Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Discrete Headwear is an outdoor gear & apparel company that is aimed at the core of all things skiing & snowboarding. We got the chance to talk to CEO & pro athlete, Julian Carr, about the inspiration, values, and future of Discrete.
When was the company founded?
Discrete attended its first tradeshow in 2008, but our first year of “business” was in 2009. With that said, the inception of the brand was 2004. That’s when I first came up with the name and started building the company.
What was the inspiration behind the company and product?
In 2004, I was just starting to pick up some sponsors as a skier. I witnessed a few of my heroes in the sport getting “older” and getting dropped as professional athletes. Some of them responded by going back to school; some of them wasted away at bars. I wanted to ensure that I had an alternative to those outcomes. I was 1.5 years out from graduating college, so I stuck with college, worked at a sports bar every night, and started Discrete.
I got the name Discrete from a Computer Science course I took at the University of Utah called, “Discrete Structures.” The class was dedicated to discussing various disconnected and separate pieces of defunct math sequencing that never managed to become their own disciplines. I loved that these areas were unique and independent from the broader field. I was already determined to create a brand and had zillions of potential names/logos, but once I heard the term “Discrete,” it was no question. We still name the majority of our products after computer science terminology.
As far as the product goes, I really like to create product that doesn’t define the individual…I want Discrete to amplify the individual. So, Discrete is always coming up with classic and timeless simple pieces.
Have you been surprised by the company’s success? When did you know it was going well?
In 2009 when we started trying to enlist retailers to sell our product, we doubled my goal of what I wanted to bring in at our first tradeshow. That was a cool indication of growth. From 2004 to 2008, I gave away beanies to my friends all the time to get the brand “out there.” That was fun, but in 2009, I remember going skiing and suddenly seeing people I didn’t know rocking Discrete! I knew it was game on. And, of course, it was very flattering.
While I am very proud of what we have achieved, we have a long ways to go in terms of where I ultimately want the company to be.
You’ve amassed arguably the most innovative and impressive athlete team of any outdoor company. How did you build your team? What do you look for in your athletes?
I love athletes who are out there getting busy and are GREAT people. Our athletes are people you can engage with as people. They’re amazing individuals. That’s our core.
Discrete is located and culturally grounded in the Wasatch. How does Utah, its resorts, and the atmosphere there contribute to your company and its success?
I was born and raised in SLC, Utah, in the Avenues. I love this city. It is definitely an extension of who I am so it’s naturally an extension of what Discrete is. We love flying the SLC, UT banner proudly.
Alta and PCMR have produced some of today’s leading freeskiers both in terms of park and big mountain. What’s in the Kool Aid?
Our snow. You can’t beat it. There are so many talented kids all over Utah, and luckily they’re picking up skis and snowboards and developing their talents.
We also have access to some of the best resorts: PCMR’s park was game-changing in the industry when it was built and, as evident at the Olympics, continues to produce some of the most talented slopestyle and halfpipe athletes in the world. In terms of big mountain, Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, and Solitude have some of the best terrain in the world.
How did your journey as a professional athlete inform your decision to found Discrete?
Being an athlete in the industry, I had already developed some great relationships with media and sponsors. I was able to capitalize on those relationships and apply the same principles of outreach to marketing the brand. It’s been amazing to see everyone in the industry support the brand to the extent they have.
Where do you see the company growing?
I want Discrete to be a company you think of if you love spending life outdoors. Simple.
In terms of manufacturing and quality control, what standards is Discrete committed to upholding? The outdoor retail industry contains company leaders of eco-manufacturing, as well as companies who preach sustainability, but fall short in their own practices. How have you managed to stay true to your values as a CEO?
Right now, we use a facility that uses toxic-free dyes and organic cotton. It’s a start. As we grow, we’ll always be innovative and remain committed to using available resources responsibly to ensure a more sustainable future.
We have made stainless steel insulated water bottles with the hashtag #noplastic on them to promote the idea of consuming fewer plastic water bottles. Starting next fall, we’ll have weekly winners for beanies for who posts the best photos with #noplastic showing them using their water bottles.
We also just wrapped up an 8-week campaign with Protect Our Winters. We’ll continue to work with them as a partner in the future. It’s a complicated world out there and we’ll always be involved in promoting good business habits and awareness.
Think Discrete’s CEO, Julian Carr, rocks? Check out our Q&A with this entrepreneur/pro skier to learn more about his most memorable moments in skiing, his gnarliest injuries, and more!
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