While many consider packs, tents and other hardgoods the heartbeat of the industry, it is the margin-making lifestyle apparel that, at times, has really kept many a retail shop alive. In the summer 2008 issue of the SNEWS® Outdoor Magazine, we analyzed the influence of lifestyle apparel on the industry and identified a few trends coming our way for spring/summer '09, including fit, fabrics and exotic inspirations. After attending the show, our team of SNEWS editors noticed other trends influencing design such as bike commuting, convertible clothes, graphic messaging, a resurgence of the skort and more travel crossover pieces.
Wheel 'em in
A devotion to the bike commuter is evident in the apparel for the season, offering street looks that are highly functional and versatile -- many of which can easily transition from the bike to work or a casual night out.
To help meet this demand, Gramicci (www.gramicci.com) unveiled a new Urban Biking line consisting of 11 styles for women and 13 for men, including pants, capris, shorts, skirts, jackets and performance tees in a variety of proprietary fabrics, washes and finishes.
The men's lightweight Fixie jean (MSRP $115) with Lycra showcases the line's main features: freedom of movement gusset, easily adjustable tabs to keep pant legs out of harm's way, and a comfort waistband designed to keep the back of the pants up while riding. For the ladies, there's the Kahuna Kamo Wheelie skirt (MSRP $95) made of high-density weave with camo jacquard for wicking and breathability, stretch waistband and removable inner chamois.
SmartWool debuted a line of performance cycling apparel for men and women, as well as a complete line designed especially for the daily commuter. Part of the package is the gender-specific SmartWool-lined chamois that reportedly provides moisture regulation and breathability. An ideal commuter piece is the women's Eweturn short (MSRP $140) and men's Rambush short (MSRP $140), surf-inspired 2-in-1 mountain bike shorts with recycled polyester outer shells and snap-in cycle liners with chamois. Also catching our eye were the arm and knee warmers (MSRP $25-$30) made with a blend of wool, nylon and elastic for that extra bit of easy on/easy off warmth. www.smartwool.com
Moving Comfort introduced a new cycling line of two jerseys and the Cadence short and capri (MSRP $70-$80) with a less-bulky chamois designed especially for women. Although styling is the more traditional road cycle look, the lightweight MC Wrap skirt (MSRP $34) looks to be an around-town bike short cover-up with tie closure and 14-inch outseam. www.movingcomfort.com
Last year, Zoic (www.zoic.com) expanded its reach beyond its bike roots and debuted a women's lifestyle apparel line. This year it launched a complete men's and women's collection. The company told SNEWS that it's seen a huge increase in commuters and wanted to blend its bike heritage with a multifunctional street side. Men's shorts and knickers are stylized with cool detailing and "environmentally enlightened" fabrics like the Loudan short with a blend of bamboo and organic cotton. And, the women's Damsel 13-inch skirt, available in black, olive and urban camo, has a detachable liner with a barely-there fleece pad.
Also on the bike commuter front, Ibex's El Fixie knicker (MSRP $95) in organic cotton canvas for men and the Slide Capri for women with back slits on the legs for increased flexibility. www.ibexwear.com
At Summer Market, it seemed like the name of the game was how you could morph, reverse or bend-over-backward any ol' piece of apparel. From dresses to skirts, pants to shirts, apparel makers were on a convertible craze.
Isis (www.isis.com) offered the ultimate in flexibility with the three-length Non-Stop pant (MSRP $89) in a nylon/spandex blend. Available in regular fit and a medium just-below-belly-button rise, the pant legs can be rolled to capri length and held in place with a loop and button tab. And if the day continues to warm up, zip off the pant legs for a 10-inch inseam short.
