With a renewed mission to re-establish itself as an outdoor industry leader, Royal Robbins announced major changes heading into Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.

Liz Robbins

Liz Robbins, Co-founder of Royal Robbins

Heritage outdoor apparel brand Royal Robbins announced several key players from its heyday are back at the helm, and the brand is revamping all facets of the business in an effort to again become a highly relevant player in the fiercely competitive outdoor apparel space.

The brand is in the midst of a Royal Revolution, said its representatives. Company Co-founder Liz Robbins is back as an advisor; and under her and CEO Michael Millenacker’s helm, the pair is reigniting the brand’s heritage designs that have inspired adventure since 1968 – the year world-renowned climbers Royal and Liz Robbins founded the company as an importer and distributor of gear and apparel.

“Our guideline – style with mountaineering heritage – is as relevant today as it was in the 1970s when our focus was on Yosemite Valley climbers,” said Robbins. “It is with Royal’s encouragement that I’m joining the new team led by Michael Millenacker.”

Royal-and-Liz-RobbinsBy 1997, Royal Robbins began gaining global recognition for its high quality active lifestyle clothing, made mostly from synthetics, and commitment to innovation, style and utility with a connection to the core customer.

Royal Robbins is still based in San Francisco and Modesto, CA — the gateway to Yosemite Valley, where in 1961, Robbins made the first ascent of El Capitan’s Salathé Wall, the world’s hardest big wall grade VI climb at the time. Robbins is also credited as a pioneer of “clean climbing” along with Yvon Chouinard. In 1968 he made the first solo ascent of El Cap’s Muir Wall in just 10 days.

In 1967, Liz laid claim as the first female to ascend the Northwest face of Half Dome. Liz said that the iconic photograph a tourist snapped of the pair atop Half Dome in tattered clothing (shown above) is part of what inspired them to launch the now globally beloved brand. At that time most climbers used Army surplus gear.

Michael Millenacker, CEO, Royal-Robbins

Michael Millenacker, CEO, Royal-Robbins

“We’re not going to try and be the hip new brand… Heritage is our key differentiator.” – Michael Millenacker, CEO, Royal Robbins

“We’re not going to try and be the hip new brand,” Millenacker explained. “We’re going to evolve it but take it back to its roots, keep it functional but stylish. Heritage is our key differentiator and gives us a connection to the past, people and places.”

Millenacker was previously Robbins’ national sales manager and most recently general manager at Fox. The brand is currently owned by private equity group BRS that also owns climbing shoe company Evolv, among about 40 other brands, and is on the hunt for other outdoor acquisitions, Millenacker said. He added that VP of Operations Loren White and VP of Merchandizing and Design Liz Braund are also crucial pieces of the evolved management team.

Robbins named Verde Brand Communications as its agency of record last month to drive product awareness in trade, endemic and broad markets. Industry veteran Aaron Carpenter of AVC Consulting (formerly global vice president of marketing at The North Face) will also advise Royal Robbins on brand strategy, sales, marketing, digital strategy, e-commerce and team building. Osprey’s Tom Barney will also be consulting.

“Liz is here to help me make sure we have that heritage story in tact and have the look and feel in the products as well,” Millenacker said.

Liz and Royal Robbins at Base Camp

Liz and Royal Robbins at Camp Four Base Camp in the 1960s

Here’s a look at some of what retailers can expect to see at Winter Market in Royal Robbins’ newly revamped booth:

Foxtail Fleece Shirt Jacket

Foxtail Fleece Shirt Jacket

The men’s Performance Flannel Plaid Shirt, $75, gives soft hand to a durable nylon and polyester blend that delivers wrinkle resistance, warmth and a fast dry time. This is both your softest flannel and your most versatile. The men’s Performance Flannel Overshirt, $85, brings these performance benefits to a heavier flannel.

The men’s All Season Merino Thermal Full Zip, $110, is a versatile thermal knit in a merino and cotton blend. This hoody has excellent warmth-to-weight ratio and a soft hand. It features front hand pockets and knit ribbing detail.  

The MerinoLux program includes the women’s Go Everywhere Merino Henley, $65. Blending renewably sourced Sorona fibers adds softness and durability to merino wool’s tried and true odor-resistant, moisture wicking and temperature control performance. Sorona fibers hold rich color and help the garment keep its form while getting softer every wash.

The women’s Foxtail Fleece Shirt Jacket, $100, features polyester blended with renewably sourced Sorona fibers to bring a buttery feel. The Foxtail has a quilted stitching pattern at the front and back, with slip-in hand pockets, snap buttons at the front and a brushed tricot lining.

The women’s Performance Flannel Plaid Shirt, $75, gives a soft hand to a durable nylon and polyester blend that delivers wrinkle resistance, weightless warmth and fast dry time.

The women’s Autumn Pine Zip Cardigan, $90, features an acrylic, wool and nylon blend that gives the look of a heavier sweater without the added weight. This novelty knit is a piece that brings the spirit of the outdoors in a vintage pattern that’s easy to care for.

Liz Robbins at Trade Show Booth

Liz Robbins at their trade show booth in the early days. This year, the company’s Outdoor Retailer booth will again be re-vamped to reflect its new direction and inspiration.

–Author Aaron Bible is the managing editor of SGB. Images courtesy of Royal Robbins.