The SNEWS® team of editors armed with maps and GPS (was this show big or what?) ducked and weaved around the trade show floor over the course of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to ensure we could bring you the most comprehensive take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations in stories that will run until we pass out. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned -- we do know you love your company's product, really. However, we're only covering product that stood out to us, so if you're not mentioned we either didn't think your product stood out sufficiently or we started drinking alcoholic beverages too early in the afternoon to see straight and missed you as a result -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on trends and new products for men's and women'slifestyle apparel:
Many companies continued their ascent into sustainable fabrications with the addition of apparel pieces (especially jackets and shirts) made from recycled polyester from suppliers like Teijin and Wellman. Participating manufacturers, like Prana, Marmot, ExOfficio, White Sierra, Patagonia, Isis and Blurr, told SNEWS® that recycled polyester has countless benefits: It creates less air, water and soil contamination; helps promote a new way to recycle old polyester clothing and minimizes the discarding of old clothes into landfills; decreases oil consumption; and reduces energy and carbon dioxide emissions by a fifth versus traditional methods.
ExOfficio's men's Canopy Trench (MSRP $220) and women's Tempest Trench (MSRP $220) are made from Eco-Poly, a 100-percent recycled polyester that has been recycled through the Eco Circle process -- a recycling system whereby plastic bottles are broken down to create polyester fiber. The lightweight trenches feature a waterproof, windproof, breathable laminate membrane construction with fully sealed seams, and a Teflon coating for stain resistance.
New pieces like the Go Tank, Pulse Tee and Swift Tee (MSRPs $32-$36) in Isis' Light and Fast workout collection are made from Repreve, a 100-percent recycled polyester that is silky soft and is said to wick sweat fast.
Part of its Happy Planet Earth-Friendly fabric series, White Sierra's Soda Bottle Weave is made of a recycled poly/polyester blend. Each shirt made of Soda Bottle Weave keeps the equivalent of five soda bottles out of landfills. Retailer and consumer demand for more environmentally-friendly fabrics instigated the creation of White Sierra's Happy Planet Earth-Friendly fabric series, growing from one just style last season to 11 styles for men and women in both shirts and shorts this season. The series uses recycled poly, bamboo and linen.
"We spend a lot of time working with small suppliers who can provide us with unique fabrics," said Larry Tsui, White Sierra's vice president of sourcing. "Over the last season, we've been more conscious of ways to make our favorite fabrics more earth-friendly. We're taking small but definite steps in our journey to become part of the solution."
Prana worked with its suppliers to create the new Ecoflo fabric, made from recycled clear plastic bottles and post-industrial fiber waste. Moisture-management properties are integrated at the yarn level, and the fabric is breathable and has a UPF sunscreen rating. Available in knit and woven versions, Ecoflo was introduced into the men's sportswear line.
Marmot said it's expanding the notion of recycled products through its Up Cycle concept -- taking a resource, like coconut or soda bottles, and creating a product with a greater post-consumer value (i.e., a garment vs. another soda bottle). The DriClime Catalyst Jacket (MSRP $110) has an Upcycle DriClime bi-component wicking lining, as well as other recycled fabrics and zippers.
While recycled polyester garments created a lot buzz, the emphasis on other eco-minded fabrics was more subdued this year compared to last. Horny Toad's Tami Snow said, "Using natural fabrications should just be expected rather than talked about."
Blurr said it is just a style or two away from completing a full conversion of its cotton apparel program to organic. Contourwear tested the waters with a bamboo-Tencel blend last season and has gone deeper based on feedback. The buttery-soft collection includes the Sleeveless Flow Dress (MSRP $48) and Tunic (MSRP $46) and ¾ Curved V-Neck Shirt (MSRP $40). Toggery had a new take on organic cotton -- 100-percent organic Supima cotton jersey in tops and dresses like the Raglan Dress (MSRP $56) and the Empire Waist Balloon Sleeve Dress (MSRP $56). Toggery owner/designer Kate D'Arcy produces "Sustainable Clothing for a Lux Life." In other words, fashion in performance fabrics.
ExOfficio is expanding its soy-fabricated Tofutech line for men and launched the women's Soytopia line, a collection of silky-soft travel knits made of Soytopia Stretch Jersey (an organic cotton/soy/spandex blend) and Softsoy, which is made of 100-percent soybean. Pieces include several tops, tanks and a hoody, retailing at $35-$60, as well as Soytopia Stretch underwear (various briefs and tank bra, MSRP $18-$24) that will be sold in eco-friendly packaging. The majority of Dude Girl's new Yoga Life line of blends of soy or bamboo with organic cotton and a splash of spandex.
