OR Winter Market Trends Report: Apparel

The SNEWS® team of six editors spent the entire four days of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2004 scouting out the trade show scene. Here's our take on sportswear and outerwear.
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The SNEWS® team of six editors spent the entire four days of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2004 scouting out the trade show scene. Each week, since the show ended, we've been publishing our take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations that caught our eyes. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned when it should have been. We're only covering product that stood out to us, so if you're not mentioned, we either did not see you, we didn't think your product stood out sufficiently, or we were just plain clueless -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on sportswear and outerwear:

At this year's Winter Market, there was no lack of new outerwear and sportswear designs for fall 2004. Many collections from casual sportswear companies had increased in size, and dark autumn colors with variations of brown, cadet blue and burnt orange were popping up everywhere. Cowboy up also appeared to be a popular theme as evidenced by the prevalence of western-inspired shirts and jackets in lines from Kavu, Cloudveil and The North Face's A5.

An increasing number of outerwear companies were also embarking on a futuristic journey with their lines, leaving little doubt we've entered the 21st century with a gadget-inspired bang. Marmot has designed a jacket that uses a battery pack to power light-emitting panels on sleeves and shoulder, while Arc'Teryx has attached an actual Recco transceiver onto the shoulder of select backcountry jackets. You may forget the map or GPS, but the jacket is sure to get you home. OK, we'll stop teasing you now and get into the nitty-gritty of what caught our eye on the show floor.

Arc'Teryx -- Never one to disappoint, Arc'Teryx came to Winter Market with a lot of stories. First, it introduced the next iteration of waterproof-breathable zipper, which is exclusive to company. The large teeth Vislon zipper won't break, has a smoother slide and is easier to move. Also, the company seems to be on a light-is-right initiative and showed the Fission LT with a new lightweight Primaloft Dryloft insulation and the SL line, a "super light" line of jackets that weigh in at the 10-ounce to 12-ounce range. A flexible Recco transceiver has been added to the sleeve of the Sidewinder jacket. It's soft and flexible and adds only $7 to $10 to the jacket's overall price. Ladies are being given their own Covert sweater line, which includes a cardigan. The company also revamped its jacket hoods to fit helmets.

Blurr -- Starting its second winter cycle in the United States, Blurr has been relying on word of mouth to up its presence in the U.S. market. Gus Alexandropoulos, Blurr's marketing manager, told SNEWS that the technical backing is there in the Blurr apparel for outdoor retailers to bring into their stores. Playing off that techy side, Blurr debuted two Gore-Tex 2-ply pieces -- the Vision and Cypher jackets -- for fall. "Gore rounds out our line with waterproof-breathable pieces," said Alexandropoulos. "Using it will introduce young consumers to established brands like Gore, and give us more credibility for using materials like this." New for the company is a sweater line for men and women made of an 80-percent wool/20-percent acrylic blend.

Cloudveil -- Launching a new affiliation with Gore, Cloudveil features pieces with Gore-Tex and Windstopper in its men's and women's Vertical collection for snow sports. The RPK3 jacket and pants are made with a 3-layer Gore-Tex, while the Headwall jacket features the Gore Windstopper. Also, check out the Zero G jacket, a low-profile soft shell jacket made of Schoeller Dynamic with water-resistant coating and Primaloft insulation. On the more casual side, any girl would love to see her man in the western-inspired Sixteen Penny jacket -- a nylon canvas outer with fleece lining that has a great street look. The men's Lasso collection jacket comes in artichoke, indigo (looks like denim) and black. Better yet, the ladies can have their own in concrete, artichoke and black.

Isis -- Isis is moving up in the world with 250-plus doors and growth into the Southeast arena. No more being pigeonholed in the Northeast and Rockies for this company. It's a good thing too as it expands its offering to include a variety of soft shell fabrics, performance base layers and the windproof Eve-olution fleece. Isis now offers four different weights of its proprietary Duet soft shell fabric that cover the demands of high-aerobic activities to cold, wet-weather conditions. The new Eve-olution fleece is a thermal windproof layering option that is lightweight and breathable and has a durable frictionless outer face fabric bonded to a thermal layer and backed with a microfleece. Eve-olution is being used in the Delia and Selene jackets and Artemis hoodie. And one can't forget the Split P Catsuit made of soft silky chamois knit with an Evaporator finish to rapidly spread and wick moisture away. Meow!

