Sierra Designs Heritage Collection?

What I am about to say is a story you have heard before. It starts out with a simple, functional piece of classic American design and ends in frustration. Our consumer culture forces companies to throw out the old in favor of the new. In the short term this is good (hooray more sales; profit) but in the long run it strips the history from a brand. Eventually, the only place you will be able to get anything American is in Japan. I have resisted saying this for some time, but my aggravation has gotten the better of me. If you are a brand that has made classic products and have since moved on, re-release the originals in the U.S. and sell them at better specialty stores like Odin, Blackbird, Smith & Butler, Steven Alan, Drinkwater’s in Boston, American Rag in LA and the like. It’s not hard to figure out — call me I’ll help. Patagonia is doing it with Urban Outfitters, as is Jansport with their Heritage Collection. The fact that the only way I can get a 60/40 Parka from Sierra Designs is from Japan or on eBay pisses me off. Sierra Designs is missing a huge opportunity to break into a new market, to hit that coveted fashion crowd. It’s good for business and only adds to brand equity. (Look at me dropping marketing terms.)

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Comments on “Sierra Designs Heritage Collection?

    JPon January 6, 2009 @ 12:01 AM:

    I agree. It is insane that the Japanese as a whole appreciate our great, classic American brands/icons more than we do.

    JP

    Quentin Chuddley-Stokeron January 6, 2009 @ 11:03 AM:

    Yep, its mental. I managed to get an Orange Sierra Design parka from Yahoo.jp a couple of years back (before the pound died).

    Its the same with the Danner Suede Mountain Light Boot, Ive tried everywhere for them but the only place is Japan…….

    Help?

    Brad Rooton January 6, 2009 @ 11:43 AM:

    What’s with the zipper on the back of the coat? What does 60/40 mean?

    jeremyon January 6, 2009 @ 11:48 AM:

    60/40 is 60% cotton and 40% poly. It was the “tech” fabric of the outdoor market in the 70’s.

    Also I’ve been after one of those Seirra Designs jacket with the Pendelton wool interior for years.

    Michael Williamson January 6, 2009 @ 11:59 AM:

    Thanks for the clarification Jeremy. Should this be URBN’s next target? I say yes!

    samon January 6, 2009 @ 12:02 PM:

    Man that plaid is just killing me, Ebay has a small one with out it (the plaid) for 20$.

    Anonon January 6, 2009 @ 1:31 PM:

    ACL,

    I had a Woolrich model back in the day. Woolrich makes one similar, but not the same.

    LL Bean used to sell a model also.

    http://www.woolrich.com/CGI-BIN/LANSAWEB?WEBEVENT+L201CF1328A29C900FD32053+PRD+ENG#

    funtime42on January 6, 2009 @ 2:19 PM:

    I have had that coat without the back pocket since the early eighties and it is a workhorse – pretty much weatherpr00f down to freezing with a sweater, and most dirt just brushes off. When it gets seriously grungy, I toss it in the wash. Other than some fading on the sleeves (they’re too long so I rolled them up ), it looks beautiful.

    Robinon January 6, 2009 @ 2:49 PM:

    Engineered Garments usually puts out a similar parka every season, even down the zippered pocket in the back.

    andrewon January 6, 2009 @ 2:53 PM:

    this is all true- but maybe it is time to take interest back to smaller US based companies that are still around today making similar products, like Crescent Down Works. It is also very hard for me to believe that, especially in the case of a company like Patagonia, that original standards of quality and functionality could be upheld when paired with a commerce goliath like Urban Outfitters. Why couldn’t Patagonia re-issue the pieces themselves?

