Black Diamond Struts out with Outerwear, Apparel lines

Your ice axes and carabiners can now match your jacket. Black Diamond will soon sell outerwear and clothes.

Gear brand Black Diamond Equipment announced its entrance into the apparel market during a gala reception in Utah last month. The event, timed to coincide with the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City, drew hundreds of industry insiders to watch a fashion show hosted by a hardgoods juggernaut.

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On the runway: Models reveal BD’s outerwear line

Two GearJunkie editors were on site. On a stage, models strutted with jackets on, and Tim Bantle, director of apparel for Black Diamond, discussed the product line in detail, from tech fabrics to color palettes.

“We want people to buy and value this stuff and hold onto it for a long time,” said Bantle, who formerly served as a director in the outerwear division at Patagonia.

At GearJunkie, we know and have long trusted Black Diamond for its high-quality climbing and backcountry skiing gear. The brand’s headlamps are solid. We gave its innovative Z-Poles a “Top Gear” award in 2011.

Jackets and clothing are a new direction. We expect similar quality. From the preview in Utah, BD’s out-of-the-gate line should offer immediate competition to mainstay brands like Arc’teryx, Patagonia, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Outdoor Research, and The North Face, as well as niche alpine brands.

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Schoeller-based softshell jackets from BD line

Material suppliers for the BD outerwear are quality name brands. When the line comes to stores this fall it will be divided into three collections with 24 total products, including softshell jackets using Schoeller fabrics; insulating pieces with PrimaLoft; and a line of fleece pieces made with Polartec fabrics.

The softshell outerwear line will offer four jackets and four pant models. Prices will range from around $199 to $399. Black Diamond revealed insulating pieces from $169 on up.

Said Bantle in a press release, “Our apparel line addresses the needs of alpinists in the same way our equipment does,” meaning, we assume, that function took first priority at the design stage.

But the line looked sleek on stage in Utah. A streamlined aesthetic prevailed on most designs, and muted, earthy tones and blacks dominated. Brighter colors are options on some items in the line.

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Utilitarian and high-end: Suspender-equipped shell pant model

Black Diamond plans to expand the soft-goods side of its business over the next two years. It will sell women’s clothing by summer 2014, for example. Climbing-specific apparel, ski-wear, and rainwear are due out in 2014 as well.

By 2015, I learned, BD hopes to sell “an expanded cotton line” of clothes. The apparel announcement, in short, changes the shape and direction of the company. Its corporate directors see a bright future in jackets and pants, even T-shirts it looks like.

I still have Black Diamond ice screws from 15 years ago. They thread into frozen waterfalls with ease just like when they were new. I look forward to getting a BD jacket on my back and heading up into the mountains for a test. I hope the outerwear will perform as “tools” in the outdoors and stand up, like its hardgoods, to the test of time.

—Sean McCoy is a contributing editor based in Denver.

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Gripping a climbing helmet for effect, a model shows off a tech shell coming to market in late 2013

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