By  on July 14, 2008

President and chief executive officer Neil Fiske is returning Eddie Bauer to its active outdoor roots.

As his first step, Fiske has recruited mountaineer Jim Whittaker, who in 1963 became the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest, to consult with Eddie Bauer on marketing and product development, including a performance expedition line to launch in April.

"I came to Eddie Bauer with a mission to restore the brand to the kind of brand it used to be and bring it back to its roots and heritage, after a period of about 10 years under ownership by our parent company Spiegel Inc. [which went bankrupt in 2003] where Eddie Bauer lost its focus and identity as an active outdoor lifestyle brand," said Fiske, who became president and ceo last summer.

"When we launch this product line next year, it will do a lot to change perception, and by the end of next year, people's perception of Eddie Bauer will be substantially different," he said.

Founded in 1920, Eddie Bauer began with a "field and stream chapter" and then from 1953 to the late Eighties, transitioned into a premier exhibition outfitter chapter, during which it was worn on more than 40 serious expeditions, including those in which Whittaker participated, Fiske said.

Fiske said Whittaker, who will appear in Eddie Bauer ads and at public appearances, including a lunch on Thursday at the Explorers Club in Manhattan, will be the first of several more outdoorsmen to pair up with the brand, with additional partnerships to come beginning in early 2009.

"When you put your life in the hands of your outerwear, you form a special attachment to that brand," Fiske said.

Eddie Bauer is launching three lines in the next year. This fall, Eddie Bauer 365 will feature outerwear with zip-in and zip-out features for year-round wear. In January, Eddie Bauer Sport will add an active line. Both of those lines will be priced consistently with Eddie Bauer's current offerings, which will also get a more subtle makeover resembling the authentic beginning this fall through the next year.

Finally, in April, the company is launching a higher-priced authentic performance exhibition line. Fiske declined to project volume for this line, but said it will be "substantial" and carried in a few specialty retailers in addition to Eddie Bauer's stores, Web site and catalogue.

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