley Stephens. - Credit: Julia D'Agostino
Kaki McGrath and Lauren Stephens wearing Dudley Stephens. - Credit: Julia D'Agostino

Julia D'Agostino

The launch is just another high note in an already impressive year. Dudley Stephens, which has taken on no outside funding and has been profitable since 2018, will reach eight figures in revenue this year for the first time.

Like many brands with a comfortable offering, Dudley Stephens saw a lift from stay-at-home orders and the shift to working from home amid the pandemic, boasting 75 percent growth in 2020 over 2019 and projecting another 50 percent growth in 2021. Yet they don’t consider themselves another activewear brand.

“Athleisure has been huge [in the pandemic], right? But I kind of look at us as the opposite of athleisure, where we take stylish fashionable clothes and make them more comfortable instead of making gym clothes more stylish,” said McGrath. “I feel like we have kind of found that niche of elevated, functional and fashionable clothes that the modern woman needs.”

Stephens echoed this sentiment, saying, “We think there was a gap where you’re either going on a hike or doing some intense mountain climbing, and we just like aren’t that customer. But we still want to be warm and have a functional, versatile fabric in our active lifestyle, so how do you marry the two where it’s something cute and versatile but I feel like I can chase after my children or run to the subway.”

Thus their cult fleece turtlenecks were born.

Looking to 2022, the brand is developing an accessories offer, expanding its wholesale offerings thoughtfully and growing its non-fleece, eco-jersey line.

But loyalists (who have left upward of 13,000 five-star reviews on the brand’s site) need not worry that their favorite fleeces are going anywhere. Dudley Stephens isn’t messing with success.

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