Outdoor Retail Gear Trends: 2016 summer performance apparel

Check out the top trends and products in summer performance apparel slated for outdoor retail shelves in 2016.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 5 – 8

Technical apparel forthe 2016 market is adding performance options while continuing to up the fashion, blending natural and tech fabrics, and thanks to the athleisure invasion, competing for female customers.

Customers want gear that transitions from activity to leisure, and will be dry and fashionable enough to sit around with friends in public.

“I guess you could say we have listened to the market,” said Mammut Apparel Product Manager, Joanna Tomasino. “We know we have customers that run, attend spinning or cross-fit classes and practice yoga. Mammut wants to speak to all those activities and create brand loyalists.”

For shoulder season, or alpine summers, the hybrid jacket is performance’s answer to the vest and long-sleeve combo. Hybrids mix fabric tech and styles to keep cores warm and limbs cool.

Icebreaker uses its MerinoLoft for warmth and Cool-Lite wool/Tencel mix in the jersey waffle for its Ellipse Half-Zip (MSRP $230). The Brooks-Range Hybrid Lt Jacket (MSRP $200) uses Alpha insulation in the chest and Polartec Power Wool Grid, a mostly-poly blend, for the rest. Dynafit goes with PrimaLoft Gold ‘Luxe’ to warm its Traverse Hybrid Jacket.

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Lightweight options for in-between seasons include Duckworth’s wool/Beechwood VaporWool Sleeveless Hoody (MSRP $80), and a Long-Sleeve Hoodie (MSRP $40) by Terramar, which uses yarn-based Microcool in its poly/nylon blend. New Balance unveils its compression line, including the Trinamic Long Sleeve (MSRP $85) with smooth fibers, stretch and perforation. Another fun option is the Brooks Run-Thru Jacket (MSRP $110), a majority mesh take on the traditional track jacket.

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Two big athletic brands are reminding retailers they do outdoors, too. “We’re in the space because we do performance athletics,” said Matt Page, Under Armour senior director of outdoor performance. “We treat outdoor players as athletes.”

To keep those outdoor athletes cool, Under Armour incorporates its mesh tech into new woven ArmourVent Trail pants (MSRP $90) with related board shorts for men and Capris for women. Adidas Outdoor woos the mountaineering sect with its Terrex Agravic Mountain Flash Pants (MSRP $119), a quick-dry shell of stretchy recycled poly, heat-reactive dobby mesh and tapered legs. Montane’s Psycho Vertical Pants (MSRP $169) feature climber-friendly gussets, reinforced knees and triple-stitched leg seams.

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Mountain bike shorts have always been the crossover option for cycling shorts. The Patagonia Dirt Craft Short (MSRP $149) is no exception, and the Dynafit XTrail Shorts (MSRP $110) aid the bike-to-casual shift with a flexible, quick-dry and abrasion-resistant shell.

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A pair of brands play mash-up for new products: Mammut combines the stretch and feel of its shorts with the fit and material of its tights to create its new MTR 141 Skort (MSRP $65). Patagonia made a similar double-dip to create its 5.7-ounce Alpine Houdini Pants (MSRP $129), an ultra-light, durable storm layer for runners and packers.

On days when rain would be a blessing, staying dry means wicking fabric. The best shirts ward off sweat, odor and sunburn, like the Under Armour CoolSwitch Trail Short Sleeve (MSRP $40) and the Terramar Polo Gen. II (MSRP $35). Carhartt includes gusseted side panels and arm flex for getting things done in the Force Extremes T-shirt (MSRP $25). Brooks debuts CoolCore, chemical-free yarn tech that won’t wash out, in its men’s and women’s Steady Sleeveless (MSRPs $45-$55) running shirts. SmartWool uses flatlock seams, a keyhole cutout back and mesh panels with women in mind for its PhD Ultra Light Cutout Short Sleeve (MSRP $75).

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Speaking of running, half marathons are now the preferred distance for the core running demographic according to Running USA’s latest National Runner Survey. That means more runners are out training longer in the heat, creating more demand for apparel that reduces sweat, chafing and discomfort.

This could be why The North Face saw its top-tier line Better Than Naked out-sell its more affordable offerings in recent years. For spring ‘16, The North Face debuts its run-specific collection, including the Flight Series Short Sleeve (MSRP $80), with a fitted, ventilating knit and stitch-free seams.

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More than 60 percent of those two million half-marathon finishers were women, a demographic accommodated by the athleisure sector. But since yoga pants aren’t quite holding up to the bumps and scrapes of outdoor excursions, outdoor brands offer performance-minded tights. These typically use a stretch poly, some woven mesh and sport a stash pocket familiar to the asana crowd.

Known for its trail-tough pants, Mountain Khakis speaks directly to the yoga crowd with its four-way stretch Traverse Tight Capri (MSRP $80), a “yiking” pant made of a poly-spandex blend with a mid-rise fit. Zensah’s Firm & Fit Compression Tight (MSRP $150) shows off warp knit seamless tech that breathes and prevents chaffing, and the tights’ graduated compression widens the range of fit.

ExOfficio combined its Sol Cool Icefil and new Cool Jade technology into the Sol Cool Skirt (MSRP $50). The fabrication gives the crisp woven panels some stretch with knit side paneling and the jade dust threads disperse heat. If the quick-dry Congo Skirt (MSRP $68) by Tasc Performance gets dusty on its patterned side, the mostly-black reverse print is ready for that reward beer.

First-layer support
When temperatures rise, so does the risk of soggy bottoms and chafed tops.

In general, women encounter more touch points with first-layer apparel. Such conditions are prime for brands to introduce female customers to technical fabrics. And if brands pass the summer-intimates test, they’re likely earning fall and winter customers as well.

New styles from brands that offer underwear as a performance “gateway” include ExOfficio’s Give-N-Go Sport Mesh 4” Boy Short (MSRP $36), while SmartWool covers the elastic in its knit Women’s PhD Seamless Boy Short (MSRP $40).

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Brands continue to incorporate performance tech into sports bras, but fit and support remain priorities. A big part of bra retail is education, and retailers play an especially important role.

Zensah debuts its Gazelle Sports Bra (MSRP $54) with higher denier Zupport Yarn helping its claims as the first truly seamless sports bra to support mid-to-high impact.

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Moving Comfort educates retailers, but also provides website guides, in-store pamphlets and hangtags for women to find the right fits in straps, cups, underwire and band.

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Moving Comfort updated its Fiona sports bra (MSRP $50), which saw little change during its decade-plus reign as the brand’s most popular style, with interior molding for structural support, a ridge-free band and brushed elastic trim. The Sureshot Racer (MSRP $38) is a lightweight pullover bra, aimed at A-C cups, and features pastel color ways linked to other seasonal pieces.

Icebreaker overhauled its underwear line with new fits and designs tied to other layer pieces. The Sprite Racerback Bra (MSRP $60) loses seams and adds durability with Corespun tech wrapping the nylon with softer merino. A low-impact option of coverage and mobility, Icebreaker’s new spaghetti strap Tiki bra (MSRP $65) shows off the brand’s Cool-lite mix of merino/Tencel.

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Bamboo brand Tasc Performance stays in the mix with its quick-dry reversible Endurance Sports Bra (MSRP $32). And yoga-inspired Stonewear throws support behind its flattering princess seams, with wide, criss-crossing back straps and removable cups in its Tempo Bra (MSRP $44).

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--M.T. Elliott

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