    Fosteron January 6, 2009 @ 3:00 PM:

    Danner pulls the same maneuver, with a lot of their older boots being available only through Danner Japan (DJ). Even if you do find some DJ boots they are only available in sizes 6.5 to 10. Travesty

    Here are some DJ boots i found at the Factory store in portland oregon.

    http://restlesstransplant.blogspot.com/2009/01/trip-to-danner-factory-store.html

    Andyon January 6, 2009 @ 3:25 PM:

    Andrew: I second a vote for Crescent Down Works.

    ron January 6, 2009 @ 3:49 PM:

    andrew/andy: I third it.

    robboon January 6, 2009 @ 4:00 PM:

    yeh thats crazy
    i have a japanese friend here in london and the gear he wears is insane…all american brands only available in japan in teeny weeny sizes

    those danner i have been after but im afraid would never fit me and with the pound being well and truly badgered its looking on in admiration im afraid …

    wayne pateon January 6, 2009 @ 4:01 PM:

    I share the same point of view as others here. State side we as consumers and shop keepers need to be pro-active in making this product available in the states. These brands didn’t wake up one day and decide to only do business in Japan offering reissues of there vintage styles. Japan wanted this shit and they got it. If you want it, go to Japan and buy it for yourself or go scream at some people and tell them to wake the fuck up and bring it on home! It’s like going to a party and some other dudes are with your girls cause you didn’t have a clue what they wanted but the other dudes did.

    Abeon January 6, 2009 @ 4:47 PM:

    I’m really curious as to how all this Japan only American stuff came about. Did the US main companies discontinue items and the Japanese side just kept making them? Or was there a point were the Japanese side actually went searching for dead products to bring back to life?

    Off to Outdoor Retailer in a few weeks, mostly meeting with the wrong side of the equation (mills as opposed to retailers or the brands) but I’ll toss the idea out at any opportunity… Have to say, from my one other trip to that convention the US outdoorwear industry just does not seem structured in a way that they even know these sorts of opportunities exist.

    Neilon January 6, 2009 @ 4:56 PM:

    I’ve loved the 60/40 jacket since I first saw it worn by DeNiro in the 70’s classic, TheDeer Hunter. I’ve been looking for an orange 60/40 on ebay to no avail.

    Quentin Chuddley-Stokeron January 6, 2009 @ 5:09 PM:

    Ive got one.

    Have I mentioned?

    Michael Williamson January 6, 2009 @ 5:15 PM:

    Neil — you are totally right about the orange one. I feel a Deer Hunter post coming up…

    ACL

    Andyon January 6, 2009 @ 5:30 PM:

    Smart-ass trivia: It was actually a 58/42 cotton/nylon blend. Rounded to 60/40 for convenience.

    plaidouton January 6, 2009 @ 5:31 PM:

    I concur with Wayne. The reason Patagonia woke up to Urban is solely because kids were coming into Patagonia’s stores on a daily basis and ragging on them for failing to carry the big P-label pile jackets in that retro trim cut. They caved. Sierra will cave.

    Michael, who do you think does the best job of incurring a reissue? UO? Junya? The smaller boutiques?

    Thomon January 6, 2009 @ 6:21 PM:

    Preach it brother. Same used to go for Radiohead singles, but that’s a whole other story…

    Charlotte Kon January 6, 2009 @ 9:25 PM:

    Yep, I had the LL Bean version, lasted about 20 years, finally got just too grungy even for me. I had a friend with the orange, faded beautifully. I would buy another parka like that from LL Bean in a minute!

    Denison January 6, 2009 @ 11:56 PM:

    I think alot of the “Japan only” availability is more related to licensing by Japanese companies and less about American companies distributing their products according to demand.

    Although less sexy, there are a few other examples of this like Hang Ten and Champion. You can still find classic Champion reverse-weave fleece in Japan with the original stitching, gussets and original patches. Champion USA has attempted to bring them back to the US market and its just not the same.

    Chrison January 7, 2009 @ 8:21 AM:

    Hey Michael,

    The old supply and demand……

    Have you seen the Sierra Designs Pendleton-lined Mountain Parka? Only in Japan of course.

    http://www.ware-house.co.jp/index.php?page=item&ic=26815&mode=newarrivals

    wayne pateon January 7, 2009 @ 8:45 AM:

    Denis is right on the money. It’s really more about the licensing of these brands than distribution. Take Beams for instance, they are licensing tell the cows come home. Converse Chuck Taylors are another good example, in fact it’s quiet easy for really small brands to make there own custom pairs. On any given trip to Tokyo you can walk into a random small store/brand and they will have there own
    custom pair.

    Samon January 7, 2009 @ 11:00 AM:

    It’s worth noting (as i don’t think it’s been mentioned here) that SD Canada did in fact recently re-issue a “modernized” version of the classic 60/40 design

    http://canada.sierradesigns.com/mens.display.php?id=1065

    Unfortuantely, there are no photographs available, and I find the look of it pretty uninspiring.