While the men's Hemisphere Convertible pants (MSRP $80) from Woolrich is nothing new, the company added a notable small detail that we have seen other companies do on zip-off sleeves: Once you're ready to zip those pant legs back on, the pant leg and short have been color-coded to each other so you can easily identify which pant leg zips on where -- a brilliant and simple touch that more companies should add. www.woolrich.com
Many companies offered convertible dress/skirt combos. The Daisy convertible dress/skirt (MSRP $50) from Lole (www.lole.com) can be worn as a strapless or halter dress, as well as a wrap skirt. Snow Angel's (www.snow-angel.com) Skirt/Dress (MRP $48) converted from a drawstring waist skirt to a halter-tie dress, while Indigenous Designs' (www.indigenousdesigns.com) Tie Sarong (MSRP $48) switched from a sarong dress to a sarong skirt. Patagonia's (www.patagonia.com) Kamala skirt doubled as a bandeau-style dress made of a lightweight organic cotton and Tencel blend.
Using clips, Contourwear's Yurt skirt (MSRP $46) transforms from ankle length to knee length, as well as a side drape that has sarong style. Made of a recycled poly/spandex blend, the skirt comes with a detachable pocket that can be worn anywhere on the waistband and also used as a stuff sack for the skirt. www.contourwear.com
Whether an excuse to avoid doing laundry or a need to hide a stain, Gramicci offered quite a few reversible togs for men and women. The men's Cog Wild Reversible Hercules tee (MSRP $55) featured a techy weave knit ideal for wicking moisture away while hiking, biking and climbing. The weave on the women's Gaia Reversible T-shirt (MSRP $60) is cotton/poly and comes in five tie-dye-esque washes. And, the Taj reversible dress (MSRP $78) features a batik dye on one side and a solid on the other.
In the Summit Series, The North Face debuted the reversible Mercurial jacket, adaptable for a range of temps. The two-faced, quilted construction provides more thermal insulation for cold weather when worn with the black side out. When it warms up, wear it silver side out to allow the Schoeller reflective fabric to reflect 39 percent to 47 percent of the sun's rays. www.thenorthface.com
And for the penultimate in convertibility was Merrell Apparel's seasonal concept piece: the Morph jacket (MSRP $129), which transforms from one single jacket into a multitude of wearable styles. It's made with a reversible nylon and microfiber polyester jersey with options to zip off, reverse and configure in multiple ways. Women have eight different options to choose from including a shell jacket, vest and even a bolero. Men can have as many as 18 different styles and color combinations. The men's style has a detachable hood, but, woe is us, no bolero. www.merrell.com
Just say it
Seems everybody has something to say and a piece of apparel is the ideal canvas to convey a message graphically, as evidenced by offerings from Message Factory, Adventure Babe, Horny Toad and various T-shirt companies.
Message Factory, out of Quebec, Canada, offered cotton/spandex certified organic knits with messages in English and French for men and women. Messages included one-word graphics in French, such as libre (freedom), joie (joy), courage, accompanied with illustrated designs placed at the hem and on the chest of long and short sleeve T-shirts, tunics, dresses and hoodies. www.messagefactory.ca
After two years on the scene, Adventure Babe (www.adventurebabe.com) has given itself a makeover, revamping and enlarging graphics and adding a men's line. The company's premise still remains the same: creating tees and performance shirts for women that spread a positive attitude and encourages them to be active. While the women's empowering messages have a "bring it on" attitude, the new Adventure Dude line espouses a more laidback outlook of "take it in stride." (MSRP $26-$32)
For spring '09, Horny Toad (www.hornytoad.com) is launching an organic cotton T-shirt collection (MSRP $32-$36) for men and women that reflects collaborations with a variety of artists. Tees in the Good for the Earth/Good for the Soul Project feature sayings, like "Peace - some things never go out of style," from musicians Chris Pierce and Brett Dennen accompanied by original artwork. Five percent of the sales from the shirts will be divided between three cause-driven groups.
Not only do T-shirt companies have shirts, hoodies and ball caps with quippy sayings, but many also have a mascot to help convey the message. Dare 2 Live (www.dare2livedog.com) features Lucky the daredevil dog surviving a variety of sports and activities, while Teddy the dog at It's a Dog's Life (www.thedogslifestore.com) takes his recreational pursuits in stride wearing cool shades. And for those who want folks to know what they have an aversion to, Allergic To provides a host of "allergic to" phrases with accompanying graphics (such as "Allergic to Cities" with a hiking illustration).
