In some ways, Ibex was a company before its time. Originally founded in 1997, they were early pioneers in creating wool apparel for performance as well as everyday use, and the Vermont company was a forerunner in instilling social and environmental responsibility into their product chain. Today, thankfully, responsible practices are more commonplace, but in the 1990s it definitely went against the grain of most apparel manufacturers.
As wool fabrics became more prominent in performance apparel, Ibex enjoyed significant brand recognition and customer loyalty as a company that did things the right way. Their apparel had classic styling and a luxurious feel, and compared favorably to high-end boutique companies despite keeping their prices affordable. That’s why there was shock and legitimate sadness among many outdoor aficionados when Ibex announced that it was going out of business in February 2018.
Fortunately, the disappearance of the Ibex brand was more of a hibernation than a death. Approximately one year after the company closed down, longtime endurance athlete and outdoor industry vet Bonie Shupe signed on as GM, secured venture capital partnership, and recruited a female-dominated leadership team to revive the brand she and so many others loved. Picking up almost right where the company left off, “Ibex 2.0” is on the forefront of ethical and sustainable apparel manufacturing (more on this below), even amplifying the message to “Buy less, buy better” as they work to reestablish their place in the competitive market.
Shupe is as authentic as company leaders come: she has cycled across the country, run the Wasatch 100 and won the Bighorn 52-miler among other accomplishments, and her investment in Ibex is partially rooted in a desire to create better products for her own adventures. She also engaged with the community that made Ibex successful in the good old days, meeting many former customers in person, answering customer service e-mails herself, and conducting surveys of the fan base to understand what they hoped to see in the future from the iconic brand.
If you weren’t paying attention, it might be hard to tell that the company had such a roller coaster ride over the past few years. We were invited to try a couple new product options from the summer 2021 lineup. Both are soft, lightweight, odor resistant and temperature regulating; we tested them on cool and foggy coastal trails, as well as temps in the high 90s. Both feature classic styling and exceptional comfort that is true to the company’s heritage, which makes them equally suitable for athletic or leisure pursuits. They are both available in either men’s or women’s versions.
Ibex Journey Short Sleeve Crew ($88)
Fabric: 89% merino wool, 11% nylon, 18.5 micron fiber diameter
Weight: 175g (men’s size XL)
As the name implies, this is the adventure shirt of the Ibex collection. Its fabric combination is 89% merino wool and 11% nylon with core-spun construction; this means the merino fibers are wrapped around a nylon filament core, effectively increasing the strength of the fabric without compromising any of the inherent benefits of the natural wool. Core spinning adds tensile strength to the fabric and increases the overall durability of the shirt, either from high abrasion activities like rock climbing, or simply from multiple trips through the washer over the course of many years. Of the two shirts we tested, the Journey has a slightly smaller micron diameter (which equates to a softer skin feel) and is also slightly heavier, so it runs a bit warmer on hot days. We’d recommend it for running in temps lower than 70 degrees, longer low-intensity exercise, and for general all-purpose activity. It also makes a great “hike in it, sleep in it, hike in it again” option on multi-day outings.
The cut of the Journey short is described as a regular fit, but we found it to be fairly roomy, so size down if you’re an in-betweener. The hemline is level in front and back, with a back length of 29” on the men’s and 26” on the women’s versions. The women’s version has partially scalloped sleeves and a little bit brighter palette of color options; both gender versions offer six colors to choose from.
Ibex Merino Tencel Short Sleeve Crew ($85)
Fabric: 45% merino wool, 45% tencel, 10% nylon, 19.5 micron fiber diameter
Weight: 155g (men’s size XL)
With a slightly lighter weight and more efficient moisture-wicking capability than the Journey shirt, the Merino Tencel shirt is our recommended option for higher intensity activity and for warmer temperatures; we used it on days with temps in the 80s without feeling overheated. Tencel is another naturally occurring fiber derived from sustainably grown eucalyptus, and has similar temperature-regulating and anti-microbial properties as wool. The use of tencel fits into Ibex’s sustainability initiatives as the manufacturing of this fabric takes place in a closed-loop system which recycles over 99% of the water and solvents that are used to extract fibers from wood pulp.
Tencel fibers have a smoother surface than natural wool fibers, so when combined with merino, it creates a fabric that has a very soft feel against the skin and enhanced performance capabilities. Like the Journey shirt, the Merino Tencel has a regular fit through the torso that feels wide to us, and a level hemline in front and back. The sleeves on the women’s version are slightly lower and less contoured than on the Journey shirt, and the torso is noticeably shorter, to the point where it could be difficult for taller runners to keep it tucked in. Another slight design difference is that the women’s version has a small chest pocket, while the men’s does not. Both genders have the same three color options to choose from.
Climate Neutral Certification
Along with reviving the traditional styles and function of the brand, the new Ibex has also resumed its commitment to responsible manufacturing. They earned certification from Climate Neutral, a non-profit that assesses a company’s carbon footprint and establishes best practices for reducing carbon output. Ibex is part of the Plastic Alliance to eliminate new plastic production by utilizing 90% post-consumer materials, compostable bags for shipping, and eco-friendly adhesive labels and stickers. The company’s corporate headquarters is a 100% VOC-free, solar-powered home built from beetle-kill pine. In addition to environmental initiatives, Ibex is working with other third-party organizations to create ethical clothing produced with the highest humanitarian standards regarding work conditions and fair pay. In other words, they haven’t forgotten how to do things the right way.
One final note on responsible production is that Ibex’s seasonal collections are created in relatively small batches, which helps ensure quality production but also increases the chances that every shirt produced will find a home rather than ending up on the “repurposing” pile. The downside to this is that once a specific size or color of the shirt you want is sold out, it may not become available again. With that in mind, the Ibex Journey shirts and Merino Tencel shirts are now available at www.ibex.com.