    Sid Won January 7, 2009 @ 11:25 AM:

    While I may not like this specific jacket, I wholeheartedly agree with your point about the heritage lines. It really is a shame that its so hard to find these American clothes in the US.

    hon January 7, 2009 @ 2:26 PM:

    george costanza.

    Abeon January 7, 2009 @ 6:10 PM:

    Interesting, cause of the earlier cotton poly comment didn’t realize this was actually a NyCo. The best old us military fatigues were a NyCo as well, good stuff. We are playing with similar fabrics at Outlier right now…

    Also worth checking out is Ventile, the other classic 70’s “tech” fabric. 100% cotton, but woven so tightly it’s actually waterproof. West Winds in the UK still do made in the UK garments with it.

    I’m really tempted by the “Antarctic Smock” ( http://www.west-winds.co.uk/antarcticsmock.htm ), but they do a classic parka too.

    Peteron January 7, 2009 @ 10:03 PM:

    Re the licensing: are you saying that the garments aren’t actually being made by, say, Sierra Designs, but are being manufactured under the aegis of a Japanese company that is simply paying a fee to SD for the name? I suppose that’s plausible.

    Mostly, though, the reason we don’t see these variations of classic brands here is that we don’t fetishize gear like the Japanese do. There are an awful lot of us who, instead, use things like hiking boots and hunting coats to hike and hunt in rather than parade up and down the Harajuku district.

    Although the other day on the subway i saw a guy wearing Danners with a wool plaid upper. Possibly custom but bitchen’ as hell.

    leoon January 8, 2009 @ 12:23 AM:

    i have a great appreciation for classic mountain parkas. like funtime42 said, they are great for any weather really, just layer them up underneath. i have 2 older ll beans, 2 older woolrichs and 1 sierra design. i always seems to have 1 on.

    and speaking of orange, S2W8 has a 60/40 short parka in a orange color that i’m seriously considering!

    it always seems more desirable when its hard to get huh? how long before we start asking to have michael jackson back in the states?

    V.G.on January 8, 2009 @ 1:47 AM:

    Co-sign. Peter, Chris, Denis (et al.) are correct in that the Japanese market embraces these garments while the North American market does not. The dollar is mightier than the sword and I don’t think North America has enough customers spending in the right areas. It’s the same with food, with lumber, with fossil fuels. It’s not all about “fetish” though…it’s also about quality workmanship, heritage, taste, and economics. Hopefully the current fashion trend towards blue collar American work-wear will spurn growth (read: jobs) in North America just like locavores are turning to foods grown in the same geographical region they are produced in. It’s a good look. PS – Check out the Spalding Heritage Collection in Japan for the nice sweatshirts.

    Agostinhoon January 8, 2009 @ 11:09 AM:

    yeah word to your mother!!!

    i read about sierra designs in an old jap mag recently.

    thought i was the only one that knew what was up haha.

    would be cool if they decided to release outside of JP.

    alfordon January 8, 2009 @ 5:04 PM:

    “Also worth checking out is Ventile, the other classic 70’s “tech” fabric. 100% cotton, but woven so tightly it’s actually waterproof. West Winds in the UK still do made in the UK garments with it.”

    I just got a double Ventile cycling jacket from Hilltrek in Scotland. Haven’t been in a downpour yet, but it certainly cuts the wind. Based on an older design.
    http://www.hilltrek.co.uk/acatalog/Cycling_Double_Ventile_Jacket.html

    I too am aggravated by the “only in Japan” situation but it’s not likely to change. Best to support those who continue to make some of the classics. Birdwell’s comes to mind.

    Michaelon January 8, 2009 @ 6:49 PM:

    I think that part of the appeal of these items lies in the fact that they are hard to get/Japanese market only. If we could just walk to corner store and buy this stuff, would we care as much?

    Also, as a clarification, Levis did NOT sell the selvage looms to Japanese mills. They were stored in the basement of Cone Mills, and are now being used to produce the White Oak LVC denim. Japanese mills use Toyoda looms for the most part.

