Belleveue, Wash.-based American heritage outdoor brand Eddie Bauer has tapped a streetwear stalwart as its first creative director, WWD has learned exclusively.
Seasoned designer Christopher Bevans has joined the brand, bringing experience from Sean Jean, Billionaire Boys Club, Yeezy, Nike and his own label Dyne, to lead technical and trend innovation across the men’s and women’s lines.
With Dyne, Bevans won the 2017 Woolmark Innovation Prize and was named a 2017 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist.
“I love sport, the outdoors, technical fabric and construction. I learned so much from being an entrepreneur and being in the factory trenches. COVID[-19] shelved my brand but I said, ‘I have so much to share, I have so much still to do,'” Bevans said on a Zoom from the corporate office.
Eddie Bauer initially approached Bevans as a collaborator for a spring capsule collection. But once he came in, it was clear he was a fit for a bigger role. “He is not just a leader for the company, he’s a muse for the customer,” said Eddie Bauer chief executive officer Damien Huang. “We were looking for talent that could keep one foot in the outdoors, but open doors to a different creative language, aesthetic, customers and a message about what the outdoors means and who is welcome there.”
Bevans began his career in New York City, apprenticing at a local tailoring house, of which he became the owner at age 19, and went on to have a series of jobs going back to the beginnings of streetwear. From 2003 to 2007, he was design director of Nike’s Blue Ribbon Sports Division, which started his love affair with the Pacific Northwest, where he now lives, spending much of his time on a vegetable farm in the Willamette Valley, about 40 miles outside of Portland, Ore.
“I truly appreciate having the access I do to the outdoors, and being able to share that story with up-and-comers, and people of color who don’t have the same kind of access I do,” said Bevans, who shot his first Eddie Bauer campaign images on the farm.
His values fit Eddie Bauer’s broader goal “to demystify the outdoors and make it a more accessible place,” said Huang. “We identified about eight years ago people were looking at the outdoors more as a playground than an arena, it wasn’t a place to conquer or achieve a personal best, or a certain height or summit. Those are part of the experience, but there’s so much more. And there was only a certain subset being spoken to, a particular athlete, or person who could afford a certain ice climbing gear…Despite being in the outdoor industry for a century, we wanted to take our product line in a different direction, not just recirculate the same themes.”
Bevans has been an Eddie Bauer fan since he was a kid growing up in the city. “I discovered it through the Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer edition, to be honest,” he said. “It was the coolest collaboration, but they didn’t even call it that at the time, it was the coolest connection. I wondered how did this apparel collection get on a vehicle? That sparked my curiosity about the brand because I love cars, engineering and design. I was also an early snowboarder in the ’80s, and was looking for gear I could afford that would last a long time, Eddie Bauer was in the closet. But it was in the street where I found it first. And it’s about interpreting it through a street lens, how you pair the classic Eddie Bauer coat with your Timberlands or whatever kicks you are wearing.
“I’d argue Eddie Bauer is in streetwear already, because when you walk in New York, you see Eddie Bauer pieces sprinkled in the crowd,” he continued. “But there’s ways of telling the story and connecting with some folks who are influencers in streetwear that haven’t been done.”
His first styles will be revealed during a launch party in New York on Thursday.
“I didn’t want to get too far onto the summit of the mountain, because we have that product, I wanted to do something a bit cleaner in aesthetic, wearable, and not so much on the heavy branded logos,” said Bevans. “You’ll see an aviator flight jacket and some classic track-inspired essentials. I’m on a farm all spring and summer, and I have my trucker hat I like to wear…so there are breathable lightweight hats, and fun shirts with a cargo pocket, because I like to keep things in my shirt. It’s not just about making product, it’s functional for the elements.”
“It should be obvious to customers the influence this has very quickly,” said Huang. “This is step forward on the product and creative side.”
In May 2021, Eddie Bauer was acquired from Golden Gate Capital by Authentic Brands Group, joining Brooks Brothers, Aéropostale, Forever 21, Lucky Brand and Nautica in its SPARC brand portfolio.
“It’s been a great year. ABG recognizes the value of the outdoor experience, the business is super strong, and digital has led the way,” said Huang. “People are seeing good product, good value, and feel good about our trajectory,” he added, noting that there has also been interest from a number of new wholesale partners. Kohl’s began selling the brand in its stores in fall 2021.
Eddie Bauer is credited with having developed the first quilted down jacket via a 1940 patent. The company’s namesake founder, a Pacific Northwest sportsman, started the brand in 1920 by selling tennis wear in Seattle.
It changed hands through the years after its founder sold it in 1968. General Mills and Spiegel owned it at different points in time. Under the Spiegel Inc. umbrella, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware in 2009 and was later purchased by Golden Gate Capital.
The Eddie Bauer name has been used to license a range of products including furniture, bicycles and Ford Motor Co.’s Bronco, Explorer and other SUVs. And in the past couple of years, the brand has had a robust designer collaboration program, linking with The Great, Baja East, Justin Saunders’ JJJJound and most recently, A$AP Rocky.
“It’s been a real eye opener for the creativity of the brand,” said Huang. “Everybody likes Eddie Bauer but our problem as a brand is people have a hazy view of us from 20 years ago and they haven’t checked in. So we need to get noisier and get people to pay attention again. There’s a lot of affection, and if we make the brand more relevant, creatively compelling and inviting, we’ll start to see more momentum on all fronts.”