How Flylow Comes Up with Its Wacky Product Names (Like the Pierogi Jacket)
We’ve always wondered how Flylow thinks up its out-of-bounds names—so we called up the owner and asked
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I’m Jewish and grew up eating pierogies stuffed with mashed potatoes that my dad would make at home. The first time I went to New York City he also took me to a Polish restaurant and we ordered heaps of these delicious dumplings. They’re hands down one of my favorite foods and I have to admit I never expected to ski in a fleece jacket by the same name.
But sitting in my closet right now is one of my favorite midlayers, the Pierogi Jacket made by Flylow, the Lake Tahoe, California, apparel company co-founded by Dan Abrams and Greg Steen. Abrams is Jewish, too, which is why the word pierogi shows up in his catalog, but you have to admit it takes real chutzpah to name a jacket after a dumpling.
To find out how Abrams and his team landed on “Pierogi” and many of the other unique names that Flylow uses for its apparel, I called him up to ask. Abrams is one of the most approachable and good-natured people in the ski industry and he was more than happy to dive into the history of the company’s naming conventions. The short answer, he said, is that they don’t put too much pressure on themselves.
“To be honest, we just come up with names when we have to. We’ve always been way more focused on materials, fit, and performance. To say that we plan the names out in some sort of clever way would be disingenuous,” he said.
Flylow built its reputation on creating bomber ski apparel that would put up with the abuse Abrams, Steen, and their friends would dish out every ski season during their twenties. Their first big success was the Chemical Pant (the pants are still in the line), which came with a burly outer fabric and 1,000-denier Oxford reinforced cuffs, and knees and they were the company’s answer to the flimsy ski pants Abrams and his crew would often rip after a few days into each ski season.
He came up with the name “Chemical” because he liked the sound but also because he realized the pants were just made up of a bunch of different plastics, which are made out of various chemicals. Abrams says environmental concerns have always been part of the reason Flylow is invested in making gear that will last, but he isn’t kidding himself about what materials are used to make sure the pants kept skiers dry and warm.
“That name got me thinking about science, and that’s how we also eventually landed on the Quantum Jacket,” he said.
When I asked Abrams about the Pierogi Jacket, he said the team was talking about how the jacket has a protective, wind-resistant outer and soft inner fleece and he said the dumpling popped into his mind immediately.
“We were basically describing a pierogi when talking about that jacket,” he said. “At one point we also considered calling it the knish jacket, but that one is too hard to spell and there’s nothing sexy about a knish. There is something sexy about a pierogi.”
When you visit the Flylow site today and look for the Pierogi Jacket, you also get clever copy written by Abram’s wife Megan Michelson that says, “Just like the doughy dumpling they’re named after, this midlayer is warm but lets off steam.”
Apparently I wasn’t the first person to ask Abrams about the apparel names, because he also pointed me to a blog post Flylow has on its site called “How That Jacket Got Its Name.” That post goes in-depth on various apparel names, but highlights include the Higgins Coat, which was named after the Higgins character in the 1980s crime-comedy TV series Magnum P.I., the Brosé Work Shirt “for guys who drink rosé,” and the Johnny Shirt—which the company suggests matching with the Cash Short. The Phil A Shirt is named after Abrams’ dad, Phil, who spent his life wearing a similar button-up.
On a more serious note, there was the Jim Jack-et, a shirt-jacket hybrid named in honor of Jim Jack, a close friend of Abrams’ who died in an avalanche in 2012. There is also the Rudolph Jacket, a puffy named for Chris Rudolph, another friend who died in the same slide.
Abrams also said that, once, the company decided to reach out to their customers and let them name a product. Hundreds of suggestions came in, but they ended up going with the Larry Vest.
“Larry is just a fun word to say,” Abrams said, for all explanation.
Over the years, Abrams has collaborated with larger companies and seen the hoops they often jump through when coming up with names. Their marketing and legal teams end up having control, so that the products don’t run into copyright violations and are named in such a way that they’ll sell as easily as possible.
For his part, Abrams has run into copyright issues, like the time he tried to name proprietary insulation “Yeti Loft” and was contacted by Yeti (the bike company). But those experiences don’t stop him from having fun, he says. While he does own a business, selling isn’t his only goal.
“When we talk about names, we don’t talk about what’s going to sell, but instead we talk about not giving people a reason not to buy,” he said.
Whenever Abrams needs naming inspiration, he likes to get outside. During the winter it’s a ski tour; during the summer it’s a mountain bike ride. He can recall several places along snow or dirt trails where a good name came to him out of the blue. But day-to-day, he never puts much effort into product names. He knows the names will come to the team when they need to.
“To be honest, we’re not that worried,” he said.