A century ago, Eddie Bauer opened a store in Seattle to sell sporting equipment. Now, his eponymous company looks ahead at another century with its just-launched Centennial Collection of gear.
GearJunkie hasn’t been around quite as long as Eddie Bauer, but our editors and gear-testers have followed the brand over the past 10 years. We’ve witnessed a revival of a brand that has gone from core and innovative to guide-focused to a mass-consumer company.
Its launch of the First Ascent line of products a decade ago brought innovation back into the spotlight and reengaged Eddie Bauer with world-class guides. Melissa Arnot Reid, Adrian Ballinger, Dave Hahn, and more outdoor luminaries were brought in to design products and build new kinds of gear.
This past winter, in Estes Park, Colorado, GearJunkie attended an Eddie Bauer event celebrating its 100th birthday. We skied backcountry laps in prototype gear and interviewed Damien Huang, president at Eddie Bauer — as well as several product developers and guides.
“I am trying not to be too nostalgic,” Huang told our editor at the event. “It’s more about looking ahead to the next 100 years.”
Here’s how Eddie Bauer got to today — and a peek at what’s to come.
In 1920, 21-year-old sportsman Eddie Bauer opened his Eddie Bauer’s Sports Shop in Seattle. At first, he sold sporting goods like tennis rackets, handmade golf clubs, and fishing tackle. Then, in 1940 — after coming down with hypothermia on a fishing trip — Bauer created a solution for increasing warmth, his patented Skyliner jacket.
It was the first quilted down jacket ever made.
In 1957, Eddie Bauer introduced a down shirt — according to the brand, one of the first in ultralight insulating layers. Now, celebrating its 100 years in operation, Eddie Bauer has revived the concept of that shirt and several other products in its Centennial Collection.
Eddie Bauer now stands as just one of a handful of U.S. brands that’s been around for a century (others include L.L.Bean and Filson). In its time, Eddie Bauer has outfitted the U.S. Army, the first Americans to summit Everest, scientists at the South Pole, an American K2 Himalayan expedition, and countless more.
Eddie Bauer Centennial Collection: Highlights
The Centennial Collection includes 18 products for men and women across casual, performance, and alpine categories. The collection notably features a lot of high-fill RDS goose down.
This year, Eddie Bauer took a trip down memory lane to 1957, when it created its down shirt. Now it’s revived that style in the Centennial Collection MicroTherm 1000. The jacket has 1,000-fill RDS down and weighs 8-10 ounces depending on size. It celebrates ultralight construction, super-warm insulation, and classic puffy style.
There’s also a Centennial Down Camp Suit in the collection, inspired by Eddie Bauer’s down undergarments (down underwear that the United State’s first summit team wore up Mt. Everest in the ’60s). This proved so popular, in fact, it sold out almost immediately. But the brand intends to bring it back in a full run.
For 2020, EB updated the original concept with a streamlined, one-piece design and elevated style.
And finally, Eddie Bauer brought back the original layer that made the brand what it is today — the Skyliner Jacket. The Centennial Collection edition Skyliner Jacket has 800-fill-power down, a DWR finish to repel moisture, rib-knit collar and cuffs, and a classic, midweight layer fit.
After 100 years, EB brand president Damien Huang told us the company is “just getting started.” He noted three pillars that Eddie Bauer will start focusing on, including innovation.
“[Bauer founded the brand] on innovation, and we want to show that thread of innovation continues,” Huang said of the first pillar. He cited EverTherm Down Insulation as an example.
Sustainability is the second pillar. The company hopes to design products “with the least harm,” Huang told us. “We have materials and processes that help, but also the durable nature [of our gear] makes it sustainable inherently because it’s used for years.”
Finally, inclusivity marks the third pillar — a major push for Eddie Bauer. Huang said that for almost 100 years the focus was on “guide-tested” gear, and that was an operative phrase at the company.
While that remains a focus, the modern Eddie Bauer now has an ethos of inclusion. A new initiative, the One Outside program, is Eddie Bauer’s first step. Plus, there’s a gender-neutral page on its site for those looking for gender-neutral apparel (which the brand hopes to expand).
“We hope to broaden the effort of what the outdoor experience is,” he said. “The character of the industry has changed. Also, what we do outdoors is often seen as too expensive, too intimidating. We want to change that.”