SNEWS® heard from Gramicci that its Greenicci all-organic sportswear collection that debuted in spring 2007 has grown to over 30 percent of the overall Gramicci business. Greenicci is one of four distinct collections that it has divided its apparel into, and also includes Authentic Originals, Built For Sport and Gramicci Life. Additionally, the company gave away an all-organic cotton tote with its flying squirrel symbol to spread the green message and its booth was built from 95-percent recycled materials.
While there are fabrics made of corn, silver, coconuts, soy and bamboo, look out now for copper which is threading its way into technical apparel. Merrell Apparel's proprietary CopperTec is said to be ideal for high-exertion outdoor activities because of its ability to control bacteria and odors. A permanent feature of the fabric, not a treatment, its effectiveness is not supposed to decrease with prolonged wear. Merrell Apparel has also blended it with merino wool, dubbing it CopperTec Merino wool. Another proprietary, eco-friendly fabric the company has added is Bio-Blend, an organic cotton stretch fabric being used in both its technical Outventure and lifestyle Fusion collections, and it's partnered with Cocona to use the fabric derived from coconut shells.
Last year, it was all about skirts, but this year's "it" item were dresses. Dresses are easy, the companies told us, and outdoor women want to look and feel like women, or so we were told the companies have heard -- dresses make them feel that way. They are more popular than ever in apparel lines across the board and quite a few lifestyle apparel makers took the plunge for the first time. We noticed a trend toward younger-looking fashion styles, but with more coverage and stretch for the woman who may not quite have the body and shape she once had (or maybe once dreamed of having).
Especially popular were halter-style necklines, like Aventura's halter-style stretch organic cotton all-over print Kaleidoscope Dress (MSRP $52) and Horny Toad's organic cotton/spandex Rudy Dress with two-toned Lycra trim and color blocking on the front and back bodice. First-time dressmaker Prana used its tank-top expertise to produce the organic cotton Jillian Halter Dress (MSRP $70) and stretchy performance Lola Dress (MSRP $65) with built-in Coolmax shelf bra. Prana told us that it did well with its skirts last year, so dresses were the next logical step. It was also in keeping with the line's overall SoCal theme and we think we'll see more in the future.
Also new to dressmaking, as well as skirts for that matter, was Icebreaker which introduced the merino wool Saturn dress and skirt in its Superfine 190 weight. The sheath dress has straps and a shelf bra.
Stonewear Designs introduced its new Twister Dress in Dryflex polyester and spandex with contrasting side panels and thin straps that twist in the back. The dress (MSRP $59) is perfect for travel or a hike on a mountain trail.
Empire-waisted Baby Doll dresses are back in from the likes of Fresh Produce's Spinning Blossoms Jersey Summer Dress (MSRP $46). Also new is the Cotton/Lycra Ballet Neck Dress (MSRP $36) in lightweight cotton jersey. The Sunshine V Neck Dress from Carve in 100-percent organic combed cotton jersey was soft as butter with a smocked, elastic empire waist and a length just below the knee (MSRP $68).
With all this talk of dresses, we didn't want to forget to mention a couple of notable skirt styles: Isis' 22.5-inch long Runway Skirt (MSRP $49) in the Journeys collection made of Meryl/Lycra with a ruffled flounce hem, and Horny Toad's reversible 21-inch long Lark Skirt (MSRP $56) -- solid on one side and embroidered on the other.
Another style for women popping up at quite a few line presentations was the peasant-style tunic top, flowing yet fitted in places, harking back to the '70s. Those putting their own take on the Bohemian styling were Kuhl, Ojai, Prana, Pistil, Aventura, Toggery, Fresh Produce and Carve Designs.
Especially attention-grabbing was Pistil's super soft imported cotton Peasant Flowers Tee (MSRP $36) with delicate flower graphics along the hem. The tees are available in fleshy pink and brown tones, cream and black. Prana's lightweight and flowy Kendra Tunic (MSRP $50) comes in raspberry paisley, mist stripe and espresso, contrasting with Ojai's fitted Peasant Stripe shirt in titanic blue, ice blue, cosmo pink and brownie.
