Since Black Diamond first released its apparel line in January 2013, we’ve enviously admired the jackets of our boyfriends, coworkers, and brothers. Which is why we were so excited when the company announced its first women’s collection this fall.
“It was always the intention to do a women’s line, but we did men’s first because we were completely starting from scratch with apparel,” says Tara Latham, the company’s design manager. “I’d also be lying if I said women’s gear isn’t more difficult to get right.”
The Black Diamond team reached out to the women who best represented the company’s consumer base—their own employees—and asked them what they wanted to see in a made-for-women line. “Our ladies are doing really incredible things in the morning, on their lunch breaks and after work,” says Latham. She often outfitted testers in mock-ups, constructed at the company’s Salt Lake City design facility, then followed them into the field to climb routes or ski lines. The goal: to see how the women reacted to various features.
“Women get cold faster, they need articulation in different places, they like to feel great wearing their gear,” says Latham. “The best thing for me was being able to get this play-by-play and immediately take that knowledge back to the office and tweak patterns accordingly.”
I had a chance to test three of Black Diamond’s women’s jackets from their just-released winter-line as well as a few cragging pieces for spring. The Cold Forge Parka, though way too bulky to be packable, was ideal for belaying during an early spring climbing trip when the temperatures were so cold I could hardly feel my fingers. Credit the deep baffles and hip length cut, which help retain heat and insulate from sharp winds. From the spring 2015 collection, I was most impressed by the Sheer Lunacy tank. Light and billowy, with an open back for breathability (and style), the tank is ideal for hot days on the rock or a quick after-work yoga session. And that’s exactly what Black Diamond was aiming for: Solid core pieces that can serve double duty while cross training or getting through the work day.
Out on the wall, I kept remembering something a friend once told me when he first taught me to sport climb. “Trust the gear,” he told me. “It’s the only way to get over your fears and get better.” That’s been my impression of Black Diamond’s women’s launch. The careful construction and bomber engineering holds up to the toughest gear tests, and you can tell it’s going to keep getting better.