On June 26, VF Corp. announced that Jennifer McLaren would succeed Travis Campbell as president of Smartwool.

Campbell was promoted to vice president, general manager, The North Face, Americas.

McLaren has been with VF since 2011, when the Smartwool and Timberland brands were acquired by VF. She joined the Timberland brand in 2003 in the global financial planning and analysis organization and eventually became North America CFO, Timberland. In 2011, she moved to Steamboat ,CO, to assume the role of CFO for Smartwool’s North American operations.

Why is now a great time to become president of Smartwool? It is a great time to be president because, number one, I wholeheartedly believe in this brand and everything it stands for; I always have.  I also believe businesses have a responsibility to make the world a better place, and for Smartwool, we are poised for both growth in profit and scale of goods. I want to keep that momentum going. We have reaffirmed our purpose, our values and our vision. I am excited to empower the team to push it forward at the highest levels.

You’ve been with the brand for a while at this point. What’s special about the brand? What’s been the key to its success? We make a great product that enables people to do more of what they love outside. From the sizing, to the colors, to the styling, we design our products to appeal to a variety of people, different shapes and sizes, different athletic abilities, etc.  We make our products approachable. The same goes for the personality of the brand itself.  Smartwool has always stood for fun and community outside.  Our brand has never been “man against the mountain”; we’ve always been about enjoying the journey, and more importantly, enjoying those people who are on the journey with you. We build community around our love of the outdoors and we always have. In terms of overall business, I would say that Smartwool, especially the socks, are an affordable luxury item that people love to give their friends and family no matter what the economy is doing. More than half of our consumers discover our brand because someone gave them a pair of socks. If people like your brand and products enough to give to the people their care most about … well, that’s a pretty big compliment.

How is Smartwool currently doing? What’s doing well? What needs work? We feel confident with the direction of the brand now. We are starting to see new positive momentum in the business, specifically with our apparel. I think that is great. In the latest industry data, Smartwool baselayers were top-selling baselayers in outdoor specialty. We want to see that momentum continue to grow and leverage that success to fuel growth in other categories. As we look to the future, we will stay focused on increasing awareness of our brand and apparel. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to show the broadest assortment of the line. On a broader level, there are three things that are weighing on my mind right now:  1.  Participation in the outdoors. The outdoors and public lands belong to everyone. We need to make sure we, as a brand and industry, are inviting and welcoming new people outside. You can look for Smartwool to increase our efforts here. 2. Accessibility. Not everyone lives at the foot of a mountain. Many people don’t even live near a park. We need to look at new and innovative ways to provide easy access to the outdoors and support those organizations that do just that. 3. Protection, we need to protect those places that we all love to play on.  And, hopefully, as we get more people outside with improved accessibility, we will have more people who love and care for our public lands and are willing to protect those spaces.

You’re the first female to be promoted to president in the VF Outdoor and Action Sports Coalition. Is that a big deal to you? Do you have any advice to share around the challenges women face attaining leadership roles?  This is a very big deal for me, as it would be for anyone, no matter their gender. It’s a big role and a great opportunity; in my opinion, it’s a dream job for anyone in the industry. I do agree that there has been a glass ceiling in the outdoor industry and that it is a male-dominated field. However, I honestly believe that glass ceiling is breaking as we speak. Throughout my career, I have had the great opportunity to have strong female role models. I hope I am the same for future leaders. I do believe in paying it forward, in helping people unlock their potential. I mentor quite a few people here at Smartwool, and I am active in Camber and the OIA Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy. After all, the survival of our industry depends on the next generation of high-quality and effective leaders.

Photos courtesy Smartwool