Days before Black Friday 2018—the largest shopping day of the year and the weekend most retailers count on to put them in the black—Portland brand Poler faded quietly away.
Founded in 2011, Poler quickly became a darling in the outerwear world with its “Camp Vibes,” full-body ninja suits, and game-changing Napsack—a hooded sleeping bag you could walk around in (worn by both Al Roker and Lena Dunham in an episode of Girls). But this winter, Poler's website suddenly announced they’d sold out of all 2018 items and would be back in 2019. On social media, the brand shared a final sunset photo with the caption “Camp vibes will always be with you everywhere you go! See you in 2019 people! Happy Holidays to all from the Poler Fam.” Poler's equally Instagrammable outpost in Laguna Beach, which opened in 2017, had already shut its doors. Then brown paper went up over the windows at the brand's flagship West End shop.
Meanwhile, rumors swirled on a Portland Reddit page, declaring the company’s investors had pulled out. Poler had delved into venture funding in 2015 with a $4.5 million cash infusion to expand the brand. After Christmas, the website domain went up for grabs, redirecting to a blank GoDaddy page. We reached out to company cofounder and creative director Benji Wagner, now working as a freelance creative director, who declined to give a statement. According to his email auto-reply, he had moved on from the company on November 16.
As we see traditional models dying and stores forced to create new shopper experiences, the world of retail continues to be a difficult one at best. According to the Portland Business Journal, Poler has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and is preparing to liquidate remaining assets. Still, as PBJ reports, there might be one last shred of hope for the brand: “The company's bankruptcy attorney said it's possible a buyer could purchase the company and restart the brand.”