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TBT: For Kontoor Brand’s Roian Atwood, Denim and Mountaineering Go Hand in Hand

Throwback photos stir up laughs, memories and—for denim heads—a wealth of vintage denim inspiration. This weekly column on Rivet asks individuals in the denim industry to take a look back and reminisce about a denim moment in time captured on film.

This week, Roian Atwood, senior director of global sustainable business for Kontoor Brands, takes a look back at a photo that captured his early passion for nature. Wearing denim cut-offs and surviving off of what was packed in his bag, he didn’t know at the time that he would become a leader of sustainability for household names in fashion.

With a Master’s of Environmental Management from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, Atwood began his 18-year career in footwear and apparel sustainability. Now, for Kontoor’s Wrangler and Lee brands, he leads brand sustainability strategy and works with global suppliers to drive greater social and environmental performance.

Roian Atwood, Senior Director of Global Sustainable Business, Kontoor Brands

Here I am wearing my adventure shorts—my trusty denim cut-offs. What better mountaineering apparel is there? At the age of 16, I volunteered my labor to revegetate a mountain valley meadow ecosystem at 12,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada. It was a summer program coordinated by the Student Conservation Association, where six high schoolers from across the country volunteered at Kings Canyon National Park.

I just like the way that cotton denim feels when it wears in—so soft to the touch while taking on a new draping quality to its feel. And, yes, I am wearing an ash woven basket backpack with a six-pound bed bedroll on my back.