Gear trends: 2015/16 Women's fall outdoor lifestyle apparel

Ethical manufacturing, long-lasting natural materials and versatility allow women’s lifestyle apparel to transition from slope to sangria.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Flimsy, poorly made fast-fashion apparel doesn’t stand a chance.

New women’s outdoor lifestyle pieces for fall/winter 2015-16 is rife in durable, ethically made textiles that cater to conscious ladies who care not only what their clothing is made from, but also how. From items made with organically grown cotton to durable, natural materials like American-sourced wool, she expects her clothes to work as hard as she does — all while leaving behind a small carbon footprint. This means resilient fabrics that are “rooted in work wear and durability (featuring denim, corduroy, flannels and canvas), with styles reflecting heritage themes,” said Helena Barbour, Patagonia’s business unit director for sportswear.

Patagonia continues to play a leading role in the sustainable textile movement. Piggybacking off the success of its Truth To Materials line — which features textiles like undyed cashmere, reclaimed cotton and wool, and down resurrected as scarves — the brand debuts a line of denim for men and women, including the Patagonia Women’s Boyfriend Crops (MSRP $99) sourced from 100-percent organic cotton grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Plus, the jeans boast a relatively new-to-industry Fair Trade USA Certification, which ensures that factories have safe working conditions and compensate their workers adequately. Such initiatives bolster brand authenticity and trust — and more companies are following suit.

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United By Blue builds brand loyalty via extensive plastic cleanup programs (to date, the socially responsible company has removed 203,510 pounds of trash from waterways and oceans) and by making clothes that last, reinforcing the idea that sturdy clothing means sustainable clothing. “Our tagline is ‘Responsible, durable goods.’ True sustainability comes from making products that are going to last and that are not trend-based,” said founder Brian Linton. Consumers who fall within the 25-to-40 age range (a bit older than the millennial demographic, which cuts off around age 34) are especially receptive to timeless, carefully crafted clothing that offers a casual, worn-in feel. United By Blue’s Murray Plaid Dress (MSRP $98), made from brushed organic cotton, and the rustic-casual Aspen Wool Button Down (MSRP $94), blended with recycled polyester, exemplify how heritage styles seamlessly appeal to crossover outdoor consumers: Chop wood in it, hike in it, drink a cocktail in it. “People are going to buy products that align with their value of protecting the outdoors,” Linton said.

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Natural fibers prized for their durability like cotton and wool, are key drivers of durable clothing that can withstand outdoor activity. Mountain Hardwear’s Sojourner Twill Cargo Pants (MSRP $75), for example, are slim-fitting, hardworking pants that are suitable for both outdoor bouldering and, thanks to stylish back-closure pockets and twisted seams, for mountain-town board meetings. Similarly, Stormy Kromer’s new Huron Poncho (MSRP $150), crafted from insulating wool and 20-percent nylon, and the cotton-cashmere blended Aventura Jaylee Dress (MSRP $92) deliver both style and comfort. Even running clothes such as Brooks’ Joyride Running Skirt (MSRP $75), which incorporates wool into a pleated poly-lined running skirt, makes it easy to go from trail to coffee shop. “Runners don’t buy products just to run in. We know that runners do a multitude of activities,” said Heather Cvitkovic, director of apparel merchandising for Brooks. “The poly on the inside is super wicking, and natural fiber wool on the outside adds warmth and style.”

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Likewise, Nau’s new “fleece-like” fabrics, made with durable merino wool on the outside and recycled polyester fleece on the inside, offer the softness and washability of traditional fleece, but with the classic beauty of wool for cold, fashion-forward urban environments. Check out the brand’s Randygoat Plus Hoodie (MSRP $195), available for women and men.

The desire to quickly transition from work to exercise, or from activity to après also impacts the way outdoorsy women buy clothing. This is largely accomplished through unique detailing that sets new products apart from strictly technical items. “We’re noticing a huge shift in popularity with everything textural,” said Jessica Magruder, lifestyle product line manager for SmartWool. “Metallic thread stitching or an oversized shawl adds unique detail.” The company’s Ski Town Sweater (MSRP $200) accomplishes this by using several different cable-knits; a cozy, exaggerated collar; and weaving silver yarn into the knit. Also using shiny, festive fabric is Columbia’s Brilliant Reflection Spacedye Hoodie (MSRP $90). Complete with thumbholes, Omni-Wick fabric that pulls sweat away from the skin and a four-way comfort stretch, ladies can first take the Spacedye Hoodie for a run, and then grab lunch in style.

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Indeed, versatility reigns. “The big trend is still the active element, and how that is working in everyday life while working out or not,” said Jennifer Zollars, senior product line manager of sportswear for Mountain Hardwear. For example, throw Mountain Hardwear’s cozy, stretchy new MicroTwill Light Tunic (MSRP $75) over the company’s moisture-wicking Mighty Activa Tight (MSRP $65), and you’ll have a sleek-casual look that can quickly be converted into a running outfit. Simply add sneakers and a sports bra, and active working ladies will transform from desk jockey to workout queen.

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--Jenna Blumenfeld

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