There's life in them thar' show aisles -- lifestyle apparel, that is. Seems like just about every apparel maker at Summer Market wants a piece of what Horny Toad, Prana and Patagonia have been selling for a while -- what to wear when the climb, hike, bike ride or kayak trip is done. (Oh, and if it can also do some of those things as well, that's a good thing, too.) Biggies like Sierra Designs and Marmot are entering the fray with lifestyle lines that cross from the road to the trail and back.
Some of the more interesting styles are being made for women, many of which are taking cues from the mainstream apparel market. Camo-print capris and pants in girlie colors (light pinks, greens and grays) could be found at Patagonia and Gramicci â€“ heck, even at GoLite! Layered tanks (two tanks worn together) were at Prana and Gramicci. And the hippie-favorite -- tie-dye -- was available at Royal Robbins, Prana and The North Face, to name a few. Strappy is also still in, with Stonewear Designs still leading that charge, but all the others looking to take on the strap-mad top market.
The SNEWSÂ® team -- which included eight editors -- spent the entire four days of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2004 scouting out the trade show scene from the paddle tank to the climbing wall and even around the dusty and quiet corners of private rooms and hidden booths. We're only covering product that stood out to us and was ready for prime time, so if you're not mentioned, we either did not see you, we didn't think your product stood out sufficiently, you were showing the product behind closed curtains which implied you didn't want us to talk about it, or we were just plain clueless -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on what's moving and shaking in the world of lifestyle apparel and T-shirts:
Allegheny Trail -- For spring, Allegheny Trail introduced attractive print men's shirts, and good-looking shorts and pants. Rather than opting for the basics, it has, instead, come up with an apparel line that has style. Its Airport Vest ($38) solves the problem of what to do with all that stuff in your pockets when you go through airport security. Place it all in the vest, then send the vest through the scanner and waltz through the metal detector. The much-improved women's line features the Pointelle Polo with 3/4 sleeves, the Cotton Nylon Capri Pant and the Packable Anorak.
Arc'Teryx -- Still on the cutting-edge of fabrications, Arc'Teryx wisely fine-tuned them for the spring '05 line with more appropriate textiles for the season that helped bring down the price too. Shorts that were once well over $100 because of the textile component are in the more manageable $65 to $85 range. New to the Traverse Series is the ultra lightweight Ether Crews for men and women. Made of Vivital, a fine Italian single-knit fabric of continuous polyester filaments described as "insanely lightweight, quick wicking, high octane performance" suitable for any sweat-inducing activity. So lightweight, they require sublimated logo treatments to keep bulk down, but durable enough to be pick-resistant and pill-proof. On style watch, the new Blaze Comp Shirt has an eye-catching square neckline for women and an overlapped crew neck for men. We also really adore the RHO Crossneck top for women ($55). And, boys, stop swiping the ladies' shorter pants for yourselves, Arc'Teryx is making the Gamut Cropped Pant just for you now. How Euro, but don't be quite in Alabama with those on!
Blurr -- With U.S. distribution under its control again (and sales up), Canadian-based Blurr unveiled its first U.S. advertising campaign at Summer Market to whoops and hollers â€“ well-lubricated by a keg of beer. The irreverent and, yes, controversial, consumer ads (sponsored climbers in urban settings) reflect the customer that Blurr thinks the industry is missing out on: the urban-based climber who wants the thrill of the climb but doesn't want to sleep in the dirt. "We're presenting the outdoors and climbing as not being accessible. We're losing the younger demographic and we're trying to bring them back," Gus Alexandropoulos, Blurr's marketing guy, told SNEWSÂ®. Notable offerings included: the Octane jacket, a gas jockey jacket with style; the Xenon tank top with a cool retro geometric pattern and built-in shelf bra for climbing, training (or just lounging); the sexy Elektra sport tank for training is made of nylon Lycra that they say won't snag; and the men's Recon shorts with ST (Set-it and Thread-it) waist adjustment for the best fit.
Carve -- Statistics show that women's outdoor wear is outselling men's at retail. So enter Carve, a San Francisco-based company that pays attention to women's fit in ways other companies could emulate. Its line of surf-inspired pants, dresses, skirts, shorts and shirts feature longer sleeves, asymmetrical waistbands, fresh prints, board shorts sans Velcro and longer back rises in the shorts and pants to ensure a comfortable fit no matter the woman's body type.
Duofold -- Think of underwear and base layers when you think of Duofold? Think again. The company went where it's never gone before and introduced apparel in a so-called "all-season collection," slated to be at retail in March 2005. Look for tees, pre- and post-trail duds, jackets, pants, you name it. "It's an exciting time for us to be at the show," said Laura Burrows, who said she saw passers-by stop in their tracks and say, "Is that Duofold?" We did the very same. It was a serious of wows. The designs, colors and prices will appeal to a moderate and more middle-aged consumer, but there's nothing wrong with that, we say. If we can get Aunt Jane and even Dad in something technical that they also like, more power to the company.