Lowe Alpine -- Known for its mid-priced outerwear prices, the re-introduction of Gore-Tex at Lowe Alpine after a decade-long hiatus has brought a higher price point that retailers are not used to seeing from this company. Lowe has approached the change with a tiered pricing approach to appeal to retailers and consumers, starting with Triple Point at $199 and moving up the ladder to the $449 Gore-Tex pieces. Notable Gore-Tex additions are the Ice Man and Ice Maiden jackets. Soft shell is back again, and the seamless base layer program is doing well, with a thong panty addition for the season.

Marmot -- After 30 years in business, Marmot is focusing on a handful of key concepts when designing -- communication, navigation, entertainment and safety -- to bring an urban influence to sports. John Cooley told us that the concept of wearable technology is here and a trend the company will push hard. If the Phenomenon EL jacket with light-emitting panels is any indication of the future, it'll be interesting to see what else the company dreams up. Sales for soft shell and insulation are up significantly for the company -- the insulated category has tripled in size and soft shell sold strongly into retail last year. Marmot's new silver-ion Infinity base layer collection can have prints dyed onto it and has new packaging. For spring 2005, it'll introduce a new PreCip fabric.

Ojai -- Everything Ojai does is targeted at men and women who live outdoor active lifestyles and that's evident in styles like the patented anti-chafing mesh crotch sewn into its men's Flex Short. But the real story for both men and women for fall 2004 is the use of interesting fabrics and detailing. Take, for instance, the unfinished edges of the women's Raw Edge Hoody and the patterned waistband, interior neck and sleeve trims of the Winter-Tec T-Neck and Reversible Pant. Ojai isn't afraid to put bell or 3/4 length sleeves on women's tops or leather jackets and has some of the best prints for men and women this season.

Patagonia -- Patagonia's pride and joy for fall 2004 was the 37-piece Edge collection for men and women designed for any and all snow sliding techniques. Two-and-a-half years in the making, the Edge collection has hard and soft shell jackets and pants, loft jackets and base layers with an emphasis on "modern progressive designs" blended with high performance features. Check out the Scythe jacket and pant, which the company described as its first soft shell hybrid reinforced with waterproof-breathable fabric in snow-contact areas. Women are getting their due with women's-specific features in each technical piece. Also, Patagonia's R2 jacket is now made of a redesigned R2 fabric that is 20 percent lighter, more compressible, less clingy and dries more quickly. Plus, select pieces in the Rhythm line are being made of hemp for abrasion resistance.

Prana -- Prana continues its mission to blend the lines between climbing, yoga and sportswear and showed an extensive fall 2004 line for men and women. Organic cotton is still a leading commitment for the company with 21 pieces intro'd at the show, including the sporty Organic Ottoman pant for men. Other notable pieces in the fall line were the women's lightweight Microfleece Hoodie with a chamois-velour finish and the men's cotton Two-Tone Cord pant with a distressed fabric technique, fitted waist and brass hardware for a bit o' class.

The North Face -- New on the scene for The North Face was the Snowsports collection, which offers the largest assortment of pant fits on the market -- Alpine, Pro, Free and Park -- that ranges from a traditional narrow fit to barely-hanging-on baggy. Gotta love the techno camo pattern on select pieces. For the first time, The North Face is making jeans with the help of VF parent's Lee jeans. Thought those pink Denali jackets flew out the door? TNF is following it up with pink Chilkats and Greenland boots -- so new they weren't even in the recent fall catalog.

True Grit -- Faux fabrics were much in evidence at this year's Winter Market. True Grit showed some of the best in its Faux Suede Jacket in colors of chamois, pastel pink and blue. It's Sleek Chic Jacket in soft, cut faux fur and its Elephant Fur Jacket and Vest were winners. True Grit's tight color palette was repeated throughout the line with the emphasis on aqua, lime, white and orange. The men's line was not as fashion forward but no less well executed in double-faced fleeces, heathered cashmeres and wide-wale western cut shirts.

