Diamond Brand has been helping people experience the great outdoors safely and comfortably since 1881. From crafting the first backpack for the Boys Scouts of America in 1931 to manufacturing tents for American soldiers overseas to creating sophisticated travel bags inspired by Biltmore, Diamond Brand has always focused on quality and innovation, says CEO John Delaloye.
And for a company that produces outdoor and camping gear, he adds, there’s no better place to be than the Carolina mountains. The Asheville region attracts the kind of people Diamond Brand targets, people who make outdoor activities part of their daily lives. “You don’t need a lot of experience to introduce yourself to some good activities that will improve your life,” he says. “That’s what gets us excited. Then we make products that encourage and support people in those endeavors.” He’s also proud of the company’s 75-year history in Asheville and the region, a legacy he wants to celebrate, honor and preserve.
“Where you are is important to what you do,” Delaloye says.
“We have a vision of what we can do here that we don’t think we can do in other places because of the talent we can attract, the creativity those folks bring, and the state of mind we’re in while we’re doing our work.”
Diamond Brand employs 68 people in its 85,000-square-foot facility in Asheville metro area. The company takes products from conception through production, including backpacks, gear bags, tents and accessories. Its Biltmore Renaissance Collection consists of finely crafted, limited-production totes and travel bags inspired by the legacy of Biltmore.
Everybody sews at Diamond Brand — including the CEO. “Today, I was working on a shoulder strap,” Delaloye recounts. “It’s not necessarily the best shoulder strap, but our goal is to teach everybody the trade of sewing so they can pursue new ideas.” Last summer the company brought in its first crop of interns, part of an ongoing effort to give the outside world a better look at how Diamond Brand crafts outdoor gear with fabric.
Delaloye finds that talented people are attracted to Asheville. “There’s a little bit of an independent streak that runs through this area,” he says, adding that independent thinking and a willingness to rock the boat are important qualities for a company focused on innovation. He’s found a strong and collaborative group in the summer camp industry. Despite the fact that their businesses may be competing, they tend to work together to constantly improve their facilities and programs. Strong tourism, a good mix of people from various backgrounds, and a willingness to embrace the tension between old and new also make Asheville appealing.
“I really do think people come here to be a part of a community and embrace it, instead of just coming here to live and do their own thing.”