Gramicci -- With a new investor and a new address, Gramicci showed up to Summer Market snugly nestled in a back meeting room. The philosophy behind the spring line -- dubbed GLS, for now -- is sports-oriented clothes that go from the store and crossover to an active afternoon. OK, so that's how most companies describe their stuff, but anywayâ€¦. For women, colors are soft pinks, blues, tans and greens with wispy light fabrications in tanks and tees. For men, more organic cotton and hemp is being incorporated, with more emphasis on travel (little details include passport-sized pockets). Gramicci almost decided not to attend the show, but by the packed room, we figure the folks there will make sure they always have some kind of presence. For your records, the new contact info is: 880 Hampshire Rd., Ste. B, Westlake Village, CA 91361; 805-496-5060.
Green Band -- Organic cotton has rebounded, but Green Brand reclaims 100-percent cotton T-shirts, shreds them, sorts them into various color groupings adds virgin acrylic for strength and stability and makes them into men's, women's and kids' shirts, pants and shorts (and yoga clothing) with subtle heathered colorations, good designs, soft hand, interesting fabrications and a "feel good" story. The concept was developed in conjunction with the National Parks system, which mandated more environmentally friendly products that promote good environmental practices in its stores. Green Brand proves that feel good can look good too.
Kavu -- Kavu has the younger demographic handled, so it debuted a new collection for the older set -- Women's Klassic, described as a high-end, sophisticated travel line. With a resort-wear bent, the collection uses a variety of fabrics, including Tencel, bamboo (made from actual bamboo wood pulp), rayon Viscose and eco-hemp. The line's look is straightforward with quite a few pieces that say, "Mom would wear this." Asian influences pop in a few pieces, like the Mandarin Sleeveless and Canton Wrap Shirt, and the long, V-neck tank-style Solana Dress in bright coral could work for any age, day or night.
Lowe Alpine -- Lowe Alpine's women's line of print and striped seamless tanks and tees was new and fresh. But what makes this line so good is the merchandising. Choose a color story and you have prints, stripes, solids, tops and bottoms to build a tight story. Multiple deliveries aren't a problem when you have a line so nicely merchandised into color groups.
Marmot -- With the open road as its inspiration, Marmot's new Road Trip sportswear collection harnesses the freedom found on the highway with clothes that do whatever you want them to do at a moment's notice. Blending lifestyle and function, these pieces are made for long hours sitting, then ready for a stop at burger shack along a deserted highway or a scramble up the trail. With 72 styles, Road Trip is divided into two collections for men and women -- casual and performance. Casual is described as "comfort and easy care with progressive styling, prints and woven fabrics," while performance is "quick dry, UPF 15 rated, with seamless knits and stretch wicking fabrics." Thumbs-up for the women's cotton canvas Maize Jacket and the men's Pontiac Short Sleeve Shirt with retro diamond pattern and relaxed fit.
Prana -- Considered its strongest line to date by many at the show, Prana's story focused on fabric for spring '05. After research and testing, it decided to switch the majority of its women's activewear collection to Meryl nylon/Lycra fabric. Designer and co-founder Pam Theodosakis said, "Meryl offers improved moisture transfer, dries faster and is slightly lighter and is great to touch. The choice seemed obvious, but it was after extensive testing and debate." And it won't affect the product's price. Its organic cotton collection has also grown to 30 styles. Standouts for the guys: the lightweight organic cotton Argus Pant with asymmetrically curved paneling to facilitate movement and two darted cargo pockets, and the short-sleeved, button-down Cabana Stripe shirt for laid-back fashion. Standouts for the gals: the Double Layered Tank made of silky light cotton and the daring super short Bliss Skirt with a hidden short underneath that allows for climbing, biking and hiking. You'll also find a sarong and a stretch denim Capri. Think of where this company has come from its start 12 years ago and a total of four pieces based in the Theodosakis' garage!
Sportif -- Sportif is celebrating its 40th anniversary and what better way to honor its heritage than by producing its best line ever. With a greater emphasis on tech design and urban performance, the company has modified its fit and overhauled its logo and come up with some new hot styles for both men and women. The men's Ten Pin Shirt is reminiscent of dad's bowling shirt. The Shant Pave Rider is a below the knee men's pant/short that pairs with Sportif's men's patterned shirt line of striped wovens with acid overprints. The women's line featured six tightly merchandised collections that run the gamut from basics to yoga, beach to town. The Florapestry group, a floral tapestry print repeated in shorts and tops, was eye-catching as were the Bouquet nylon print tops with lettuce hems.
Woolrich -- With its 175th anniversary around the corner, 2005 will be a year of celebration for the apparel maker. Until then, its spring 2005 line emphasized easy care, comfort, colors and textures. Woolrich management has noticed men are shopping again -- tired of their worn out and drab clothes, we guess -- and color variety is bringing the men's market back to life. Thank goodness! The women's capri is still going strong and the company designers are adding details for interest, such as ties along the edging and pockets set lower on the leg.