    V.G.on January 9, 2009 @ 1:40 AM:

    Michael, thanks for the tips on the Levis selvage looms! Do you have more information on the White Oak LVC denim line? Additionally, I hope this comment section reaches outside of the blogosphere because I would really like to see our dollars at work at home! A Continuous Lean is a great resource and I encourage the creators to keep up the good work. Buy good stuff, not the cheapest stuff.

    farnson January 9, 2009 @ 2:33 PM:

    I’m in the UK, and I have a lovely beige Penfield coat like the one above.

    Quentin Chuddley-Stokeron January 9, 2009 @ 6:28 PM:

    Frankly im gutted that this is getting coverage so widely. I would be quite happy in the knowledge that I am one of the few in the west with the orange Deer Hunter one.

    Interestingly, vintage Sierra Designs have been talked up a lot recently these past couple of years on the more discerning and sartorial minded British Football Casual messageboards.

    There must be something in the water…….

    peter ron January 11, 2009 @ 11:27 AM:

    bTW
    The new Woolrich mountain parkas are really weak in comparison to these reissue SD’s and even the old Woolrich’s.
    No leather details, no back pocket.

    stephenon January 12, 2009 @ 4:42 AM:

    my dad had a fjall raven jacket just like this from the 80’s that he wore until it fell to bits … it went the same lovely blue that this is … also reminds me of kirk douglas’ jacket in ‘heroes of telemark’

    steve

    Brent Payneon January 16, 2009 @ 6:04 PM:

    Amen Bro! I am pissed off about this as well. Back in the late ’70’s I had a 60/40 parka in Bluestone but it was stolen from a restaurant a decade later. I also had the same daypack you have the photo of but in a really unique gold/tan. I loved the wood felt padded shoulder straps. I don’t even know what happened to that pack. Anyway, a couple of months ago I started hunting for a 60/40 parka and found that SD is offering a new limited edition version for this fall but only in Canada! It was difficult to get hold of but I got one. It’s a poser jacket. First, they use waterproof/breathable membrane which must have required them to change the 60/40 weave to a smaller diameter or something because it looks and feels very different. Second, they dropped the cool retro features like the leather cord locks in favor of new style one-handed cord locks. They have lower patch pockets but they are not gussetted like the old models. And they ruined the jacket by silk screening crap on the back and one sleeve about it being a limited edition jacket.

    Brent Payneon January 16, 2009 @ 6:07 PM:

    Didn’t finish – WE JUST WANT AN ORIGINAL STYLED 60/40 PARKA – JUST LIKE THEY WERE MADE. The only change I’d make is upsizing for modern dimensions. I’d make the original colors etc. I really wish they’d make the version with the Ventile cotton upper lining that they featured in the early ’70’s.

    It really sucks to go online and see these perfectly reproduced 60/40’s in Japan and not be able to get one. I’ve also seen a cool ’60’s Eddie Bauer Skyliner jacket in Japan. Yet here, we can’t get anything like it. What gives?

    nrlyhmnon January 16, 2009 @ 7:43 PM:

    I’m am going to have to respectfully disagree. The brands mentioned in this article are outdoor brands, this means they were started to provide gear for a functional purpose, not for a someone to look cool on the street. The 60/40 fabric was the best option for outdoor apparel back in the day but materials have progressed a lot since then, as have the makers equipment of that use them. This is like complaining that Motorola doesn’t make the ‘classic’ Dyntac phone anymore, even though it was as big as brick and weighed a ton compared to the modern equivalent.
    To me re-releasing these ‘classic’ pieces is the real cop-out and relies totally on marketing bullshit. Sierra Designs doesn’t keep the 60/40 parka in the line because they have found better ways and materials to build functional outdoor jackets. And yes, these new jackets look outdoor-ky, in the same way the 60/40 looked outdoor-ky in its day.
    Sure, a case can be made against the rampant consumerism that comes with constantly updating products, but re-issuing ‘classics’ for wankers that will just want to wear them on the street is the height of conspicuous consumption. Both Japan and American are fueled by conspicuous consumption in their own way.
    Just my opinion though.

    Brent Payneon January 16, 2009 @ 10:54 PM:

    I disagree with your comments as well.

