Columbia Sportswear Introduces Their ‘Empire”-Inspired Crew Gear Parka
MAKING THE RETRO JACKET INVOLVED EXPLORING LUCASFILM HISTORY, SOME DETECTIVE WORK, AND BRINGING A ’70S DESIGN INTO TODAY.
As every Star Wars fan knows, Hoth is cold. The ice planet from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is a frozen tundra, home to yeti-like wampas, and so frigid that tauntauns just keel over. Tatooine, it is not.
On location in Norway during production in 1979, the Hoth scenes were filmed in the remote town of Finse, often buried in snow, and surrounded by glaciers and avalanche-prone mountains. So, Hoth was actually real-world cold. If you look at behind-the-scenes photos from Empire‘s Hoth sequences, you’ll notice that everyone is bundled up. To protect them from the harsh elements and blizzard conditions, cast and crew members were issued custom gear, including goggles, caps, and snow pants.
But one item in particular stands out: that jacket.
It’s a bold blue parka with popping stripes on the upper sleeves, a custom nameplate above the left pocket, and other Star Wars-themed details, including a patch on the left arm and, finally, the coup de grâce: a hauntingly cool “Vader in flames” on the front chest. The Empire parka was crew gear (custom-made, branded apparel for those working on a film) before there was crew gear, and Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and director Irvin Kershner all wore it. As such, it’s become a holy grail among collectors. They’re incredibly hard to find, as only a few dozen were made and even fewer are known to exist today.
If you ever liked the jacket’s style or wished you could have something like it, you’re in luck.
Revealed today, Lucasfilm and Columbia have teamed up to create the Star Wars: Empire Crew Parka, a limited-edition jacket inspired by the famous on-set winter outerwear, available for $500 starting December 7. The coat blends modern tech into the parka’s classic look, features a super-cool Vader patch in the style of the original, and includes a few surprises.
‘Something we haven’t done before’
In the past, Lucasfilm and Columbia have collaborated on movie-themed jackets, including recent releases inspired by Rogue One and The Empire Strikes Back. Those items, however, were character based. This year, they wanted to do something different.
“One of the things we thought about was, ‘What are our fans excited about?’” says Lacey Prince, senior manager, product design & development, softlines, at Lucasfilm. “They’re excited about things that are nostalgic. They’re excited about the original series. So we just started doing some research. Was there anything cool and special in Episodes IV, V, and VI that we haven’t explored before? Oddly enough, we came across some of the crew photos. There’s some really great imagery of Mark and Carrie together, and that just really got us thinking. Like, ‘What if we tried to do something that wasn’t necessarily inspired by what the characters were wearing in the film, but by what the crew had?’ And that could be something we haven’t done before.”
With that, Prince’s team and the designers at Columbia were off. They loved the colors of the jacket and the fact that they were different than what fans might otherwise associate with Empire (“It’s associated with the production, and that’s kind of cool,” Prince says), and were excited that developing their own version would shine a light on a bit of Lucasfilm history. Then the real work had to begin.
“It was a puzzle to figure out if we could do it,” Prince says. “That was a big part of this, the investigative work behind the scenes. You know, finding a photo, but then finding who owns rights to that photo? Who owns the jacket? Does the company still exist? Are there trademark issues? Those are all things we had to explore and clear from a legal perspective before we could proceed.”
A winter coat for our galaxy
The finished jacket is an effortlessly cool piece of fashion that is both of yesterday and today, and a tribute to those who made one of the world’s favorite movies.
“I hope that fans will be just as excited about this as we are,” Prince says. “I mean, this is a really cool way to bring an authentic piece that resonates with Lucasfilm history.”
“I’m really proud of it,” Roundy says, “and I’m really proud of all the amazing work that the team has put into it to create such an amazing product. I hope that the fans will appreciate the thought and detail that went into this jacket, and enjoy how we’ve modernized it.”
The Star Wars: Empire Crew Parka will be available beginning December 7, 2018, at Columbia.com/StarWars and in-store at select Columbia-branded retail locations in the U.S., Canada, Europe, China, Hong Kong, Japan and, Korea.
Mark Hamill has signed 30 Star Wars: Empire Crew Parkas for a good cause. These signed jackets will sell for MSRP of $1,980 — a nod to the film’s release year — with all proceeds going to college access programs and scholarships. These coveted signed jackets will be sold only at Columbia-branded retail locations in New York, NY; Buena Vista, FL; Downtown Portland Flagship, OR; and Seattle, WA.