Quick Hits: Ojai is getting "juicy" with its tops and bottoms garment-dyed in a fruit stand of colors it calls yummy things like carrot, banana, lime and grape. Standout styles are its Coolmax tops with fashionable lettuce hemsâ€¦ Turning 40 and with an essentially new crew at the helm, Sierra Designs introduced a new outdoor lifestyle clothing line for off-the-mountain use that blends "the natural with the technical." Included in the line is the women's Gateway Convertible Pant, made of cotton/nylon canvas, with low-rise fit that converts from a pant to a Capri to a short and has tons of storage pocketsâ€¦ Known for its fast and light philosophy, GoLite's Pearl Capri doesn't have to just stay on the trail. Made of butter-like Tetralobal Nateo fabric, this lightweight pant with its flattering fit could make its way down the street easily. GoLite is also making a big push into women's tanks, not to mention underwear like thongs, bras and briefsâ€¦ Addressing what consumers are asking for, Carhartt is blending its old-school style into new school looks. Popular among climbers, the workwear apparel maker is offering three categories -- core, denim and lifestyle which has lighter-weight pieces including shortsâ€¦ Only 3 Â½ years old, Contourwear is still pushing its women's casual/crossover line for the "traveling lifestyle," including so-called Anywhere Pants in 4-way stretch that look as if they will go, well, anywhereâ€¦ With two new designers from Patagonia and the Gap, White Sierra has revamped its men's and women's apparel into five new collections for spring 2005, emphasizing fashion meets function for travel, the trail, amphibian pursuits or a day at the farmer's marketâ€¦ For spring, Moonstone said something that caught our ear -- it's looking to provide more affordable price points to its retail partners to increase sales. It's upping the style quotient, adding more colors, then blending them into functional pieces. It's also unveiling more options for women and lightweight stretch woven sportswear in a wider range of colorsâ€¦ As the design minds at Patagonia continue to lighten the Specter pullover (7.2 ounces and counting), they're also revamping all Airius pieces in the Endurance line and adding a new line of shorts. Textiles in the majority of the Rhythm collection pieces are now organic -- hemp, organic cotton and PCR polyesterâ€¦ Keeping its youthful exuberance, Horny Toad is expanding the number of inseam lengths in shorts, and offering the women's Lulu Capri, a stylish pant that sits low on the hips, has a "Hollywood" waistband and loose cut legs in Cordette, a lightweight cotton cord that works for summer weatherâ€¦ Royal Robbins' spring line expanded on its fashion and function mission, armed with feedback from its dealers that consumers want clothing that serves double or triple dutyâ€¦ Mountain Hardwear's sportswear line is getting a bigger injection of cotton, with some notable prints for men, such as those on the Alluvial, Diversion and Pangaea shirtsâ€¦ Seamless technology is everywhere, but nobody seems to do it better than Hind has done. The seamless Skinny Bra Top in a reversible Japanese garden print was outstanding, as were the welded inserts in Hind's line of active shirts. The Motion Sensor bra was another standout for its seamless construction and molded cupâ€¦ Ex Officio's Buzz Off apparel has taken off with the addition of colors, patterns and new styles. Outstanding among them were the men's and women's Lounge Pant, men's batik print shirts and jeans (a first for the company), vest, bandanas, hats and socks. This line is reaching new lifestyle heightsâ€¦ In swimwear, Speedo introduced mix-and-match bottoms and tops for those of us without perfect bodies. Hipster styles, "Marilyn" halter-tops and longer board shorts for women are on the swimwear hot list.
Slogan tees are hot. You know that, we know that. They're everywhere and Summer Market was no exception. While most apparel companies produce their own logo and slogan tees, we found a couple of companies in the pavilion that specialize in T-shirts and do a good job of it.
From a farm in Alabama to a small 10-by-10 booth, Galavanting tees owner Scotty Walters galavanted into the show with a line of good-looking garment-dyed tees in subtle colors and with timely messages. The shirts run the gamut from hiking, paddling, backpacking and just lovin' life themes.
Be As You Are tees feature fun and funky color graphics on the front. The graphics are small, but the messages live large. Themes include hiking, yoga, women, dogs, guys and beer. You get the picture. The company also sells message flip-flops, hats, boxers and pajama pants.
If frogs are your thing, Peace Frogs has the tee shirt for you. There's a frog design for every sport along with sweatshirts, hoodies, shorts, lounge pants and boxers.
If you're in the market for a shirt you can drop your store name on, Huge offers clean designs, great graphics and reasonable prices.
Surf-themed tees from Reef featured intricate designs and vintage color washes in its Specialty T-Shirts offering. The company came up with some great-looking logo shirts, too.