Whilst I was hanging around at the end if the first day at ISPO a couple of guys came up to to me and started asking questions about what I thought of the show and the products I’d seen that day. They weren’t dressed like your typical ISPO visitors and as it turns out were from a high end men’s fashion retailer based in Holland. I told them I’d seen some pretty cool stuff, nothing super groundbreaking, but cool none the less. They were pretty pissed off that they’d made the journey to Munich and hadn’t seen anything that looked any different to what they already have and what they’d been seeing for years. A fairly heated conversation ensued with us all agreeing that yes, if you are primarily interested in the look of the garment then not much has changed but I could definitely see an evolution in technology. With that in mind here are three of the big apparel trends I see within the outdoor and winter sports industry for winter 15/16.
Synthetic Insulation Continues To Evolve
Synthetic insulation technologies continue to gather pace and grow. There are a couple of areas within the category that are of particular relevance for winter 2015 / 2016. The first is the continuing push to create more breathable fibres and construction methods. The evolution of this concept started with Polartec Alpha and entered a new phase last winter when Patagonia released their mega air permeable and stretchy Full Range insulation in the Nano Air collection. The Nano Air range is expanded for next winter and more and more brands are using Polartec Alpha as the trend in active insulation continues.
The other new development within the category of synthetic insulation is the emergence of more down-like fibres. Insulations like Primaloft Gold Luxe are more down-like in their feel and performance than ever before. The insulation requires baffling so the end result is often a garment that also looks like a down jacket, rather than a traditional piece of synthetic insulation. No doubt this type of insulation will enable manufacturers to offer a high-end down-like feel combined with the typically lower price point of a synthetic too.
It seems like the popularity of Primaloft Gold Down Blend is also growing and rightly so. I’ve been using a Black Diamond Cold Forge Hoody all winter and so far I’ve been pretty impressed with both the insulation and the way BD have used it in the Cold Forge Hoody. The mix of 70% down and 30% Primaloft Gold makes for an impressively soft, warm, durable and hydrophobic insulation that should be more suitable for damp and changeable conditions that a traditional down jacket.
The Backcountry Is Big
It’s a trend that is happening across all areas of the ski and snowboard industry and it’s strong in apparel for winter 15/16 too. The number of people getting out into the backcountry and away from the pistes is growing. Whether on touring skis, splitboard or snow shoes there’s no doubt that the backcountry is the growth area in winter sports right now. Following on from significant developments on the equipment side in things like pin bindings and avalanche airbags, next winter more apparel brands than ever will offer a range of clothing aimed squarely at the backcountry skier and snowboarder.
Notable examples include Arc’teryx with their Ski Alpinism range – a mini collection of super technical ski mountaineering garments and Patagonia, who release a new range of products they are calling the BCT, or Backcountry Touring line. The BCT collection features garments aimed at both the ski mountaineer and the kind of user who is more interested in the search for powder than actually climbing anything. It looks to me like Patagonia have done a great job with the BCT collection and I think it’ll be a successful part of the wider Patagonia range next winter and beyond.
The Reconnaissance Jacket (pic above) is a key garment in Patagonia’s new Backcountry Touring collection. It combines waterproof hard shell fabrics over the hood and shoulders with more breathable soft shell fabrics on the torso. This kind of fabric combination is designed to offer comfort during lung bursting ascents along with ample protection against snow and wind.
Wool And Synthetic Mixes Are On The Up
Hybridization seems to be where it’s at this coming winter and there’s no better example of that than in the increase of synthetic / wool mix fabrics. Mixing wool and synthetic fibres is something that’s been happening for a while – some manufacturers place the wool on the outside of the garment with synthetic fibres next to the skin, some the other way round. Some fabrics are simply a blend of both.
Things will be kicked up a notch next winter though as Polartec fully launch their Power Wool fabric. Power Wool puts the wool next to the skin to maximise comfort and temperature regulation and the synthetic fibres on the outside to help with dry times and durability. As you’d expect from Polartec, a strong marketing campaign comes as standard so expect to see much more Power Wool in the future.
So that’s what I reckon is going on where clothing is concerned, next time I’ll take a look at trends in Equipment for winter 2015 / 2016. In the meantime these are the apparel brands I’ll be keeping an eye on in 2016 and beyond:
Trew – the rootsy North American brand could be huge.
Mons Royale – might take over the world.
Ortovox – look like they’re doing everything right, at least for the European market.
Black Diamond – will become one of the biggest technical apparel brands in the business.