From High Desert to High Winter Fashion
February 25th, 2018 by Kathy Ursprung

Olympians and U.S. ice dance champions Maia and Alex Shibutani model
Team USA’s closing ceremony garb.

Imperial Stock Ranch provides warmth and style for Winter Olympians

The 2018 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams were warmed by a little bit of Wasco County, Oregon, sunshine during their stay in chilly PyeongChang, South Korea, for the 23rd Winter Olympic Games.

“For me, wool is harvested sunlight,” says Jeanne Carver, owner with her husband, Dan, of Imperial Stock Ranch in the high desert of southern Wasco County.

The ranch’s wool was a key material used in the Team USA uniforms.

“Wool is a miracle fiber that is the best natural insulating fiber that exists,” Jeanne says. “Grazing animals play an integral role in healthy grasslands. They convert the sunlight energy in plants into new forms of protein that provide life to humankind as food, clothing and shelter. As grazing animals bite plants, that action stimulates plants to produce more seed, increase root development and biomass above and below the soil.”

This was the second Winter Olympics in which Polo Ralph Lauren used Imperial Stock Ranch’s wool.

“We are very humbled, as well as proud, of being a small part of Polo Ralph Lauren’s Olympic uniform program,” Jeanne says. “It will always be special, and seems like a miracle.”

Polo Ralph Lauren used about 25,000 pounds of raw wool for the knit items in the Team USA uniforms.

“Not all of the wool for the uniforms came from Imperial Stock Ranch, but Imperial Stock Ranch remains the core of the wool supply behind the branded yarn production,” Jeanne says.

Following the 2014 Olympics, Polo Ralph Lauren maintained a relationship with Imperial Stock Ranch on other projects. The relationship has changed a bit since then, however.

“In early 2015, National Spinning Co., Inc., one of the strongest spinning mills in the U.S., proposed a licensing partnership based on the value of Imperial Stock Ranch’s rich history,” Jeanne says.

The two venerable companies—National Spinning was established in 1921—launched their Imperial Stock Ranch American Merino program later that year.

“Ralph Lauren liked the model and chose those branded yarns for their 2018 Olympic uniform program,” Jeanne says.

At 147 years old, Imperial Stock Ranch is even older than the Winter Olympics—old enough, in fact, that the headquarters of the privately owned ranch is a national historic district.

Sheep, cattle, grains and hay are sustainably produced on Imperial Stock Ranch’s 32,000 acres.

Ralph Lauren found Imperial Stock Ranch when it searched out American yarns in 2012 for the Olympics uniform program. The ranch’s heritage and sustainable practices were factors in the Carvers’ favor, Jeanne says.

“Being able to deliver a quality yarn product was also necessary,” Jeanne says.

Four of the five opening and closing ceremony knit items were 100 percent wool. The fifth was 70 percent wool and 30 percent American alpaca.

From design and distribution to manufacturing and marketing, the parade ceremony uniforms worn by Team USA athletes were produced in the United States. More than 500 athletes and staff were outfitted for the Olympic Winter Games. For the Paralympic Winter Games, more than 200 athletes were outfitted.

Polo Ralph Lauren worked with nine manufacturers in the U.S. to create the opening and closing ceremony uniforms. They included traditional materials such as wool and denim, but also featured advanced technology designed to keep the Olympians warm during the chilly Korean winter.

The opening and closing ceremony uniforms were individually tailored gifts to each athlete. Eleven tailors and two stylists had four hours to fit and tailor the parade uniforms.

The Carvers have been able to bring international attention to their corner of Wasco County, and their association with Polo Ralph Lauren has helped them forge new alliances. At home on the ranch, the Carvers are strongly focused on the legacy they are protecting.

“It’s both sobering and inspiring,” Jeanne says. “We work on land and in buildings that have been here so long. We are grateful, and often reminded that we are temporary. There’s a constant awareness of the responsibility to do a good job of managing natural resources to ensure the future.

“The timelessness of the activities—and the endless cycles of the seasons and year—provide belonging, work of value and a sense of purpose. It’s a good life.”