Earlier this year, Kilian Jornet announced he was starting a new athletic brand, NNormal, co-founded with the shoe brand Camper. We caught up with Kilian before the 2022 Hardrock 100 to chat with him about the brand. In the following conversation, Kilian talks about why he started his own brand, what NNormal’s approach to products will be, and what kind of products you’ll see from NNormal among other topics.
[Editor’s Note: We don’t get into product details in this interview. Kilian and NNormal will be sharing more about the products later this summer.]
Transcript of a Conversation With Kilian Jornet About His Brand NNormal
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar, with Kilian Jornet. I wanted to talk to you a little bit about NNormal, your new brand. What made you want to start your own brand?
Kilian Jornet: Well, it was like a lot of coincidences, I would say. I had in my dreams somewhere, I would love to, I’m kind of a geek when it comes to product. I love development, I love to try things. But it was more like, okay I would like to do this and just have something new. But this was like a dream, like I know, I thought it would be impossible. Because it’s a lot of investment, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot money-wise, too, but then it happened that a friend of a friend with the family that owns Camper, he knew that they wanted to do something on the outdoors. He knew that I want, I have that idea of my own brand and he say, you should talk, guys, because you have the same philosophy when it comes to the environment, a lot like social responsibility and the idea of products. So, like yeah, my work, and since the first time we talked, it was like a no-brainer.
iRunFar: I’m sure that at some point during your more than 10 years with Salomon, the possibility of having a Kilian Jornet line within that could have come up, or maybe did. What made you want to go out more on your own, I guess?
Jornet: Yeah, it’s never an easy decision. It’s not like, especially like when you start something new, it’s a lot of unknown. But also, I would say yeah, I wanted to do something that it’s, on the whole, it has a sense. I would say, our line, it’s very cool but it needs to be also a line we sell without the other products and all that.
iRunFar: And complement those, this can be independent, its own thing.
Jornet: Yeah. And it’s a possibility and it’s great to have our own line in a company, but I think it’s a big difference, being … To be able to be on the whole process, when it comes not only to the product but also when it comes to deciding the values of the company, or like where we want to go, where we want to invest our money, what’s the philosophy? What’s the business model to be more responsible? All this, it’s that at the end that really motivates me.
iRunFar: So on that, obviously from the start and discussing NNormal, the environmental side and sustainability side are very important to you and the brand. How as a smaller brand do you make change there? Is it by an example? Is it storytelling? By innovative product? How can you make a change with NNormal?
Jornet: Well, first of all, I think it’s trying to do things honestly. Trying to be honest and to be very transparent. That’s key, I think. Because, of course, everything we do, it has an impact on the environment. To deny that, it’s fiction. We need to understand what is the impact on the environment, and try to say, “Okay, we want to do better, so how can we do it?”
And it comes to the product, to see what’s the footprint of the product, but also what are the materials but also what’s the durability of the product? That’s what we want to focus on mostly, is on the durability of the products. That’s not only physical durability, like until it breaks, but also like, the emotional durability when it comes to not following trends, not having seasonal collections but it’s …
iRunFar: You can be a brand that has a shoe that’s in line for four years and you might change a little bit of this lace or something.
Jornet: Yes. We want to change things when we find a better solution but not because it’s a business trend for this new color that is coming out now or because we need to change to sell more. But just like I think it’s more to say, okay we went through the process, we trust them, they feel good for us, and then to try to, yeah, to be honest with this. That comes also a lot with the business model of a company, where your incomes come from. If it comes from which products, what’s the footprint of the products that have more revenue?
How are you planning to, that’s a very tricky question, how to be sustainable as a company because you need to pay salaries. You have to make money to invest in new materials, on new designs to be better. But also, how doing that, you are not pushing for other consumption? So, then you need to think about different business models and that’s a big challenge. And yeah, we will try to do our way, we don’t know if it’s the best or not, or good, but we want to learn and we want to work in that direction.
iRunFar: Yeah, that’s very interesting. That’s a good point, not just the durability, but it’s not fashion-based. You have to have the latest color, or this pack makes a slight change and is better, so you have to buy the new one.
Jornet: Yeah, and then also it becomes, I think when you think of sustainable products, if you are only selling products because they are sustainable, you will only reach a part of the population who are already interested in that. We need to make products that are good, but people don’t buy them because they are good for the environment, but because they perform well. Because then people, [who are] buying a product that is performing well, then he or she’s working for the environment without caring. But I think the other industries, very little of that, but we think globally, foot industry that … If we make that all the products have a good, lower footprint, and people buy it not because it’s sustainable but because it’s good. So trying to work on all this.
iRunFar: But you also, your ambassadors seem very intentional to have Emelie [Forsberg] and Dakota Jones and Max Romney. These are people that speak to, truly that’s part of their core values for a long time. How do you use those ambassadors to further that, the mission of NNormal?
