Written by: Patricia Mears, deputy director of The Museum at FIT and lead curator of Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme.
This week’s Expedition blog illustrates the challenges that my colleagues, Liz Way and Ariele Elia, and I faced while charting a new topic in fashion history: the influence of expeditions on high style clothing. While there are a growing number of scholarly publications on both subjects, almost nothing exists on their overlapping histories. In addition, many books and articles contain information that is sometimes inaccurate and/or not fully detailed.
It has come to my attention, then, that there are inaccuracies in my essay for the companion book to the exhibition, also titled Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme. I am fortunate that this blog (published well after the submission of the Expedition texts to our publisher last year) gives us an opportunity correct any misinformation.Our colleague Colin Berg, the Eddie Bauer Brand Historian, has clarified the facts behind Eddie Bauer’s innovative, down-filled jacket. In the book, I document the creation and influence of this now ubiquitous coat, one that in recent years has been seen on the most prestigious high fashion runways. But a number of the details I cited were either incorrect or vague.
I thank Colin for helping me correct these errata.
Colin is the Brand Historian at Eddie Bauer, a position he’s held since 2007. As the historian and brand storyteller, he curates the company archives, conducts tours, and speaks at local museums and historical societies. He has also shared the company’s history at media events in New York and Munich, and will be traveling to Cologne, Germany this fall as part of the opening of an Eddie Bauer shop-in-shop. Colin’s background is as a writer; he has been a professional copywriter for 30 years.
For my essay, I relied primarily on a biography by Robert Spector – The Legend of Eddie Bauer, published in 1994 – as well as a magazine article Spector wrote about Bauer in the early 1990s. Ironically, this first edition of his book had a number of factual inaccuracies that were corrected in a second edition published seventeen years later. Colin notes that although the “inaccuracies do not change the fundamental story,” they “don’t jibe with the facts.”
Later, on page 93, I describe the “patented” Kara Koram quilted down parka and pants made for the 1953 American team that ascended K2. Colin confirms that while the “Kara Koram parka was indeed originally built for the 1953 Third American Kara Koram Expedition that was attempting the first ascent of K2 . . . the parka was never patented, and the 1953 team did not have Kara Koram pants — the pants were not introduced until a year later.” It should also be noted that this was an ultimately unsuccessful ascent.
Colin also notes that Bauer outfitted an American team in 1963 that was split into a “two-pronged assault on the summit. The main group followed the South Col route that had already been successfully summited by the British and Swiss and (possibly) the Chinese; a second, much smaller group pioneered a new route via the West Ridge. Ultimately, the expedition put six men on the summit—four via the South Col, and two via the West Ridge.” The citation I relied upon described what seemed like “two American teams.” But, as Colin notes, “for the members of the expedition, the climbers, it’s an important distinction. They were one team focused on a single goal while following two routes.”
Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme runs through January 6, 2018 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.