Hot off the Press...Start Up Life: Aztech Mountain’s Slope-To-City Style
From The Window by Anna Deutch
Partners Anthony Heifara Rutgers and David Roth decided to launch Aztech Mountain because they saw a void in the market for truly versatile, refined performance sportswear. But the brand grew from more than recognizing a business opportunity.The concept allowed them to combine their favorite recreation with their many years of experience in business and fashion. The two split their time between their jobs in New York (Rutgers spent a decade in sales at Marc Jacobs and Roth has experience both in accounting and in his family’s eyeglasses business) and off-duty time in Aspen with ski culture and outdoor activities are at the center of their lifestyle.
Now, along with their goldendoodle/CEO Kamehameha and first official hire Alan Gaynor, they create Aztech Mountain from their sunny Soho HQ. Each aspect of every garment is thoroughly considered, and the result is a collection of refined cuts, expert fits, and nuanced details that are never fussy. Below, they share the highs and lows of their two-year old brand (though it was many more years than that in the making) and why it’s so worth it.
Anthony Rutgers: We’re avid skiiers, and we’ve spend a great deal of time in Aspen. A dear friend of ours has an incredible ski store there—the happening place in town. They have very elevated, sophisticated taste. One season, she learned she was not able to buy an important outerwear vendor, and they really felt the loss. Six weeks later, I was preparing for men’s market and kept hearing from all the top accounts that everyone was having the same problem that our friends at the ski store had regarding the hole in the market. Everyone was seeking the same category—premium to luxury, versatile outerwear.
David Roth: Usually if you wear even a well-made ski jacket on the streets of New York, it doesn’t vibe with the city life. We wanted to create a jacket that functions well on the mountain, and it looks just as great on in the city too.
AR: People are willing to invest a lot in jackets—it’s an easy way to completely change and update your look. Because they tend to be expensive, people don’t tend to have multiples for their different uses (skiing, dinner in the city). The goal for us was to have a singular view that these jackets can fit into all aspects of your lifestyle.
AH: It took about six years. I only left my job a year ago—after 10 years there.
DR: I still have multiple jobs!
AR: One of the reasons it took so long to finally launch was that, to produce these garments using all the latest technologies—ultrasonic seam welding, the expensive waterproofing process, the down fill—it’s all just very complicated. We did extensive research and sourcing to find the right production partners. We make everything in Italy, because we found that this type of garment can’t be made in the U.S. unless we built the factory ourselves! It was a long process.
AR: Aztech Mountain comes from Aspen, which is an important part of who we are. Our lives revolve around going there and getting to be outside. Specifically, it’s the name of a ski run, which is called Aztec, but we played with that by combining it with tech. When I was young, my friends and I used to hike up and watch the men’s downhill run there. David and I always ski there, and it’s just very meaningful.
DR: When Barneys placed an order, that was definitely a turning point.
AR: Everything in my previous career led me to this, and the universe, in different ways, told me it was finally time. After five years of planning, thinking of the name, detailing the product, it was just like: now or never.
THE TEAM AND HQ:
DR: This is actually our first office. It’s great, because our apartment is a five minute walk from here!
AR: This building is awesome and houses a lot of great brands, which is also great because we get so many buyers passing through! We hired Allen [Gaynor] recently, who handles a lot of sales, and we have an assistant designer Brian who does all our technical pattern making. He basically decimates what we tell him and is the only one who can do drawings that the Italian factories understand.
DR: We also work with an amazing graphic artist who helps realize our vision with our identity and website. Our parents throw around their weight too! At one point, we joked that we’d offer same day delivery in Aspen, and it would be Anthony’s mom running around town.
DR: When we first saw someone—who we didn’t know—purchase a garment! I always get so excited when random people find the brand and love it. We’ve heard about the owners of competition brands checking out our stuff in-store, which is flattering!
AR: Civilian sightings are always great. Also, international customers. We’ve sold to Japan and to some Chinese customers. I also love repeat orders. At Barneys, we’ve seen people come in and buy one item, and then come back to get several more because they liked it so much
AR: Last year was a phenomenal year, but we were almost so busy that we barely had time for press efforts or launch parties. We were racing against the clock, but this year we have a process in place, which allows more breathing room. Now, we can test new fabrics and weights, zippers, and just any idea for enhancing what we have any move it forward.