The Carnation 4th of July

College student designs his own company

  by Mina Hochberg
   Three years ago, Joe Hanssen would never have guessed he would be entering the designing industry.
   But now, Hanssen, 21 years old, is ready to market the products of Polar Summit, his outdoor clothing company.
   Hanssen graduated from Woodinville High School in 1993 intent on becoming a commercial pilot; he already had his pilot's license.
   But after a short time in Central Washington Univer-sity's flight technology program, he knew "it wasn't my thing," he said.
   The story could end here with Hanssen dangling in college, his high school aspiration abandoned. But instead, he discovered CWU's nationally reputed Apparel Design and Fashion Merchandising program, where he came to blend his business, creative and athletic talent into one enterprise.
   "I am a big time mountain climber and skier," Hanssen said. His experience equips him with a sense for practical and fashionable clothing. He ultimately began designing outdoor clothing from a dissatisfaction with the styles and features he found in stores.
   According to Hanssen, there are certain priorities in designing marketable clothing.
   First, the product must be high performance, durable and high quality. Hanssen's jacket designs include easily accessible front pockets, and there are no seams around the midriff, so as to prevent irritation.
   Then, the style must be visually appealing. Hanssen is veering away from the typical American black format and opting for the more European look of colors and asymmetrical designs. He will travel to Europe in December to research European trends.
   So far, Hanssen has sold only to friends and family, though European ski patrols and climbing groups have asked him to design customized jackets.
   "Now I'm basically ready to sell," he said. He plans to market his clothing with high-ed retailers and ski shops.
   Even with its global connections, Polar Summit is still a one-man operation. Hans-sen is both the manager and designer.
   "I stay up till three o'clock in the morning," he said. And he is not planning on becoming a big REI-type chain any time in the near future. He wants to just "keep doing what I'm doing. This is my career."
   Joe Hanssen with his outdoor designs.