Champions of wool: Peter and Patty Duke share with SNEWS where Point6 is headed next

Peter and Patty Duke got back into the merino sock business a few years ago, founding Point6 in Steamboat, Colo., the same place where they launched SmartWool nearly 20 years ago. The couple and business partners recently stopped by the SNEWS offices in Boulder, Colo. to chat about where the company is heading and the future for merino wool.

Peter and Patty Duke got back into the merino sock business a few years ago, founding Point6 in Steamboat, Colo., the same place where they launched SmartWool nearly 20 years ago.

The couple and business partners (photo, right) recently stopped by the SNEWS offices in Boulder, Colo. to chat about where the company is heading and the future for merino wool. The business plan hasn’t changed in all these years, they told us, but the technology has. And just like SmartWool, the new brand is looking beyond socks.

The fundamental advantages of wool have remained the same, Peter said, with the key being that the natural fabric is better at regulating the body’s temperature than synthetics. That’s where the Point6 name comes from — 98.6 degrees is the human body’s natural temperature. Another brand owned the rights to “98.6,” he told us, “and they wanted thousands of dollars for it, so we said, ‘Point6 it is.’”

Read on for more of our questions and their answers below:

What’s changed in the sock category from when you founded SmartWool nearly 20 years ago versus starting Point6?

The business plan is exactly the same. We believe that people should cover their body in head to toe with wool while doing sport. It’s the technology that’s changed — there’s new machinery, wool-spinning techniques and the ability to spec wool to exact requirements.

There also seems to be a lot more competition these days, especially with a growing number of merino wool sock brands and products. Has the industry hit a peak, or is there room to grow?

We do recognize a number of new companies have entered the category. But there are still so many people out there that don’t know about merino socks. We’re in the outdoor industry, we know about it, but there’s a lot of room left, especially in the lifestyle categories.

So, are there any drawbacks to the growth?

Yes. As all these companies get into the category, they can destroy the category with less attention to quality. Eventually there’s a brand that wants to save money or provide an inexpensive wool sock, so they sacrifice quality. Their wool starts to itch or it falls apart and the consumer starts to get in their head that wool itches or it’s unreliable. We have to educate: Not all merino is the same.

What makes the difference?

It’s really about understanding wool when someone identifies a micron level to you. It’s not all the same — an 18-micron wool is not 18 microns all the way through; it’s an average range. If a product contains wool with a broad range from 18 to 37 microns, it’s those higher microns that will itch you. The objective is to keep the micron range narrow for a more truthful statement to the consumer. That’s what we do.

You recently announced that Point6 will produce a line of truly white wool socks, which previously were elusive in the category. Where do you see the demand for white wool?

We believe there is a market for white wool, specifically in golf, running and tennis. These sports traditionally have always sold white socks. With wool having a yellowish tint to them, it has created a problem to break into these markets. Wool is the choice for performance, but could not gain traction without white. Now we can.

How about other areas of expansion for Point6? Is it a natural evolution for a merino sock company to move into merino apparel and accessories?

It is for some. And yes, it’s already on the drawing board for us. To truly become a player in the merino category, an in-depth knowledge of wool, specifically merino, is required to successfully enter into all markets.

--David Clucas


Point6 launch heralds return of Peter and Patty Duke

Unfinished business can haunt one. Such is the case with Peter and Patty Duke, who after selling their shares of SmartWool to RAF financing in 2003, endured five years of a mandated exodus from the world of merino wool thanks to a strict non-compete. That non-compete expired on more


Point6 turning to retailers to grow brand

Six months after SNEWS® first announced the launch of Point6 to the outdoor industry (click here to read the June 16, 2008, SNEWS story, "Point6 launch heralds return of Peter and Patty Duke"), Peter and Patty Duke contacted us to reveal that Point6 is turning to retail more

Dukes sell remaining interest in SmartWool

In late January, Peter and Patty Duke sold their remaining minority share of SmartWool to RAF Ventures, a venture investment company that has held the majority interest in the company. Over seven years, the Dukes built SmartWool's product line from socks and accessories, later more

point6 Expands Offices to Accommodate Rapid Growth

Steamboat, Colo. (May 25, 2010) – point6™ , designer and manufacturer of premium merino wool socks, is on the move in 2010 as they expand to larger offices in Steamboat Springs, Colo. The company is currently experiencing rapid growth and anticipates hiring new personnel to more shepherds in the online evolution of merino wool, online purveyor of premium compact-spun merino wool products, has officially arrived as the online evolution of merino, so named as a reference to the ability of merino to maintain an optimal body temperature of 98 point6 degrees Fahrenheit, launches more

Point6 and The Merino Co introduce the World's FIRST Pure White Wool

Every once in a while a new idea comes along that changes the rules of the game. Point6 proudly introduces Enciel, the world's first truly white merino wool. For generations wool producers have tried in vain to produce white wool. Now using Enciel, Point6 has created a more

SNEWS® Live: Johnson Health Tech CEO Peter Lo shares his story of growth from barbells to treadmills

This edition of SNEWS® Live is brought to you by Johnson Health Tech SNEWS® Live -- Thirty years ago Johnson Health Tech took its first order: $200 for 400 barbell pieces. “It was a small order, but a big step for our company,” said CEO and founder Peter Lo. Today, Johnson is a more

Point6 Continues to Gain Traction with New Merino Wool Running Socks

Point6, makers of premium merino wool socks engineered to deliver the ultimate in performance and comfort, is proud to unveil several new performance running styles for Spring 2013.As Point6 continues to expand its product offerings in the performance running category, more


Patagonia merino wool 1&2 baselayers review

In fall 2011, Patagonia relaunched its merino baselayer line after a season’s absence during the redevelopment of the product. The previous versions were some of our favorite merino wool baselayers, so we eagerly awaited the reworked line. After a year of testing, we’re happy to more