Walter Sky—like its South Bay creator Nathan Andersen—was destined for adventure

Born in Utah. Designed in California. Made to wear everywhere and anywhere.

  • Category
    Fashion, People
  • Written by
    Tanya Monaghan
  • Photographed by
    Anton Watts and Jason Speth

Do you know anyone who has a 40-foot climbing wall in their living room? How about someone who chooses to live in a Honduran jungle just after a hurricane? Do you know a man who can survive alone in the desert backcountry of Utah or an elite athlete-adventurer obsessed with the limitless majesty and purity of nature? If you do, it’s doubtful that it’s anyone other than Nathan Andersen, founder of Walter Sky.

Soft-spoken and humble despite his powerful appearance, Nathan’s life is packed with fascinating adventures and stories. If not waking up sand-side in Hermosa Beach or taking his boys to school, you’ll find Nathan on the road—seemingly blown by the wind to a site worthy of canyoneering … ascending into the unforgiving crevices of slot canyons in some of the world’s most awe-inspiring places. Far from civilization and the norms of society, this is more than a welcomed escape for Nathan; it is a pillar of his being.

Growing up within a stone’s throw of Utah’s Wasatch Range, Nathan took his first steps into the boundlessness of nature—roaming, climbing, collecting and testing his limits without his parents pulling him back from the ledge. Guided by his grandfather (a free-spirited, rail-riding inventor), his mother (a fearless thrill-seeker who out-skied the boys) and his father (an accomplished athlete turned international businessman), Nathan was lovingly indoctrinated with the confidence to blaze his own trail.

He and his family ventured to Southern Utah every summer to stay at his grandfather’s house. One of five children, Nathan and his brothers and cousins would wander through the brush and float on the river.

Both of his parents were avid athletes and encouraged adventure and discovery. As an accomplished skier, backpacker and cliff-jumper and a fellow lover of the outdoors, Nathan’s mother taught him how to climb and repel, put him on skis when he was 2 and enrolled him in Scouts as a young boy to teach him survival skills.

Nathan became a thrill-seeker with no boundaries—exploring expansive spaces, climbing rocks and collecting artifacts. Once he had kids, Nathan started to spend more and more time in Utah; by then his parents lived there full time. He now spends a lot of time in the mountains and the Colorado Plateau—one of his favorite places on the planet.

Southern Utah became the jump-off point for all of his adventures with friends, which is why he chose it as the location of his second home … to share those experiences with his two boys. Like their father, they can run out and climb the red rocks and explore without boundaries.

Nathan and his wife, A.J., bought their 36 acres of property in Utah on landwatch.com sight unseen. They now own 90 acres. He knows this land like the back of his hand, and you can see it feeds his soul when he speaks about it.

There is a rich history and fauna on it: Native American dwellings, pictographs, crystals, arrowheads, deer, roadrunners and 40 species of birds that migrate through the area. They plowed a road, drilled a well and brought in electricity and a propane tank so they could be completely self-sufficient.

Their house is literally designed around this concept of adventure. A 40-foot indoor climbing wall is the focal point of their living space. There is a patio surrounding every room and providing easy access to the outside. And the Andersens purposefully own all the land as far as the eye can see.

Both of Nathan’s grandfathers had huge influences on him. His paternal grandfather, Boyd—a World War II vet, hunter and fisherman—took young Nathan fishing at night. They’d get up in the dark, drive for hours and sit on a boat to fish. Nathan bears his middle name.

“We make timeless, placeless attire for a life without bounds. We’re dedicated to the pursuit of living—from street to summit, boardroom to backcountry.”

Walter Pelton, his maternal grandfather, was a great entrepreneur. He was the co-founder of Spudnuts and owned properties in Wyoming and Utah. Nathan used to go hunting for rocks with Walter; they would come back to the house to polish them, taking their time and enjoying the simple joy of just being together. His grandfather’s first name and father’s middle name would become the inspirational name for his brand, Walter Sky.

Nathan studied communications in college, where in a film class he met his beautiful Canadian wife and Criminal Minds actress A.J. Cook. It was love at first sight, and they got married at age 22.
Nathan lived in Hawaii for a couple years after college and then went to Honduras right after Hurricane Mitch, living in the jungle. His adventures ranged from mildly uncomfortable—like showering with a bowl of collected rainwater—to life-threatening and dangerous—he was shot at, robbed and survived floods.

All of these experiences contributed to his ability to survive in the wild. Most people would take the first flight out of there, but Nathan described this experience as just “awesome.”