    You said: “This is like complaining that Motorola doesn’t make the ‘classic’ Dyntac phone anymore, even though it was as big as brick and weighed a ton compared to the modern equivalent.”

    BUT Sierra Designs DOES make continue to make the original 60/40 parka. It’s already a done deal. It’s happening. It’s just that they only sell them in Japan.

    I think company reasoning is opposite of what you say. Sierra Designs no longer sells them here because they don’t have the “look” that Americans expect and we Americans always want the newest stuff. The weight of the 60/40 parka is also out of line with the new ultralight craze.

    I worked in the outdoor equipment industry for nearly a decade and directed a college outdoor education program for the same number of years. I own some of the best, most modern gear available. I own custom made tents and sleeping bags. I know fine, expensive gear very well. In terms of functionality in outdoor clothing design, the vast majority of what’s made today doesn’t come close to being as useful as older designs. Yes, modern materials have improved within their niche – waterproof fabrics are truly waterproof and breathability has greatly improved. In design, venting is better, hood designs are better but everything today is styled to emphasize looks not function.

    If function were a real consideration, then parkas would be made large enough to fit easily over under layers, big cargo pockets like those on the 60/40 parka would still be used, etc. Look at the modern wind parka and pants used by NOLS – they look entirely different than the new stuff. The parka looks very much like the 60/40 in fit. Why? NOLS has them made to order BECAUSE NO MAKER PRODUCES A FUNCTIONAL GARMENT LIKE THAT. When a serious outdoor school has to have their shell clothing made because it is otherwise unavailable, that speaks volumes about the lack of functionality in what’s available on the market. BTW, I’ve completed the NOLS Instructors Course and have seen how rough their trips can be on equipment. They want and insist on dependable, durable equipment.

    FYI, Sierra Designs still makes some very popular but not-very-functional stuff. The Microlight Jacket is a great example. It’s not very water resistant much less waterproof yet, the water resistant finish they use really inhibits breathability. When I managed an outdoor gear store we had dozen of folks complain or return them because they were not breathable or very waterproof. The older guys always remarked that an old 60/40 was far more breathable and was at least as water resistant. Just not as light.

    I agree that the Japanese are enamored with anything American and buy this stuff primarily for fashion reasons but I’ll bet very few 18-30 year old Americans wouldn’t know a 60/40 parka from 5 feet away. Therefore, they couldn’t be described as being a wanker. The real wankers are the folks who wear a current North Face jacket with the label plastered all over it including on the back shoulder AND wear it only to the library. There is no difference in their motivations from the “wanker” you describe.

    I’m in my 50’s and have camped, hiked, backpacked and engaged in outdoor activities since the early ’70’s. Through the ’80’s and early ’90’s, when I was younger, I regretfully sold or gave away some truly great old gear in order to replace it with something that promised to be better – only to find out later that the new “improved” stuff was not as good in some other ways as what I’d had before. No perfect gear is made or has ever been made. The 60/40 is not perfect. Yet, the new stuff is weakest where it should be the best – functionality. The best, most modern fabrics and materials cannot improve that.

    Steveon May 4, 2009 @ 6:11 PM:

    60/40 ONCE meant 60% cotton and 40% nylon. US military field jackets, at least from the late 60’s, are cotton-nylon. I believe Sierra Designs used nylon, not polyester. Could be mistaken.

    I have a 60/40 parka, purchased used for my son, back in about 1996. No mention of the fabric content on the tag. Even though the extra small is fairly roomy, he outgrew it (or it became uncool) by the time he was 11 or 12. I will be selling it unless one of my daughters marries soon and produces offspring that I may corrupt with genuine US-made goods.

    By the way, the zippered opening on the back allowed one to pack a small sack with the 10 essentials, a lunch, or sweater.

    The military field jackets have a zippered collar opening that takes the place of the zipper on the back of the SD parka and allows one to pack a sweater–as long as the bottom hem is sewn shut (the lining was allowed to float, so to say).

    Danon July 29, 2009 @ 6:34 AM:

    Forget the jacket, I want that pack! I had a red version and I accidentally forgot it at a rest stop along the Mass Pike way back when. This is the first time since then I’ve actually seen a picture. Yes, please bring back the vintage stuff, especially the Jansport supersack too! Found a Korean version but never was able to firgure out how to order.