Turtle Fur -- Turtle Fur, traditionally a purveyor of ski and outdoor headwear and accessories, introduced its new Vermont Collection and the only word for it is "wow." The line includes faux fur fedoras and cowboy hats, reversible faux fur vests, embroidered poly/acrylic/modyacrylic Chinese-inspired vests, coats and hats and high/low wool blend fleeces in mosaic patterns. It's fashion with a capital F and is obviously intended to take Turtle Fur to broader markets.

Water Girl -- New Water Girl designer Violeta Villacorta designed the fall 2004 line with a palette of rich autumn colors, embroidery and prints. Her experience with seamless technology inspired the Smart Assets collection of quick-wicking, stretchy seamless tops and bottom for high output activity. Especially notable is the long-sleeved More Crops Mock shirt with ribbed side panels.

Woolrich -- When you get to be as old as Woolrich -- 175 in 2005 -- you'd think maybe the folks there would be set in their ways. But Woolrich is mixing it up, breaking old routines and rethinking how it produces its clothing lines. Leading the charge is the "triangle of power," made up of Jerry Rinder, vice president of sales; Tim Joseph, marketing and media director; and Lederle Eberhardt, vice president of design and merchandising. The team told SNEWS that they have a renewed sense of energy and are moving away from the company's manufacturing-focused roots to a marketing focus. The focus includes developing new product stories, while keeping tabs on Woolrich's heritage. The team's goal is to turn lines faster and considerably shorten the prototype timetable. At Winter Market, rather than showing finished pieces, they showed prototype styles with fabric swatches and described details still in progress. The company is trying out more technical fabrics, like soft shell, lower price-point fleece, washable wool and laminated wool DWR finishes. Women's sell-through is still ahead at 55 percent of the business, while, they admit, the men's business is tough and remains flat for the company -- still good because other companies are down.

Quick Hits -- Contourwear made its introduction at Summer Market '03 and was working to make the retail connection at Winter Market. It added a few pieces to its initial offering including the microfleece Flounce skirt with ruffles that can be dressed up or down… Horny Toad's new knit fabric called the Graduate is washable, stretchy and fabulously low maintenance. Used in the women's Etta sweater, it has retro detailing, a feminine neckline and contrast stripes on sleeves and hem… Kavu took its fabrics up a notch by adding to select pieces a Teflon DWR, UV protection coating or Resinator fabric for wind resistance. Also intro'd a new line of puffy coats… The Ultralight Cirrus Jacket for men and women from Moonstone is an impressive 12 ounces and 13 ounces, respectively, and insulated with DuPont's Thermolite Micro. Also worth noting is the Chagga Hoodie of ultra-soft Becagli stretch fleece and the soft shell Norwand Jacket with its hidden micro-stretch hood… Even with its move to Colorado and staff overhaul, Sierra Designs' clothing line is up 35 percent over last year, according to the company. It added a lightweight active outerwear line called Frostlite designed for high-intensity fall and winter activity… Smart Wool's Microweight first layer tops and bottoms were silky enough for a night out on the town… Stonewear Designs has added the seven-piece Hemp sportswear collection, comprised of short- and long-sleeve shirts, crop pants, a jacket, and knee-length skirt. After a long hunt for the softest hemp material, Stonewear found two different hemps to use: a wrinkle-resistant, stretchy cotton jersey-like fabric and a preshrunk, mid-weight twill… Tenth Mountain brought bling, bling to the show with its Crystal Zipper series featuring a jacket and zip pullover with crystal-lined zippers… Like other companies playing with faux materials, Tsunami showed faux suede trim on jackets, collars and hems. Washable wool knits and blends in stripes and wide-wale corduroy jackets lined with blanket plaid and trimmed with faux suede collars were among the most interesting styles… In response to consumer demand, White Sierra debuted a fall sportswear collection for men and women. Described as "outdoor progressive," styles allow wearers to have one foot in a mountain town and the other in metro environments… The poncho kept popping up in apparel makers lines and was spotted at Contourwear, Prana and Water Girl.

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