When Michael Markesbery posed for his picture atop the Alps, his bulky, boring snowsuit drowned him out. So, he imagined himself in something sleeker but even warmer.
Today, Markesbery executes professional photoshoots in the frigid mountains wearing his apparel brand, OROS. He built the clothes with the patented insulation technology he invented after graduating from Miami University – Solarcore, the most scientifically innovative material of its kind.
The CEO’s idea began as a scribble on a napkin after he returned from backpacking across Europe. At Miami, he majored in zoology, minored in entrepreneurship and researched cellular, structural and molecular biology before earning his degree in 2015.
Soon enough, Markesbery got lucky when his then professor and current chair of the biology department, Paul Harding, extended a scholarship opportunity to him. He went through with it and learned about Aerogel, the lowest conductive thermal solid on the planet.
NASA developed Aerogel to insulate its spacecraft at -450°F. Markesbery used it to kickstart Solarcore.
“No two days are the same,” Markesbery said. “I feel incredibly fortunate that it all worked out. College me never could’ve dreamed of this.”
Markesbery curated his apparel to stretch four ways and be vegan-friendly and cruelty-free. It also heats up in certain thermal zones if the customer applies pressure. This year, OROS released updated designs for the spring ski season.
Other footwear companies like Cabela’s and L.L. Bean also incorporate Solarcore. Another client, Merrell’s MTL Thermo Rogue 4 Boot, included him in the ISPO award it won in 2022.
Markesbery has gained national recognition by speaking at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2018 and lending his creation to the U.S. Department of Defense. In 2019, he launched a unisex line for NASA shirts. During the pandemic, he collaborated with astronauts by selling autographed jackets.
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In 2017, Miami named Markesbery an 18 of the Last 9 honoree, and Forbes profiled him in 2018 for 30 Under 30: Retail & E-commerce. Before finding this success though, Markesbery experimented all he could.
“My first jacket was ugly,” Markesbery said. “I’m not a fashion dude. I just wanted to validate a platform for this technology.”
He spent his first year and a half as a graduate securing a facility warehouse for OROS. Ever-expanding, his entire team relocated to Portland, Oregon, over the summer of 2019.
Markesbery always expresses his gratitude for Miami’s alumni network, which includes a former North Face CMO who believed in him throughout this process.
“[The alumni network] is everything for me,” Markesbery said. “They’re instrumental.”
With the experience and knowledge Miami continues to give him, Markesbery will never stop searching for new peaks and a cooler and warmer look.