From Slopes To Street

The story of DSent and Dark Sentinel

Our story began on the ski slopes. The downward-pointing triangle that’s at the heart of our two logos indicates the downward direction of movement which gives skiers and snowboarders their rush, and apart from being an abbreviation of 'Dark Sentinel', DSent derives partly from 'descent' (and partly from 'decent' which signifies our ethical approach).

My name is Thomas Carroll. My parents and I moved from the UK to Australia when I was a small child, and because I'd experienced just one winter in England, my dad promised I'd see snow again before I grew up. That's why we went on a skiing holiday when I was 12 years of age (most people don't know Australia has ski resorts). I became curious enough while there about the high quality clothing needed in the cold outdoors, and unimpressed enough in what was on offer (that my folks could afford), that I decided to start my own winter sports clothing brand.

The first thing I designed was the Dark Sentinel logo. Perhaps being out in the fresh air and snow meant I was thinking about the environment, or perhaps it's because as a twelve-year-old I was becoming generally more aware of such things, but I wanted a logo that was brooding yet open and embracing, that looked protective, watching over things; something that would become a recognised sign of quality and of an ethical approach. I was a kid (still am), but not ignorant of the pretend-ethics of big businesses, especially some of the famous brands in the clothing industry.

I also decided I wanted a simplified brand name, and that's where DSent began. As well as sharing the downward-pointing triangle, the logo was based on a ski mask, and I decided to use this brand where there was a clear sports/fitness link.

The first items to carry our logos were face scarves, beanies and goggles. Soon afterwards, we started producing bright and bold sweatshirt and hoodie designs for kids around my age. When we tentatively extended the designs for young adults on the après-ski scene, we realised there was a demand for something a bit different to what was available.

DSent was (and still is) more sports oriented, Dark Sentinel more about casual fashion. Some items we manufactured ourselves and, where we could guarantee ethical standards, we partnered with industry leaders for others. In both cases the result was the same: great quality products with eye-catching cool designs, ethically produced and with a lower price tag than normally associated with winter sports goods.

We then added our first limited edition snowboards and skis, something we continue to do occasionally in partnership with the world's best snow sports equipment manufacturers.

Hand-in-hand with skiing and snowboarding is staying in shape, and the logical next step for us was fitness apparel. We added t-shirts, fitness vests, sports bras and our best-in-the-business leggings, all made from premium materials and with a relentless focus on quality and ethical production.

In order to reduce environmental impact, we implemented the practice of not stocking items in advance but making them only when a customer places an order, which we'd been trialling. We continue to do this with the vast majority of our products today. It's an approach that can increase production time by a day or two and is less profitable than stacking products in advance, but there's a cost to pay if we're serious about being ethical and this means doing what's right, not what's easy. Our customers have shown great support and encouragement for this less-wasteful approach, driving us on as we ensure proper living wages for all involved in manufacturing our products and a genuine care for the environment. We don't take shortcuts and we do what's right, which isn't common in the clothing industry; one thing we've learnt is that all brands are ethical until being ethical hurts the bottom line!

It was winter sports enthusiasts who took our two brands to the street, including by some dedicated skateboarders. When we market researched various designs for this wider audience, we produced them only as samples and in limited numbers, which in turn led to them being collected and swapped. This is how our limited editions range began, with designs typically available for only two short periods and never to be repeated. As well as owning something special, collecting limited editions carries discounting benefits that can be used towards regular items. Some collectors have the full collection (so far) and have supported us from day one.

Limited editions aside, our clothing products still fall into the sports/fitness and fashion categories, although the 'athleisure' style means that often the line separating the two is blurred. Beyond clothing, we produce other products that are available at certain times only and either manufactured directly by us or produced in partnership with other leading companies. These have been as varied as boxing gloves, snorkel gear, basketballs, phone cases and gaming console skins.

Speaking of gaming, as our clothing is comfortable and great to wear all day, it was soon picked up by the esports community. Recognising this, we continue to add to our dedicated esports range, and to sponsor esports teams to help them achieve their goals.

It's not just esports teams that we sponsor, though. We've partnered with dozens of dance schools, sports clubs and yoga studios in several countries, providing their members with free kits and much needed equipment.

Now, our customers aren't just carvers, keep-fitters and joystick warriors; we appeal to anyone wanting to stand out from the crowd, who enjoys wearing a casual brand with knockout designs. Along with reasonable prices and guaranteed quality comes the knowledge that each item is made with the highest ethical standards in the industry and with global accreditation in production and materials.

Our journey from a niche to more of a mainstream manufacturer means some customers have been with us right from the top of the mountain, while others are discovering us now for the first time.

As a company, we're young (it'll be several more years before I'm no longer a teenager), we’re working hard to be heard in a crowded, noisy market. We get our buzz from seeing the growing community who like what we do enough to join in, to spread the word on social media, to support our focus on ethics, to wear our name.

If kick-ass gear is your thing and you believe operating ethically is a must, we'd love it if you gave us a try, and allowed our identity to become a part of yours.

Thanks for reading.

Thomas Carroll, founder and CEO of DSent Gear.

It's only cool when it's ethical.