This past week, my friend Mishana and I had the unique opportunity to visit the new Eddie Bauer flagship store at the Bellevue Collection before it opens to the public on Sunday, September 18, 2016. We had the chance to preview the fall Eddie Bauer Originals Collection next to the original archive pieces they were inspired by, which showcased the brand’s heritage and product evolution. We also got to try out the exclusive Eddie Bauer Ice Box.
President and CEO, Mike Egeck, came to Eddie Bauer in 2012 with one goal in mind: bring the company back to its roots. Those roots being “the original outdoor outfitter.” When Mike took the helm at Eddie Bauer, he was told their competitors were stores such as Gap, Chico’s and Talbots – clothing stores. It was time for Mike to climb the Mt. Everest equivalent of the merchandising world and re-brand Eddie Bauer back to what it started as. The stores they should be competing against are outfits such as REI and North Face. And now it’s time for a history lesson.
We spoke to Colin Berg, the brand historian for Eddie Bauer. Did you know that there was an archive at Eddie Bauer’s headquarters in Bellevue? Until now, neither did we. Colin laid out the history of the company, and it was fascinating. Colin has worked at Eddie Bauer for 19 years, spread over three decades. The man knows his Eddie Bauer history.
Eddie Bauer was born on Orcas Island, Washington in 1899. In 1920, he turned his love for all things outdoors into a business and opened Eddie Bauer’s Sports Shop in Seattle. In 1936, he created the “Skyliner,” the first quilted goose down jacket in North America, a design he would patent four years later. In 1942, during WWII, he began producing garments and sleeping bags in support of the war effort. In the middle of the military garment label sewn into each of these products were the words, “Eddie Bauer Seattle U.S.A.” At the end of the war, soldiers from all over the country wrote to him based on that label. “Where can I get more of that down stuff? You saved my life!” This fan base began the Eddie Bauer catalog, which was first published in 1945 (he used the mailing addresses from the soldiers to create his first mailing list). This marked the first time Eddie Bauer branched out of the Pacific Northwest. In 1968, Eddie and his son sold their interest in the company to William Niemi, Sr. and William Niemi, Jr. Eddie passed away in 1986 at the age of 87.
Colin told Mishana and I the stories of two of the original jackets on display. One was the 1942 B-9 Down Parka, a green jacket with a fur lined hood that was developed for the Army during WWII and the other was the Kara Koram Down Parka, a 1953 parka that was created for the American K2 expedition team. The Eddie Bauer Originals Collection was inspired by what Eddie Bauer himself created. There are updated fabrics and patterns that make the current pieces more modern, but they still hold true to the original inspiration.
The EB Ice Box is exclusive to the Bellevue Square location and is set to 20 degrees, but can go as low as 10 degrees. There’s also a large fan installed to simulate wind chill. Eddie Bauer himself used to test his outerwear in commercial freezers (he even slept in them) to make sure they kept him warm. Mishana and I both donned some Eddie Bauer jackets and tried it out with President & CEO Mike Egeck. We stayed inside the 18 degree room for almost 10 minutes and did not get cold!
Mike also discussed with us the philanthropic efforts of Eddie Bauer. The Eddie Bauer X Pendleton Reversible 1936 Skyliner Model Jacket is available in 8 different styles to choose from, four for men and four for women. Five percent of the sales of the jacket go to the National Park Foundation restoration projects. The National Park Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service, enriches America’s national parks and programs through private support, safeguarding our heritage and inspiring generations of national park enthusiasts.
Eddie Bauer also works extensively with the International Red Cross, United Way and American Forests with actor Ryan Reynolds. Ryan grew up in Vancouver, Canada and called Eddie Bauer about a way to partner with them. Mike told us that Ryan went on a month long outdoor expedition in high school and they were all outfitted with Eddie Bauer gear. Ryan had fond memories of the company and wanted to find a way to work with them. Ryan is now the philanthropic ambassador for The One Tree Initiative for the next stage of Eddie Bauer’s partnership with American Forests. American Forests is the national nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to reforestation in threatened ecosystems. In November 2015, Eddie Bauer planted the organization’s 50 millionth tree, celebrating a significant milestone in a partnership aimed at protecting and restoring North American forests.
You can check out the new Eddie Bauer flagship store in Bellevue at it’s grand opening this Sunday, September 18, 2016 and then every day after!
1033 Bellevue Way NE
Ph. (425) 453-0450