Jornet: Yeah, it comes altogether I would say. It’s people that, we think that actions talk more than the talk, than the word. We want to do that on our products but also when it comes to marketing. Companies have a big role when it comes to marketing. What we are saying, what we are promoting, and how we are doing that. And an ambassador is part of it and also, what an ambassador wants to do.
Dakota has his project with the Footprints Running Camp, it’s amazing. And how we can support him. How we can make that grow together. And I think it’s more like athletes, we are not only, yeah we run, that’s cool, but that’s not very important. And how the ambassadors can help to build a community around mountain sports because it’s what we love. The other sports, but to have an impact on the community, that’s what we are trying to build with our ambassadors.
iRunFar: You are going to have products as well. When are we going to start to see some of them on the market? When are they going to come out and generally what kind of products are we going to see early on?
Jornet: Yeah, so we are developing footwear. So, apparel and accessories. So, like backpacks and caps and these kinds of things. Now we are kind of on the last, we have done the last prototypes, and that so it’s going to production now, and hopefully in the autumn, will be available, yeah.
iRunFar: So maybe we’ll see some more details on the products around UTMB time?
Jornet: Yeah, more races, I will be running all the races with the products that they are, almost the same as they will go to production. And Dakota and Emelie, the same. So yeah, we will be, we are finalizing now everything. In the next month, we will be able to share much more about the little details of all the products.
iRunFar: You are a product geek. Is there any sort of aspect of the product, of one product, or in general that excites you?
Jornet: If we talk like footwear, what I’m very happy with the shoes is that before, I was wearing one kind of shoes to do 100 miles. And then I was wearing another kind of shoes to do Sierre-Zinal, another kind of shoes to do the Zegama Marathon, another kind of shoes to do a road half marathon, and another kind of shoes to go with my scramble and climbing things.
And now we say, “Why do we need to have five pairs of shoes?” They are mostly similar, and they have small differences. We make these materials and shapes something that is good for doing everything and trying to find a good compromise. I want to race, I will be doing all the races this season with the same pair of shoes.
iRunFar: The same model? The same pair?
Jornet: Durability, we want to work on durability. Hopefully, we will be racing with the same shoe, all the races. That’s like why I think, yeah, of course, the rain changes and the conditions, but then it’s like running, we are running. If we are doing a vertical kilometer, if you are scrambling a summit, or if you are doing 100 miles, it’s running. Trying to do something that it works.
iRunFar: A running shoe for everything.
Jornet: A running shoe for going to the trails.
iRunFar: Awesome. Okay. One last question for you. So Camper, the company, the brand you partnered with is based in Mallorca. And depending on who you speak to, Mallorquins speak Catalan or …
Jornet: Mallorca Catalan.
iRunFar: Is that a draw for you, to work with some of your countrymen? Is it a bonus?
Jornet: It’s easier in a way, we speak the same language. But for me, I’m kind of a mess like that. I’ve been living in France, I moved to France when I was 15 or 16 years old. I’ve been living all over the place. It’s not like I don’t have this kind of sentiment. But yeah, it’s cool, mostly because of how they are, they are very Mediterranean, also like the culture. And also like, we are normal people. We are just like very normal people, and I think that’s more than being from Mallorca.
iRunFar: The actual people of the company. Yeah, I guess one more question. So you did come from a very large research and development opportunity in Salomon. I’ve heard some very interesting things about Camper and their ability, more known as a fashion or casual footwear brand. What can they do to develop running shoes?
Jornet: Well, the team is different, we have the NNormal employees. It’s two different companies so we have the different team, they are focused more on outdoor sports. But I was super surprised when it comes to prototypes with the facilities they have in Mallorca and Camper because it was super quick. We could do prototypes, do modifications; I was generally impressed a lot. The facilities that they have there, the technicians, the capacities they had because it’s, yeah I was impressed.
iRunFar: On the apparel and pack side of things, is that another group?
Jornet: Yeah, it’s like, in Camper, in NNormal, we have people that are working in footwear and some people in apparel and accessories. As I say it’s an independent company. But yeah, it’s a very, very small company.
iRunFar: Same philosophy.
Jornet: But the same philosophy on everything.
iRunFar: Turning around just …
Jornet: Durability is important when it comes to physical durability and emotional durability. And also this, like, we probably don’t need a bunch of things to do different activities but yeah. To try to minimize the size of our wardrobe and to have things that are durable, but they are also very functional to do multiple activities.
iRunFar: I’m excited to take a closer look and try out some of your NNormal products.
Jornet: Yeah, excited for that too.
iRunFar: Exciting journey.
Jornet: Yeah, thanks.