Exclusive interview with new leaders at Smartwool and The North Face

As Travis Campbell steps aside, Jen McLaren steps up.
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Travis Campbell is now vice president, general manger of The North Face, Americas. Jen McLaren is now president of Smartwool.

Travis Campbell is now vice president, general manger of The North Face, Americas. Jen McLaren is now president of Smartwool.

The same year Jen McLaren bought her first road bike, she completed her first century ride with the Smartwool team, traveling from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to Salt Lake City, Utah, for Outdoor Retailer. She’s been riding ever since and this year on the way to Outdoor Retailer in Denver, she’ll be leading the pack as the brand’s new president.

As for Travis Campbell, he is stepping down as Smartwool president to become vice president, general manager for The North Face, Americas—a role previously held by Arne Arens before he was named global brand president. He is moving to Alameda, California.

Prior to working at VF Corporation, Campbell was president and CEO of Far Bank Enterprises, an integrated manufacturer and distributor of fly fishing products and owner of the Sage, Redington, and RIO brands. He has been president of Rio Products International, Inc. and president of Redington Tackle and Apparel. Prior to these roles, Campbell served as Director of Business Development for Sage Manufacturing. He also held various positions at Deloitte Consulting and Andersen Consulting.

McLaren has been the chief financial officer of Smartwool since 2011, when Smartwool and Timberland were acquired by VF Corporation. Previously, she served as North America CFO of Timberland, and before that, held several positions at Arthur Andersen and Softbank Capital.

We caught up with Campbell and McLaren on Monday to talk about the big steps in their careers—which both consider dream jobs.

What excites you the most about your new roles?

Jen McLaren: We have had a really strong purpose in this brand for a really long time and what excites me the most is consumers are starting to realize and actually look for authenticity in brands. I think Smartwool is really poised right now to take advantage of that and start to tell our story, where we’ve been a little bit shy to tell our story in the past. So hopefully coming out pretty loud and proud about what we do and all the efforts we have around the outdoor industry.

Travis Campbell: I’ve been fortunate in my career to run some really iconic brands, both in the fly fishing industry and then at Smartwool. For me, The North Face is that next evolution of scale. It’s a professional dream come true to get to operate at scale and with one of those really powerful brands that is also purpose driven. The North Face can move mountains (the name of a campaign right now empowering women). We have access to so many consumers and having the strength of the brand behind that initiative means that we can do really powerful important things. I think that’s in the brand’s DNA beyond just commerce, so I get really excited about that when I think about the support we can provide to public lands and initiatives by the Outdoor Industry Association. When we go lobby in Washington D.C., and in the future when I’ll say I run the Americas for The North Face, it just fundamentally carries a bunch of weight and that’s important for the industry.

Jen, you’re the first female to be promoted to president in the VF Outdoor and Action Sports Coalition. How do you feel about that?

JM: I’ve been blessed with lots of strong women role models in my career and it has allowed me to continue to pursue the opportunities that I’ve had put in front of me with an incredible support network. I’m just honored and inspired by the team here that I can continue to help mentor them through their careers and hopefully be another voice in the outdoor industry as we continue to embark on more women leadership in this space.”

TC: I think it’s awesome. It’s a fabulous story. The thing that I like most about Jen is that she’s the strongest CFO I’ve ever worked with and one of the strongest business people I’ve ever worked with. And that’s regardless of gender.

One year from now what will the big story from Smartwool be?

JM: I’d like Smartwool to be known for all the good we do in the world, as much as the great product we make. We have been advocating for the outdoors and building community outside since day one. We are movement makers and I want us to continue to protect the outdoors, as well as build a vibrant community of new outdoor enthusiasts. If we can help make the outdoors approachable to a new, more diverse group of enthusiasts who love our public lands and are willing to help protect them, that’s a huge win for us. 

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