TRUE GRIT WESTERN WEAR
Many words evoke the romantic spirit of the cowboy across the West. Grit. Courage. Bravery. Relentless. Kemo Sabe, a top-tier western wear brand, also embodies these traits.
“Going through the tough times and coming out better, that’s The Cowboy Way,” says Kemo Sabe current owner and CEO Wendy Kunkle. “Failure is not an option. We are going to kick some ass.”
The luxury western wear brand was originally founded by Tom and Nancy Yoder in 1990. They had one mission: turn everyone into a cowboy.
“Their vision was always about getting non-cowboys to wear cowboy attire. I’m not talking about hokey cowboy attire. I’m talking about the real deal stuff–something that looks like your grandpa’s hat, or this buckle that has a patina. Something that when you look at it–you know its artistry.”
What started with Yoder distressing hats in his garage has evolved into one of the most iconic storefronts in the West. With locations in Aspen, Vail, Las Vegas and an upcoming Jackson Hole location, Kemo Sabe’s line of premium hats, boots, apparel and accessories are beloved from celebrities to everyday cowboys alike.
From day one, Yoder ran the business with the motto: Make The Customer Feel Important or “MTCFI.”
“Our secret sauce is giving that experience,” explains Wendy. “It’s not about good. If you are good at what you do, are honest and helpful and explain things romantically…that’s the traditional way of doing things. Yoder really pushed that into our brains. It’s about making memories, and not just about buying something.”
But while this experience draws people in, it’s the unmatched quality of Kemo Sabe’s products that turns them into customers. Customization is at the core of their business, giving their clientele ultimate creative power to design a one-of-a-kind piece unique to them.
“We can customize almost anything, from buckles to boots to belts, you name it. The sky’s the limit,” Wendy offers. “You can’t walk into Prada and develop a bag in there, no way. But you can in our store. If your style is a full gator Hermes bag, we can make it. Anything you dream up. We want you to get that special thing.”
Kemo Sabe has its finger on the pulse of what their customers are looking for. “Every little odd thing that happens with a cowboy hat, it started at Kemo Sabe. We are way on top of innovation for everything cowboy. Branding, distressing, flair or swag on the hats. I believe we’ve started it all,” she explains.
Growth is definitely on the horizon for Wendy and her team. The acquisition of their new Jackson Hole location is an example of her fearless leadership style. She drew in a realtor from a cowboy bar after spending just one day in the ski town to see store locations. “That’s the stuff,” she says. “Fear is a silly emotion. Screw it. You’ve got to just go for it.”
Despite Kemo Sabe’s commitment to evolving with the times, tradition remains at the heart of the brand. The company and its products are enduring despite hardships and transitions over the last thirty years. “Our products are timeless, artistic, beautiful and romantic. We are sticking to tradition, and all the really cool things about the cowboy.”
– Lexy Donaldson