By Emily Wolfe Explore Big Sky Managing Editor
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Black Diamond Equipment makes some of the best climbing equipment on the market, as well as skis and a slew of other outdoor gear. A decade ago, the company manufactured an apparel line. On shelves for only a year, it helped introduce Schoeller soft shell fabric to the American market, and had a cult following.
But with essentially only Schoeller pants and logoed cotton t-shirts – which you’ll still see people wearing after 10 years of hard use – retailers told BD it would need a full line of clothing to be taken seriously, so company CEO Peter Metcalf shelved the project for the time being.
Now BD’s clothing line is back.
Launching its men’s line this fall, BD’s collection is built around two material platforms: Schoeller Textiles, which are engineered for dynamic movement and performance, and Nanosphere Technology, which repels water, dirt and oil, and is abrasion resistant.
In total, the line’s 24 pieces and three collections (Schoeller-Dawn Patrol, PrimaLoft and Polartec) include 18 jackets, four pants and two bibs. Each will have embedded RECCO technology, a rescue tool used in avalanche burials.
To make it all happen, BD brought on Tim Bantle, formerly of Patagonia’s technical outerwear department, as its new Director of Apparel.
As of September, the new duds are in more than 200 specialty retail shops around North America, according to BD spokesman John DiCuollo. That, he said, is right on the money: “From a shop level, we met all our targets in terms of where we wanted to be [this year].”
In Bozeman, Northern Lights Trading Company is carrying BD insulation and soft shells.
“We’ve sold some [and had] good interest,” said Deb Taverniti a clothing buyer for the shop. “It’s a big step for them to move into the outerwear market, and they’re definitely targeting climbing [and backcountry skiing]… the activities that parallel their gear.”
By becoming a system partner with bluesign technologies – the European-based textile supply chain environmental standard setter – BD is working to optimize its raw materials and production processes for resource productivity, environmental protection, worker health and safety and consumer safety.
In spring 2014, the line will focus on summer alpinism and cragwear (think stylie rock climbing jeans), and in fall 2014, BD will launch its women’s clothing collection – which some see as the true test of its success, because women make up a large part of the outdoor clothing market and are known for being choosy. That fall it will also begin using GORE-TEX and taped-seam construction, upping its standard of breathability and weather resistance.
Black Diamond, Inc. designs and manufactures outdoor performance products for climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, skiing, cycling and other outdoor recreation activities. Its principal brands are Black Diamond Equipment, Gregory, POC and PIEPS, an Austrian avalanche beacon and snow safety product company it purchased last fall for approximately $10.3 million.
Headquartered in Salt Lake City, the products behind these brands are created and tested in the peaks, slopes and crags of the nearby Wasatch, something Black Diamond says enhances its authenticity, inspires product innovation and strengthens customer loyalty.