Elements of style
Spot prints, bold graphics, embroidery, textures and more were just some of the striking details showcased by apparel makers on collections for the summer '09 season.
A technique called ombre was sprinkled throughout various lines. Ombre is a French term meaning "shaded" and usually has a multicolored stripe, with colors graduating from light to dark. The two-tone color effect is either dyed or woven into the fabric.
A few notables were Aventura's ombre-effect Marianna shirt in 100-percent organic cotton with scoop neck and cap sleeves (www.aventuraclothing.com); Gramicci's Casablanca Lily blouse with ombre coloring and elastic gathering under the bust and at the elbow-length sleeves, as well as its Espritiu dress; and Prana's Ombre tank (MSRP $40, www.prana.com) for women and Vibe T (MSRP $35) for men.
Apparel makers were also mixing textures, like burnout sleeves with solid fabric bodices as seen in Ojai's (www.ojaiclothing.com) Free Bird top (MSRP $61), a striking V-neck that is cut to fit snugly at the top and flare at the bottom. Also, Prana had the women's Rain T (MSRP $42) and men's Sidewinder shirt (MSRP $50) with "rain wash," a stylistic technique with tonal stripes and a burnout pattern.
For women, Ojai also offered a colorful collection of burnout tees and V-necks (MSRP $59-$61) with prints that featured curly-cue trees, birds and more. Carve Designs (www.carvedesigns.com) offered subtle silk-screened designs on the High Point tank (MSRP $38) in the long torso style and the Sands Raglan short sleeve (MSRP $47).
Born Fit (www.livebornfit.com) had unique and colorful embroidery detailing on the back shoulder of the Betty tee and the leg of the Joanie gaucho. Horny Toad's men's Garcia short-sleeve, button-down shirt (MSRP $64) had a bandana graphic on the front hem, as well as a margarita recipe screen printed inside. Ibex had a hand-screened three-color print on its 1920 Print T-shirt in merino wool. With a flattering, fitted silhouette, the women's Sanitas tank (MSRP $55) from SmartWool featured a floral screen print on the back, crossover tank straps and shelf bra.
Horny Toad offered ribbon belts on select shorts, while Ibex's Tie Neck tee in micron merino wool had a back scoop neck with ribbon contrast ties at the neck.
We also saw pieces with gathering and shirring. Stonewear Designs' (www.stoneweardesigns.com) Electra tank had a softly gathered empire bodice in organic cotton jersey that was very flattering and comfortable. Aventura's tees and top had relaxed gathering at the neck, and Snow Angel's Fashion Zip Polo, a half-zip collared shirt, featured bust gathering. The Avalon Cover-Up (MSRP $54) from Carve Designs had soft shirring at the center of the high V-neck.
Skorts, skirts & dresses
Making the rounds, we saw more dresses and skirts than last season. Skirt lengths varied, but more below-the-knee styles seemed to rule. Skorts were all the rage whether for performance or around town, and could be found from the likes of SkirtSports, Patagonia, Snow Angel, Born Fit, Merrell Apparel, Mountain Hardwear, Arc'Teryx, Cloudveil and Horny Toad, among others.
Check out these skorts: Snow Angel's running skirt with built-in short (MSRP $58); Horny Toad's low-rise Yanely skirt (MSRP $62) with "bloomer" shorts in quick-dry polyester; Born Fit's Wilder skort (MSRP $58) in a flattering faux-wrap style; and Arc'Teryx's soft-knit Escala skort (MSRP $89) combines athletic performance with good looks, has a next-to-skin brief that wicks moisture and external mesh panels for airflow.
Mountain Hardwear debuted its first-ever dress. Made of organic cotton with elastane for stretch, the Tonga (MSRP $75) has a scooped V neckline, asymmetrical racer back cut and shelf bra, and flat-lock seam construction. (www.mountainhardwear.com)
Indigenous Designs' Crochet Edge dress was available in organic cotton jersey with crochet hand knit edging on V-neck and sleeve, as well as a sleeveless crochet dress, tunic and tank versions. All looked as if to be winners. Aventura did its own spin on crochet with the 100-percent cotton Palmetto dress.