They say variety is the spice of life and short lengths for men and women ran the gamut this season. Royal Robbins' Scott Hamlin told SNEWS® that while the Capri was the official length in the past, that's not the case anymore as it offers 17-inch to 24-inch inseams for women. For men, there's also a wide range; it's offering 6-inch to 12.5-inch inseams. Horny Toad agreed that inseam lengths varied, but across a much less dramatic range for men -- 10.5 to 14 inches. Mountain Khakis debuted the men's Lake Lodge Twill Short (MSRP $70) with a 10-inch rise and a new proprietary 6.3-ounce twill fabric, while Cloudveil remained on the fence length-wise with the men's Shant (not a short, nor a pant).
As our lives get more and more complicated with gadgets to carry, we need more and more pockets to hold that stuff. Various apparel makers answered the call, including Royal Robbins, Horny Toad and Woolrich.
Horny Toad's Gig Short (MSRP $64) for guys has more pockets than we can count, including one for a cell phone. And all those pockets wouldn't be complete without a handy gadget. Royal Robbins' Hawkeye Climbing Short (MSRP $60) for men throws in a sleek-looking bottle opener inside pocket.
Board shorts were also the hot ticket at Summer Market. Patagonia told SNEWS® that its Wayfarer board shorts can now be recycled and is the next phase of expansion of its Common Threads recycling program. For spring '08, Mission Playground has added screen-printed board shorts for men, like the Kelpy Board Short featuring a kelp screen print on the side panels.
Trying to capture more of its SoCal roots, Prana said it added a new board short style for men and women. The men's quick-drying Catalyst Board Short (MSRP $60) is made of pigment printed fabric for a faded look with distressed piping and has a gusseted crotch and 12-inch inseam. The women's stretchy Malibu Board Short (MSRP $48) is a classic styling with longer inseam (9 inches), is fitted through the hips and has fun contrasting piping details. It also has a sister Capri style (MSRP $50) that's semi-fitted.
Also taking a plunge of a different sort, Lole debuted a line of swimsuits, using a swimming pool venue for an eye-catching fashion show, made of techy fabrics in exclusive patterns for its 30-something target customer. Bathing suit tops (MSRPs $44) ranged from halter to tanks length, as well as various bottoms (MSRP $36) some with a little skirt.
Rather than a message in a bottle, apparel makers are putting them on their tees -- inside and out. Dude Girl's flowing Afterglow Baby Doll sleeveless shirt is embellished with prose about the afterglow of a good day outdoors. Icebreaker's prints, designed by three artists, are based on flora and sustainable elements of nature found in New Zealand with stories about the designs imprinted on the inside of the shirt. Ailin is changing to neck labels with a hidden message on wovens on fall deliveries.
Patagonia told SNEWS® that its T-shirt line has expanded immensely over the last two years, thanks in part to the graphics created by artist Geoff McFetridge. For spring '08, Patagonia is working with 12 artists to produce a diverse selection of graphics, four of which are "message tees" promoting non-profit causes close to Patagonia's heart. Messages on the inside of the shirts offer consumers a brief snippet about the non-profit organization and a web address to get more information. SmartWool has also turned to an artist to produce art for three limited-edition sock styles for its new smARTwool Lifestyle collection. Working with Boulder, Colo.-based, artist Julie Maren, SmartWool said it hopes that the relationship will translate into a way to use its brand as a community builder and vehicle to promote more local artists.
Speaking of tees, select pieces in Dude Girl's apparel line featured an amazing Asian coin necklace embellishment printed with 3D velvet ink, while Aventura Bangalore Tanks in organic cotton showcased graffiti graphics. Subtle fish motifs screened on Ibex Fish Tees for women looked great. The tees have scooped necks, cap sleeves and contrast stitching.
Beautiful graphics have always been the focus of Mission Playground. Its Coast Merino Tee sports appliquéd text and "merino" patch, contrast overlock stitching and airbrushed screen-print on front. The women's Mama O recycled poly and cotton Tech Tee has a striking airbrush-style screen print on front.
Normally mainstays at Winter Market only, Pistil and Avalanche Wear popped up on the Summer Market show floor. Known for its stylish winter hats, Pistil got the hint from buyers to expand its horizons. Always giving away trendy T-shirts to retail buyers, they told Pistil that schwag had sales-floor potential. Now its fall/winter POP easily converts to a year-round prop to hold graphic tees for men and women (MSRPs $24-$38), a new summer hat line (MSRPs $18-$38) and belts (MSRPs $26-$30), so it never has a reason to leave the sales floor. In the winter business for over 20 years, Avalanche Wear debuted its first spring line in a 10-by-10 booth and had continual traffic during the show. Sales manager Scott Mackechnie told SNEWS® that he brought 90-100 spring catalogs to the show, thinking it would be enough but they were all quickly snatched up. Touted as performance with a touch of fashion, many pieces were made with eco-friendly materials, like organic cotton and recycled fleece.
