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Inside Royal Robbins Our Heritage

Sweater Craft: a History of Sweaters as Gear

November 11, 2016
Royal__Liz_after_El_Capn

Sweater Craft is as old as the company itself. Royal and Liz originally began selling gear – pitons, ropes, hammers, nuts – out of her father’s garage in Modesto, CA. Soon thereafter, they added apparel to Mountain Paraphernalia roster of goods, becoming essentially the first outdoor apparel company (which they originally called Mountain Threads).

But before they could do that, there was a problem: climbers and adventurers didn’t want CLOTHING, they wanted GEAR.

Sweaters as Gear

Sweater Craft originals with Liz Robbins

Liz Robbins with original Sweater Craft

Despite being famous for first ascents in Yosemite Valley, CA, Royal and Liz spent a lot of time in Europe, especially England. On climbing trips in the Lake District of northwest England, Liz found a fun diversion when the rain started coming down.

She began working with local women to help them redesign their sweaters to fit climbers better.

The Herdwick and Swaledale sheep’s wool made for rugged, durable sweaters that, with slight improvements were ideal for cool weather climbing. The only problem was that climbers didn’t want to buy apparel, they wanted to buy “tools.”  

By marketing these heavy wool sweaters as tools, the Robbins’s found success in a new totally category for outdoor – Sweaters as Gear. This success led to Robbins’s to pivot and make the Royal Robbins company into a pure outdoor clothing company by the mid-70’s.

Sweater Craft

Many clothes are made. Sweaters are crafted. We call our collection of sweaters Sweater Craft in honor of the original sweaters that Liz imported. These hand-made beauties kept climbers warm and looked good.

Sweater Craft today

Sweater Craft at play in the Sierras

 

A Legacy of Environmental Responsibility

The promotion of clean climbing, marked by his first ascent of Nutcracker in 1967, was one of Royal’s proudest accomplishment. The legacy of environmental responsibility and of sustainability remains with the company today. When it comes to sweaters, we believe in the ethical treatment of our sheep. That’s why we only use non-mulesed wool.

Throughout our business, whether it’s using bluesign® approved fabrics, plant-based fibers, or Tencels and Modals from sustainably-managed forests, we are constantly looking to build on Royal’s leadership. It is a Core Value of our brand.

 

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