#DigitalSkeptic: U.S. Sheep Farmers Shears Global Supply Chain

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When it comes to pure new-age business disruption, it may turn out there will be no beating driving 12,000 head of sheep through the Montana wilderness.

"It's an amazing thing to see 35 dogs and 15 men on horseback driving a massive herd 60 miles through the Gravelly Range," said Robert "Bernie" Bernthal, president of a brand-spanking-new domestic woolen apparel startup called Duckworth.

"But we own the largest flock of fine wool sheep in the United States -- and it lets us rip 25,000 miles out of the global apparel supply chain."

Bernthal has spent the past few weeks educating me on how his five-person, Bozeman, Mont., business plans to give the world's clothing manufacturers a run for their money when it ships product early this summer.

Bernthal is betting that so-called revolutionary manufacturing technologies such as 3-D printers, low-cost robotics and even big data are beside the point. What Duckworth is ramping up to prove is that what will really lower costs while improving quality is having old-fashioned control of everything from the fibers that go into garments to where the garments are made and, finally, where they are sold.

"We are a high-end retail apparel company that also happens to be owned by sheep farmers," Bernthal said. "And by connecting the front end of the business to the back end, you can utterly change the way woolen garments get made."

Caring about the fiber
What's rich for investors in the evolving manufacturing world is that Bernthal's background is not farming or even manufacturing. He's a hard-core brand marketing professional who cut his teeth with brutally competitive outdoor sports industry brands such as Swatch and K2.

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