Great for travel is Stonewear Designs' Cascade skirt with a flared skirt design and an extra wide waistband in quick-dry micropoly. And, Aventura offered the very girlie Brielle skirt in chiffon.
Snow Angel had the perfect dress cover-up: the Cyber Silk bolero or "shrug" made of Coolmax and Lycra.
On the fringe
Last, but not least, a few extras we noticed at Summer Market that have travel influences or stand on their own.
In talking to guides and outfitters, ExOfficio learned more younger guys are coming into the sport of fishing but don't want a traditional look. Enter the Amphi collection with surf-inspired aesthetics that definitely sport an athletic, youthful look for men. Knit tops are meant for the water -- fishing, paddling, etc. -- and made with the new Neptune Knit, a moisture-managing polyester treated with Sun Guard for UV protection and Nanoplex for stain, bacteria and odor resistance. Also available is the Nio Amphi short, pant and convertible pant made with quick-drying and wrinkle-resistant nylon, treated with UV protection and Teflon for water resistance. www.exofficio.com
The North Face was also diving into the water. For the ladies, it offered the Aqua Bow Falls Boardy board short (MSRP $52) with anti-chlorine, color-safe technology and abrasion resistance, while the guys got the Havasu Falls water short (MSRP $52) with UPF 30 and anti-chafe gusset and hem. On the street-climbing crossover side, check out the Rocksan Pant (MSRP $80) for men made of hemp-blended cotton with harness-friendly pockets, gusseted inseam and articulated knees.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Isis expanded its Journeys travel collection. Of note, is the reasonably priced Detour jacket with motorcycle jacket detailing. Stretchy, wrinkle resistant with DWR treatment, it has an asymmetrical front closure, vine-print microsuede-lined back yoke and internal security pocket -- and rings in at just $89 retail.
Road-tested in Brazil, Icebreaker's Superfine Journeys for men and women is a lightweight system of fine layers made with merino wool and ideal for travel. The line consists of tanks, shirts, pants and dresses in a retail range of $50-$100. Two notables are the short-sleeve Superfine Ultralite top to stay cool during hot days and the long-sleeve Superfine Lite top for cooler climates. www.icebreaker.com
Combining durability and versatility, Filson (www.filson.com) unveiled a line specifically designed for the travel needs of both outdoor adventurers and leisure travelers, targeting ages 25 to 60. For women, the Voyage line features lightweight, classically styled shirts, pants and jackets that can be used for travel or everyday pursuits, like the Voyage pants (MSRP $80) made of a cotton/poly blend with a relaxed double-button fixed waistband and an inside zipper security pocket. For men, the line offers lightweight travel basics that can hold up in a variety of outdoor weather conditions, like the Travel Long Sleeve Shirt (MSRP $90) in a nylon/poly blend.
Marmot's sportswear line is now two collections focused on performance and eco casual with 61 pieces that continue to evolve and are getting more refined. Formerly, the performance line was branded around climbers Beth Rodden and Tommy Caldwell's names and images -- that won't be the case moving forward, but the duo will still provide inspiration and feedback. The eco casual line is heavy on organic cotton and also includes pieces in bamboo and Cocona fabrications. Of note this season were the Ellipse sport tank (MSRP $42) with built-in sport bra and flat-lock construction, and the street-smart Summerset jacket (MSRP $120) made of soft shell with rib knit cuffs and collar, handwarmer pockets and an interior zipper pocket with headphone port. www.marmot.com
The SNEWS® team of seasoned reporters covers a trade show to seek out product highlights, indications of a trend (to a product category, a company or the industry) or products that are new to the market. In our post-show reports, we do not write about every last piece of gear or equipment we have seen, although, promise, we have most likely seen nearly everything. Even if not in a show report, you never know how information may be included in a future report, trend watch, product review or story. If you have any comments or questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.