    Margaret Chastainon September 27, 2009 @ 4:08 PM:

    I find it hard to believe that Sierra Designs will not bring back the 60/40 Parka Jacket so popular in the 70’s. I have one for over 40 years and it is in perfect condition. I may sell it for a million dollars. Mine is in green and has no warm lining. It is my most favorite jacket of all time. I would buy two more. One in blue and another green. I am willing to send to Japan for them if I know who to contact where. Can you help? If Sierra Designs brings back this jacket, I will personally travel around selling it to stores everywhere. I bought mine in Oregon.
    I have even called Oregon stores to see if they have them. They were made in Mexico (so it says on the label of my jacket. Any addresses in Mexico I can
    order from? Could I have a little help here?

    LT Magnumon November 21, 2009 @ 11:32 AM:

    Margaret – If you go to http://www.amazon.co.jp, you can shop for Mountain Parkas in English. Just click on the “English” icon in the top right corner.

    In the search bar, copy and paste マウンテンパーカー . (you may need to set your computer settings to show Japanese fonts to read this.) You can also try typing in “Sierra Designs” in English and that will work too.

    You’ll see a selection of mountain parkas in the search results, but when you read the fine print, it says “Shipping: We’re sorry; this item can not be shipped outside Japan.”

    So the next step to go around this shipping restriction is to register with http://www.tenso.com/en/landing/ . This is a service that provides an address in Japan and ships items to you.

    All these steps may be pricey, but you will get a brand new mountain parka in the color and size you want out of the deal (dig those burnt orange models.) An interesting variant that you’ll probably find is the Panamint jacket, which is shorter version of the mountain parka that was sold in Sierra Design catalogs from the mid to late 70’s.

    Hope this helps!

    CSATEXASon November 22, 2009 @ 11:23 AM:

    I bought an original Sierra Designs 60/40 from The Wilderness Shop in Houston when they first came out and I still own it in great shape. I gave it to my 25 year old daughter who continues to wear the orange with tan interior parka.
    A few years ago Sierra Trading Post offered the re-make and I bought one in tan with a blue interior. They were just as nice as my original but had hand warmer pockets on the back of the front bottom patch pockets. I don’t believe my orange one did.
    LT Magnum, thanks… I’m going to order an orange one and re-live my childhood!

    KaraKoramParkaon December 12, 2009 @ 2:26 AM:

    One other alternative that I know is Rakuten. They do domestic sales as well as export.

    http://item.rakuten.co.jp/walker/7910-nt/
    http://item.rakuten.co.jp/walker/7910-rt/
    http://item.rakuten.co.jp/walker/7910-tn/
    http://item.rakuten.co.jp/walker/7910-bb/
    “Please feel free to contract us! We will respond in English.”

    Alan Wenkeron January 25, 2010 @ 11:00 AM:

    I have to say I am I am plesed to to have found this post even at this late date. I love old school mountain parkas and this post has me reconsidering selling several of my extras on ebay as well as lamenting having previously sold a few on ebay.

    I’m of the same mindset as Brent, my mate from Trailspace, and like Brent am a NOLS graduate. Simple, functional outerwear is hard to come by. The NOLS windshirt and pants are a perfect example of perfectly functional, well thought out garments which perform well in the field.

    What I find interesting with mountain parkas in general is the Sierra Designs parka was so much more popular than all the rest. It was not the first in spite of the advertising, that goes to Holubar, and I would not necessarily say it was the best, Class 5 was a serious contender for that title. Every firm during that era made a similar parka; Trailwise, North Face, REI, EMS, Gerry, Holubar, Woolrich, Snow Lion, Alpine Designs, Camp 7, ……… and they were all of very high quality. Why Sierra Designs?

    Best regards,
    Alan, who is hoping to find a wool lined mountain parka soon

    Charleson February 8, 2010 @ 2:20 PM:

    Had a EMS 60/40 orange parka that I bought in the 70’s when in high school that I sent to the clothing closet a few years ago. Little did I know.

    I still have a orange Patagonia 60/40 anorak that I bought in the late 80’s I use it working in the yard and on habitat builds. There is nothing better than 60/40 cloth for cold and dry conditions. It just breaths so much better.

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