His extreme encounters also helped him appreciate the simple things: a natural landscape, a hearty meal, a warm jacket. And sometimes in those harsh elements, it was the clothes on his back he appreciated most. A dream of creating his own clothing brand began to emerge, but it always seemed out of reach.

Through the years, during his travels, he took mental notes of the way certain garments fit or the way a fabric moved or felt. As he spent more time in the outdoors camping or climbing, he also realized he spent a lot of money on these garments but only wore them for the outdoors. He started delving deeper into the concept of making a technical garment comfortable both in the extremes of his lifestyle as well as in everyday wear.

“A lot of companies were trying to do it, but it was either too far into fashion or too technical. No one could capitalize on it,” he says. “What I found out through a lot of R&D was that those bigger companies didn’t want to take on that risk of offending their core clientele by innovating in another direction.

The fabrics needed for a technical garment are expensive, and they don’t want to spend that kind of money. So their goal is to find cheaper alternatives and ways to better their bottom line as opposed to innovation and creating new ideas.”

Nathan started networking and going to trade shows. People responded positively to his concept, but it came with the disadvantage of being a risky unknown with no track record. He heard lots of “no’s.” At a certain point he almost killed the idea because he couldn’t find the fabrics he wanted. He didn’t want to create something that someone else was already creating. As important as fit was to him, the product also needed to have the right fabric and its technical capabilities.

“The idea was to take those fabrics and create them so they looked and draped like natural fibers. So if you took your basic wardrobe that you have at home, your favorite T-shirt for instance, you know how that shirt feels, how it fits and what you can pair it with. How can I create that out of a technical fabric? I surveyed my closet and came up with a core collection of what I needed and utilized when I am out in the field. And this became my first collection.”

A year in, Nathan was still struggling to find the fabrics that fit the DNA of Walter Sky. Through a friend he was introduced to Jason Hairston, the owner of KUIU—a successful ultralightweight hunting clothing/gear brand. This relationship proved to be a critical turning point in his quest for the right material to bring his brand and idea to fruition.

Jason loved Nathan’s concept and took him under his wing and to all of his meetings. One of those was with Toray, a billion-dollar Japanese company known for their premium-quality synthetic fabrics and the technology behind them. It was at this meeting that Nathan finally found the fabrics he had been searching for.

Toray provides high-end items for many well-known brands, such as Patagonia, The North Face and UNIQLO. However, they didn’t deal with small companies like Nathan’s. When the Toray representatives asked who Nathan was, Jason said, “This is Nathan Anderson. He is starting a company called Walter Sky, and I strongly suggest you listen to what he has to say.”

And that was it. A week later he was in, and Walter Sky was the first-ever start-up that Toray took on. It was a super-exciting time but a massive learning curve. Toray was extremely patient with him and is fully supportive of him today.

Jason also introduced Nathan to The Merino Company, which Nathan works with for his merino wool products. This cutting-edge company invented the technology of developing a longer stable fiber for wool that is softer but with nylon at its core to make it more durable.

True to Nathan’s core beliefs, any of his fabrics have to be environmentally friendly. He visited all the factories personally to ensure they were in fact all bluesign®—a system that ensures that textiles are produced with minimal environmental impact.
He inspected the whole production process: how they spin the yarn, how they weave the fabrics together, how lab dips happen. He recalls a very humbling moment at the factory in Vietnam with 10,000 sewing machines running Moncler, New Balance and Nike—along with the humble start-up Walter Sky.

Nathan uses higher-quality fabrics and pushes manufacturers to create and develop new technology, with the goal of making a better product not driven solely by the idea of making more money. Because Nathan is selling direct to the consumer, he can use these higher-end fabrics but still offer great value for the money. He is not cutting any corners or sacrificing quality for anything.

Of all his adventures, it would have been difficult to predict that the search for the perfect fabric to clothe himself on his journey would be one of his most fulfilling. Nathan is as passionate about his work as he is about nature.

It has already been an epic quest, and it’s only the beginning. He won’t stop until he gets each piece right. In fact, the only T-shirt he has worn over the last two years is his own Walter Sky creation.

“Once you experience how this shirt feels, you won’t want to put on anything else. We make timeless, placeless attire for a life without bounds. We’re dedicated to the pursuit of living—from street to summit, boardroom to backcountry. We’re giving guys the freedom to look polished, be comfortable and simplify their wardrobe with fewer changes and washes. Walter Sky is disrupting the men’s apparel industry.”

 

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