All-Time Design is a new series on the Path Less Trodden which highlights the products and technologies in our industry that have had a major influence on others. It looks at design signatures that start trends and pervade through time. All-Time Design is a sister series to FutureProof. FutureProof predicts what will be classic, All-Time Designs already are. Number one in the series is the Norrona Lofoten Jacket.
With the Lofoten Jacket, Norrona invented the precursor to most modern freeride ski and snowboard shells. Part of the reason it has become such a classic style has been the result of Norrona’s ability to combine style with substance.
From a style point of view, the Lofoten’s most obvious feature are the contrast colour zips. I think this contemporary style signature first appeared on the Lofoten Jacket before anything else. And, in a similar way to skinny baffles on down jackets, it has found its way across all brands and all levels of the outdoor clothing industry and even onto the high street. Combined with a predominantly bright colour palette the Lofoten’s contrast zips made a strong style statement back in the day and continue to do so, despite the many imitations.
The other style signature of the Lofoten Jacket is the long freeride specific cut. Technical ski and snowboard jackets used to have their origins within the alpine climbing world where a close, short fit works great for climbing and whilst using a harness. The requirements of a freeride skier or snowboarder are a little different however and contemporary freeride shells have moved on. More room for under layering is important and a looser fit reflects the culture of freeriding. Although the Lofoten’s fit is roomy, it certainly isn’t what you’d call baggy. Articulation is built into the shape to provide plenty of freedom of movement when for accessing big lines and climbing couloirs. Take a look at pretty much all the similar styles out there these days and the same long, roomy, articulated fit is prevalent throughout.
Norrona define the Lofoten Jackets feature set with the term ‘Loaded Minimalism’ which I think is really cool way of describing what I think many high end outerwear designers are trying to achieve these days. This is the idea of distilling the garment’s features down to exactly what is needed and nothing more. So with the Lofoten you do get the essentials – pit zips to vent heat on the skin track, a helmet compatible hood for stormy chair lifts, multiple pockets for storing on hill essentials. What you don’t get are superfluous features that aren’t really needed and simply add weight and bulk.
In recent years Norrona have made some inspired moves where the evolution of the Lofoten Jacket is concerned. A few seasons back they took a chance and went crazy with a colour block style. It really took the bright and poppy colour scheme that Norona are famous for to the extreme. It was quintessentially Scandinavian and a massive hit. Since then every winter has seen a similar colourway produced in limited numbers but to big effect. Bright pops of colour have been a part of many other seminal products in everyday life (think the iPhone 5c) and Norrona clearly aren’t afraid of pushing the boat out in this regard. It might not work in the outdoor sector, but the winter sport market is much more responsive to such a progressive look. The Lofoten One Piece Suit also appeared – again in some really eye catching colourways which further backed up what Norrona have always tried to do with the Lofoten range.
A Strong Marketing Concept
Norrona have got their Lofoten marketing fully dialled over the years with two particular campaigns standing out. ‘Lofoten Remixed’ appeared for the winter 2011 season and coincided with the Lofoten concept really taking off. This was the point Norrona added to the already super popular and iconic standard colourway with contrast zip styles with the limited run colour blocks.
In winter 2014 / 2015 the ‘Colours Completely Coordinated’ campaign was launched. Norrona nailed it again and got the balance between the technical mountain and the style aspect of the product just right. The multi jacket ad (see below) sat alongside a 5 minute short film shot in the Lofoten Islands. The Lofoten Islands really represent the best of what Norrona’s home country of Norway has to offer – outrageous mountains that shoot straight out of the sea, beautiful but harsh weather conditions and a rich local culture. It’s an inspired location to film a backcountry ski or snowboard film and a place that is becoming increasingly popular in the backcountry scene.
It’s clear that in a marketing sense Norrona often place as much emphasis on the range concept (in this case Lofoten) as they do with the brand itself. Their range as a whole is broken into clearly defined sub-ranges which enables them to zero in on the target user in each sector. Most of the sub-ranges are named after wild Scandinavian places (eg Lyngen, Lofoten, Narvik). This is an important part of the brand message as it helps to give Norrona a stronger identity through association with one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The final thing that has helped made the Lofoten Jacket so iconic is its longevity as a product. At any time Norrona could have replaced it in the range with something else, or changed it dramatically year on year. After all – and let’s not fool ourselves here – its a top end Gore-Tex shell with a high price tag to match and I’m sure in the early days sales would have been pretty minimal. Instead they took the concept they believed in and stuck with it. I really feel that sometimes it takes as much skill to know when to persist with a product as it does to actually design and produce a brand new product. That committed long term plan, something not always in tune with modern day consumerism, has paid off and in the shape of the Lofoten Jacket Norrona now have an iconic product that defines them and their progressive approach to making outdoor apparel.