Patagonia and Gramicci grabbed a bit of the good ol' days. Patagonia told SNEWS® that after six years out of the line, the Synchilla Jacket is back, restyled slightly with a trimmer fit. Gramicci is dusting off original patterns of the G Pant, including the Reverse Leg G Pant with the narrower bottom and the Archive Climber Pant with the elastic bottom. Spokesman Lucas Crawford told SNEWS® that the company gets at least seven emails a day from loyal customers begging for the original designs. Part of the Authentic Originals collection, the G Pant sells 80 percent more than anything else the apparel maker offers.
Going after the youth
While some companies were going retro, others -- like Timberland, Woolrich and Mountain Hardwear -- were trying to recapture their youth -- or better yet, hoping to capture the dollars of a younger customer. Timberland went so far as to have a reception in its booth with a DJ cranking techno beats and auctioning off artwork created by artists on-site.
Publicly-held Timberland has seen its sales and profits hammered over the last year, hurt by revenue declines in its boots, kids and apparel categories. So it wasn't surprising to SNEWS® to see a concerted push by the company to capture a new, younger customer with the launch of its b-life Collective. Timberland said the spring 2008 collection is "inspired by the intersection of art, action and athletes. The b-life Collective is designed to provide the best footwear and apparel for the next generation of outdoor consumers." Timberland Outdoor Performance designers are collaborating with artists and athletes to design the apparel and footwear for "done-in-a-day, wear-now-play-now adventures." The pieces SNEWS® saw were tight -- footwear priced from $35-$85 and apparel $25-$80 -- and Timberland could have something here to revive its bottom line if it can attract the under-30 Millennial/Outdoor Blenders customer it is targeting.
Woolrich is looking to its Spruce Creek collection, a sub division it added two seasons ago, to attract a 20-something customer and build the brand on a wider level. While the styling is very Woolrich-like, its draw is more technically minded fabrics like 3XDry and the addition of Schoeller. To reflect the added functionality of the line, it debuted its first waterproof/breathable shell made of 100-percent polyester microfiber and coated with Teflon called the Cofield Packable Jacket (MSRP $100).
Mountain Hardwear gave its traditional Mountainwear apparel a little nip-tuck to make them more "youthful." The line has three categories: the technical Explore collection, the endurance sports Excel collection, and the mountain lifestyle EnRoute collection. Of note is the restyling of the convertible pant for men (Matterhorn, MSRP $100) and women (Corsica, MSRP $100) with a clean look, flattering fit, micro-chamois lined waist, reinforced seat and knees.
Textures, prints and colors
Adding interest to shirts through surface textures, dobbies and other raised textures is a continuing trend, especially in men's offerings at Horny Toad, MPG, Royal Robbins and ExOfficio, among others. Crinkly fabric textures popped up in women's pieces at White Sierra, ExOfficio and Patagonia. We also saw lots of overlocked seaming in contrast colors on knit tops. Indigenous Designs men's Contrasting Rib Knit Tee in organic cotton and Tencel looked fresh.
Ex Officio offered men's dobby shirts in its Destinations line with UPF protection, packability and wrinkle resistance. Horny Toad also raised textural interest with an eye-catching flowered embroidery on various shirts in Firefly cotton, including the sleeveless Posey, long-sleeved Tegan and Fiona tank (MSRPs $44-$70), as well as the Mali dress (MSRP $88).
As Horny Toad said so succinctly, "Plaid is rad," and it was all over Summer Market in big and small prints for men and women at the likes of Kavu, Merrell Apparel, Patagonia, White Sierra, Royal Robbins and Ojai.
Kavu's men's MTN Plaid Shorts in both woven linen and cotton versions looked great as did its linen Triple Take plaid shirts. Horny Toad paired plaid with a Bermuda-style short -- the Murray for men (MSRP $54) and the Birdie for women (MSRP $54), while Prana offered it in the men's Backlash Shorts. And, Ojai brought back its men's program after a prolonged hiatus and included 12 plaid shirts (MSRPs $44) among the offerings.
