La Sportiva will launch its first-ever apparel line at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 with more than 50 men’s and women’s outerwear, insulation and base layer pieces focused on the skiing and mountaineering consumer.
The Italian ski equipment and footwear company (www.lasportiva.com) delayed its global apparel debut by a year to make sure the new line would be truly global – not just a European line being forced upon North American consumers, said La Sportiva N.A. President Jonathan Lantz.
Lantz gave SNEWS an exclusive preview of the new products at La Sportiva’s North American offices in Boulder, Colo., plus insight on what led the company to expand into apparel.
It isn’t uncommon to see a hardgoods company venturing into the softgoods world. In many cases, apparel holds larger turnover and profit margins for outdoor and winterports brands – with one side of the business helping support the other.
“You see all this consolidation in the industry with companies getting bigger and bigger,” Lantz told SNEWS. “We’re in a solid financial position, and this is one way we’re going to remain competitive.”
La Sportiva officials began seriously debating the idea in 2009, and then made the announcement a year later (click here to read the May 19, 2010 industry release on SNEWS), revealing a partnership with South Korea-based Samsung on the effort. It was perhaps a curious deal in the minds of most Americans, who know Samsung for its electronics, such as HDTVs and tablets. But in Asia, Samsung’s Cheil Industries division (www.samsungchemical.com) is well known for its textile technologies. Samsung brought its expertise in apparel research, development and manufacturing, and will become the licensed distributor of the new apparel line in Korea, a market La Sportiva sees as a great opportunity for expansion, Lantz said.
The other driving force behind La Sportiva’s entry into apparel was its desire to create a niche technical line that was tailored for skiers. The company, which is well known for its skis and ski boots, feels like it knows skiers better than most of its soon-to-be competitors in the apparel arena, Lantz said. So, in designing and developing the new line, the brand focused on addressing skiers’ common frustrations with apparel.
That includes “pit zips that you can actually use with one hand… pockets large enough for skins… hoods that easily adjust to fit helmets or heads and do not inhibit peripheral vision… and layering systems that work well with one another,” Lantz told SNEWS. The latter involves making sure that the outerwear pit zips open up enough to allow access to the hand-warming pockets in the insulation layer. The new line also includes technology brands that consumers are familiar with, including Gore-Tex, PrimaLoft, YKK and SuperFabric.
“We’re really focused on bringing a product to the market that has a specific end use,” Lantz said. “Of course you can use it for something else, but it’s centered on that ski/mountaineer consumer.”
A common theme throughout most of La Sportiva’s new outerwear line is the mixing of several of technical fabrics in one piece.
La Sportiva’s Adjuster soft shell jacket (MSRP $339, photo, above) for example, includes Gore Windstopper on the front and shoulder areas, coupled with a more-breathable, non-membrane material under the arms and down the back. The jacket, as do several of the outerwear pieces, uses a beefy YKK VT9 zipper for weather protection, ease of operation and durability through adjustments in various conditions, Lantz said. There’s also an Adjuster pant (MSRP $299) employing the same materials and similar adjustability features, such as a zip-out powder skirt and removable suspenders. Most of La Sportiva’s new ski pants (including the Adjuster) include Kevlar-beaded SuperFabric material on the heel and entire cuff to reduce damage and wear.
For insulation outerwear, La Sportiva will debut its Pegasus PrimaLoft jacket (MSRP $199, rendering, left) with varying amounts of PrimaLoft One insulation – 100-gram fill at the core and 60-gram insulation in the arms. The jacket can be compressed into one of its own pockets down to the size of two sandwiches, Lantz showed SNEWS. The new line also will feature down insulation products.
As far as color schemes go, Lantz said the company went with bright blues, yellows and reds on one end, but made sure to also have conservative blacks and grays.
It will be a busy Winter Market for La Sportiva, Lantz said. Along with the apparel launch, the company will debut new skiing equipment too.