Like many people born and raised in Arizona, Brandon Redd’s childhood memories include the intense heat of a desert summer — and how it dimmed the joy of being out of school. Whether it was playing sports or hanging out with friends, Redd recalls wanting to be outdoors but often being limited by the summer heat.
“I remember, when I was really young, I heard the term ‘scorching hot,’ ” Redd says. “And that’s when I knew what it meant when my skin would itch in the heat.”
As Redd (pictured) grew up and started playing outdoor sports in high school, he realized how much of a toll the desert heat could take on people. But he also knew what he was missing by being cooped up. “We spend a lot of time inside,” he says, “and while air conditioning is great, people need to be outdoors.”
So, Redd found himself thinking about his future. He knew he wanted to use his interest in fashion to help people endure the heat. “A lot of the clothing brands were really saturated, so Desert Towel came to me as an idea to help people enjoy the outdoors in Arizona,” Redd says. “It was created to serve as a portable shade — it’s a lightweight towel that reduces your body heat.”
The towel is 90 percent polyester and 10 percent nylon, and when you soak it, wring out excess water and snap it a few times, it becomes a tool to wick heat away from your body. It works similarly to how sweat helps lower a person’s internal temperature by absorbing heat and conducting it away through evaporation. Cooling towels work best in drier climates, which makes them ideal for the heat of the desert.
Redd says figuring out the best fabric for the towels took a lot of trial and error. And a lot of time. He started designing prototypes in 2012, but the Desert Towel brand didn’t launch until 2016. He says putting in the time to find the most suitable material was worth it: “The best part about our product is that when it dries, it dries soft.”
While there are many other cooling towels on the market, Redd says what sets Desert Towel apart is that its towels are customizable. Customers can request images and logos on the towels to support a favorite team or advertise a business. And those logos don’t compromise the feel of the towel. “Our niche is, we customize these towels using sublimation printing,” Redd says. “The ink actually seeps into the fabric, so when you use the towel to wipe your face, it’s not going to scratch your skin.”
The company also produces head ties, which are made of the same fabric as the towels and provide a hands-free option for keeping cool — just tie the fabric on your head to wick away sweat and heat.
Even though Redd created Desert Towel with athletes in mind, many people using the products have jobs that require them to spend time in the elements. Stephen Candelaria, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician in the Phoenix area, discovered Desert Towel through Instagram and asked Redd if he could try it out as a way to stay cool on the job. He hasn’t turned back. “I use the towels pretty much on a daily basis — for work, hiking and even at the gym,” he says. “They’re long enough to fit over my head to keep me cool, and they’re better than other cooling towels on the market.”
Desert Towel also teams up with youth sports teams, fitness centers and high school athletes to provide a way to keep cool in the summer months. “Whether they’re an athlete or a mom or dad, it’s very gratifying to see someone using Desert Towel,” Redd says. “It just kind of validates that I’m working for my purpose: I’m serving my community and helping people enjoy their time outdoors.”
PHOENIX Desert Towel, 602-626-5133, deserttowel.com