Color was all over the board this season -- brights, mid-tones and neutrals. There were a bit more pastels in lines than before. Pinks are morphing into blues, purples and magentas. Many companies were sticking with orange, turquoise, greens and blues.
SNEWS® Quick Hits
>> Have you any wool?: While working out what sustainability meant to it as a company, Icebreaker hit upon the Baacode program to offer a new standard in transparency to its customers. Moving forward, its merino wool apparel pieces will come with a barcode that consumers can plug into the Icebreaker website and trace where the merino wool used specifically in the garment they now own originally came from. Icebreaker works with 120 sheep-farming stations in New Zealand and will offer specific information on each one using maps, photos, stories and videos. Icebreaker's Jeremy Moon told SNEWS® the Baacode system (we do love that name!) allows the company to humanize the process, as well as make it fun and interactive. It should be up to full speed in winter 2008.
>> Baby on board: While the industry has developed togs for tiny tots, moms-to-be have largely been left in the dust when it comes to clothing. After receiving hundreds of requests from expecting moms, Prana debuted a three-piece maternity line called The Luna Series. Sized XS-XL, the collection includes the Luna Maternity Top (MSRP $56), Luna Maternity Capri (MSRP $64) and the Luna Maternity Pant (MSRP $70). Made of a Supplex and Lycra performance fabric blend called Viana, the pieces offer quick-drying moisture management, four-way stretch and wrinkle resistance. The short-sleeve top has a full back, extra belly room for baby and internal shelf bra, while the Capri and pant have roll-down waists.
>> Filson hits on women: It only took 110 years, but women finally are getting some respect -- and their own apparel line -- at Filson, which previewed a concise women's line for spring 2008 at Summer Market. The company said it chose to stay close to the Filson foundation -- producing 14 pieces made of Mackinaw wool, oil finish tin cloth, shelter cloth, feather cloth and safari cloth -- before developing an expanded product offering. Taking up a mere five pages in Filson's nearly 90-page catalog, the company said based on positive initial reaction it expects to have a complete line ready for retail by February 2008. Filson didn't really break out of the box look-wise, so those looking for a classic Filson look in its wool and field jackets (MSRPs $155-$270), for example, won't be disappointed.
>> This end up:Isis said it's offering a new way of identifying fit using easy-to-understand instructive labels. A series of icons will explain visually how a garment is cut. Bottoms come in two rises -- modern and favorite -- and four fits -- relaxed, regular, slim and body fit. Tops are available in three silhouettes -- relaxed, shaped and body fit. The women's wear maker has also significantly expanded its Journeys and Life collections, and added the Underwire Bra (MSRP $34) which has an engineered knit pattern for moisture management and support.
>> New endeavors: Known for its cold-weather apparel offerings, Carhartt's strategy for spring 2008 is to offer more for warm-weather workers using lighter and more breathable fabrics, while made with the same quality features the company is known for. It's also using ripstop fabric for the first time, and testing has shown that its 4-ounce ripstop is as durable as its 8-ounce denim. The company also told us that the women's line it debuted last season is a hit, with buy-in over what it planned. Both retailer and consumer response to it has been off the charts.
>> Get connected: Ibex has incorporated Ajax technology in its newly redesigned website (the same bubble technology Netflix uses to describe films) and added a dealer section that is so complete dealers can access inventory to see exactly what's in the Ibex warehouse. How user-friendly can you get? Check out The Ibex Buzz blog by clicking here for the latest stuff happening at the company.
>> Step back: The Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden branded apparel will take a bit of backseat in Marmot's sportswear line as the climbing couple spend more time on the rock than in the design studio offering input. A few pieces still remain but don't dominate the line like they had previously.
>> Core focus: Sierra Designs continues to streamline its apparel line for its core enthusiast customer, cutting the line back as much as 30 percent to 40 percent in the last two years. Its focus is on a full range of rainwear, as well as the use of Cocona in select men's and women's pieces.
>> "F" bomb: One of our intrepid SNEWS® reporter noted seeing much more fashion in all the women's clothing lines. The "F" word is no longer the dreaded "fashion" but, instead, stands for "forward." And speaking of fashion, one of the more fashion-forward pieces our reporter saw at the show was Toggery's Elbow Sleeve Bolero (MSRP $76) in 100-percent organic cotton fleece. It was a cropped, three-quarter sleeve, swing jacket with a stand-up collar and two button front closure. Wow!