2015 women's outdoor performance apparel better meeting needs

A look at what's ahead in women's performance apparel for summer 2015 at outdoor retail.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 6 – 9. 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.

Women continue to be a growing segment of performance wear consumers, and more outdoor brands are taking note of their needs.

“Women want things to be design-oriented,” said Joanna Tomasino, category manager of softgoods and footwear at Mammut. “You have to have a great fabric, great fit, great colors and great design to get women attracted to a product, not a copycat of the men’s line.”

And would it hurt to see outdoor brands debut a new headliner design or fabric technology exclusively in a women’s line, instead of typically rolling it out to men first? Outdoor companies are increasingly making hires and using focus groups to gain a better insight to what women want.

As traditional yoga and lifestyle brands like Lululemon and Athleta have branched into performance wear and proven women can play hard without sacrificing style, they’ve helped change consumers’ expectations, buying habits and brand loyalties. Brands mustn’t skimp on durability in the name of aesthetics, either. While pleasing colors and flattering fits are of importance, they shouldn’t come at the cost of quality and performance as the recent Lululemon yoga pants fiasco proved.

“The outdoor industry has been making women’s hiking/climbing/travel bottoms for forever. Unfortunately, these bottoms generally haven't embodied apparel’s cardinal rule: Make the wearer look good,” said Robert Fry, director of product merchandising at Mountain Hardwear.

There’s also a second rule that has been frequently also been overlooked, Fry said. “Make the wearer feel good.”

The Mountain Hardwear Dynama bottoms series, which includes a pant, capri and short, places priority on fit and feel while staying rugged and light. The Dynama Pant (MSRP $70) draws from the aesthetics, comfort and stretch of yoga apparel. The sturdy design and DWR finish of the Dynama line means they’re flexible enough for an Ashtanga session, but solid enough to hold up in extreme outdoor activity.

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Sierra Designs also draws inspiration from yoga’s crossover in the outdoor industry. With the Stretch Trail Pant (MSRP $79), it looks to blend fashion and performance, eliminating the “geek” vibe of many other women’s hiking pants. The Stretch Trail emit a low-maintenance look and function of leggings, but have enough moxie to hold up on serious backpacking treks. A stretch woven construction over the main body gives durability, with a wide knit waistband for comfort, plus discrete pockets. The silicone-treated knees and seat area maintains the fabric’s feel, but provides waterproof protection in key areas.

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Stonewear Designs long has branded itself as a company specifically looking to design activewear that both fits and flatters female athletes. At Summer Market, it’s showing the “Mini-Stripe” performance collection. The Fuse Tank (MSRP $45) has a poly-spandex blend fabric that feels soft but offers the strength, stretch and support needed in climbing, hiking or trail running. The top includes feminine details like ruching at the neckline, a keyhole at the back and tropical-inspired colors for more visual appeal.

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Meanwhile, Mammutupdates its MTR 71 top (MSRP $45) with a more attractive fit for women. The top provides great movement, breathability and has a lighter feel for warmer temperatures. The tank’s redesign makes it both flattering and forgiving. It now provides nice coverage and a sleek silhouette, hiding any curves the wearer prefers stay hidden. Brands like Mammut are doubling up on performance details, employing them as style markers, as well. Check out the MTR 141 Air Jacket (MSRP $139) It has mapped-in Pertex Microlight material through the shoulders, chest and arms to block wind, but the panels have flattering lines and athletic fit. High elastane and super smooth soft shell fabric gives a movable stretch and a great, feminine feel.

--Leia Larsen

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