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In a few days, Black Diamond Equipment will unveil its new collection of clothing to media and retailers at the Outdoor Retailer Trade show in Salt Lake City, Utah. The clothing has been under development for two years, and you’ll be able to buy it at outdoor specialty shops this coming fall.
Outside pulled Tim Bantle, head of Black Diamond’s clothing team, from the ski slopes at Utah’s Canyons Resort for an exclusive interview on design, philosophy, and why the world needs another outdoor apparel line.
On Black Diamond’s
Design process and ethic:
Design. Engineer. Build. Repeat. Black Diamond has been doing this for 55 years. Though really the process starts with use. Field use is the first point of entry into product here. Then we go through design, engineer, build and we’re manically addicted to starting it all over again. It’s iterative over time. You can look back over 50 years at carabineers to see how this has played out in history. In apparel we will see a similar evolutionary path. The “BD-ness” of the process is a guarantee of great apparel to come. Does that mean we’ll redefine silhouette of jacket? No. We didn’t do it with the carabiner.
On why the world
needs another high-end apparel brand:
The narrative of our industry is the movement of equipment brands into apparel over time. This usually takes place early in the lifecycle of the brand. The situation we find ourselves in here at Black Diamond is a bit unusual. We have a legacy reaching back five decades and have built a global business on hardgoods that’s as big or bigger than most existing apparel brands. As we build into apparel, we're simply trying to take everything we've learned in equipment and apply it. We want to build product that matters.
Patagonia, Marmot, Norrona, Mammut, Arc'teryx, Mountain Hardwear—they all make equipment plus clothing. Nobody has hung onto $130 million of pure equipment sales. Apparel makes those kinds of numbers possible.
One of the brands we admire for balancing hardgoods and softgoods is Burton. What Burton was to snowboarding, Black Diamond has been to alpine climbing, climbing, and backcountry skiing. Burton has developed into a world-class hardgoods and softgoods brand.
I am pretty sure when I bought my first Black Diamond headlamp, Princeton Tec and Petzl were on the shelf too. It was the same with gloves. Black Diamond has done a superb job of grinding out really successful business initiatives, of competing in a space that sometimes seems saturated. I think it’s because we’re engineering-minded outdoor lovers who live at the base of a mountain range.