Fall lifestyle apparel lines will never be as extensive as the spring season, but apparel-makers were still offering unique spins on jackets, sweaters and, yes, even tracksuits.
The response last year to their sweater collections was so well received that Ex Officio and Royal Robbins added more pieces, while hat-maker Ambler jumped onboard making V-neck and hoodies for the first time. And you couldn't turnaround without seeing a shearling-lined jacket from the likes of Patagonia, Kavu, Cloudveil and The North Face.
Patagonia and Royal Robbins must have been influenced by the tides as both had pea coat-inspired jackets in their collections. Patagonia's Metro Guide version is made of a stretch-woven technical fabric with a DWR finish, while Royal Robbins' Remo pea coat is a water-resistant cotton/nylon blend. Also, there was a retro sweater trim bug going around popping up on jackets from many, including White Sierra, Patagonia, Woolrich and The North Face.
On the more daring side, we saw quite a few companies taking a stab at their rendition of the tracksuit, including Blurr and The North Face. Horny Toad said its sales crew was a bit skeptical when it saw the tracksuit in the fall line but nearly every order placed included it. Also, a few companies are going where others have gone before and quickly ditched -- jeans. We'll see if Prana, Royal Robbins and newcomer Ryan Michael fare better than their predecessors.
Here's our team's rundown on new products and trends that caught our fancy and attention in the category of lifestyle apparel:
Ambler -- As Ambler celebrates its 10th anniversary of making hats, it's adding hoodies, cardigans and sweaters to the line for men and women. The Fiorentina collection shoots for beauty and function using Italian fabrics, and its Moda V-neck sweater is an eye-catching delight featuring the line's full six-color palette. The all-wool hoodies have a contoured fit, and the women's Ida Cross Neck has racy stripes on the sleeves and down the sides.
Ex Officio -- Ex Officio's new Irresistible sweaters are just that -- so soft you want to just roll yourself into them and never let go. What makes them so irresistible? A super-soft, 100-percent nylon, Chenille Feather Fleece. Styles include a V-neck ($50), a turtle ($60) and a striped top ($60), with colors sticking to basics like wheat, nutmeg, dark kelp and azure. Also, the quilted vests and jacket offer nice finishing touches to any cold-weather outfit. The Quarter Quilt Vest has a small square pattern in Nycott nylon.
Horny Toad -- Never one to disappoint, Horny Toad had plenty of "hot new" styles to choose from for men and women. This show it also offered retailers a "blueprint" for merchandising success in the form of a color booklet with the top 10 principles of merchandising. The booklet outlines simple scenarios to merchandise products together using inexpensive props, techniques for folding and hanging apparel pieces, and the rudiments of various POP fixtures and four-ways.
Kavu -- Kavu emphasized fabrics and a color palette inspired by its Pacific Northwest roots. In addition to eco-friendly fabrics, Kavu's Northwest Distressed Forec 10 canvas goes through more than two hours of hard-core enzyme and stone washing to make the cotton canvas soft enough for grab and go wear. The effort seems well worth it when used in the women's sherpa-lined Good Ol' Jacket and the Billy Jean. Also layer-up with Kavu's Cotton Jersey T-shirts that are garment dyed and 2nd Hand Washed to soften 'em up.
Life is Good -- We all love Life is Good's T-shirts and hats, but now there is even more to love with the Women's Layered Longsleeves. Made of 100-percent cotton, the piece de resistance of the featherweight two-layered jersey shirts is the appliquÃ© icon sewn on the front center chest. Subtle and fun, choices include a flower, heart, leaf and butterfly. Life is Good is embroidered on the bottom left hem, and the sleeve and body hems have raw edge overlock stitching. Also new for the company are whimsical socks in merino wool, cotton and "snuggle soft" styles, and mittens and scarves.
Marmot -- Launched last summer, Marmot's Road Trip sportswear line sold in twice as much as expected. At Summer Market 2005, Marmot told SNEWSÂ® the company will debut two athlete-inspired Road Trip collections from climbers Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden. Marmot hinted that Rodden's young-looking women's pieces will have aerobic cuts and stretchiness, while Caldwell's men's collection will be completely the opposite with lots of loose-fitting pieces.
Mountain Khakis -- Born in the mountain town of Jackson Hole, Wyo., it was clear that the design and style hit the buzz nerve at Winter Market as could be witnessed by the numbers crowding its booth and the amazing number of show-goers wearing a pair on the show floor. With a niche focus on bottoms only for outdoor mountain living, the boys over there looked at 400 types of pants in the clothing arena to come up with the ideal combinations to create the Original Mountain Pant, made of cotton army duck canvas, and the Alpine Utility Pant, made of cotton twill. Features on the tightly woven pants include gusseted crotch, triple stitching throughout, two-ply fabric panel cuff and ergonomically designed deep drill pockets. The Alpine Utility also has a multi-function side pocket and two-ply fabric knee panels. If Mountain Khakis can meet the demand -- before its Winter Market launch, it was only in three stores -- the sky is the limit.
Ojai -- There's a reason Ojai won the Polartec Apex Award for its women's Winter-Tec Hoody. The one-sided microfleece Polartec Power Stretch Hoody comes lined with your choice of colorful tie-dye, polka dot or stripe poly/spandex prints making it more interesting than the run-of-the-mill fleece pieces out there. To top it all off, Ojai offers the same prints in a long sleeve crew neck for coordination. A Winter-Tec Pant and Jacket rounds out the group. Also worth noting is Ojai's women's Poodle Jacket made of High Curly Polyester with a button front and the Poodle Poncho. The men's casual DogEar Fleece Hooded Pullover and Quarter Zip top are good looking with their shoulder insets in contrasting colors.
Patagonia -- Patagonia told us it is bringing more technical fabrics, like Polartec Windbloc and Thermal Pro to name a few, into the sportswear collection. The Hempster Jeans caught our eye with its casual styling dressed up a bit be the linen-like look and hand. For the first time in the Rhythm line, it has organic cotton corduroy pants -- the Extension Cord Pants -- with a low-rise waist and that are ideal for climbing with its offset side seams for harnesses and Gi crotch for rock moves.
Prana -- Fulfilling the needs for a lifestyle-starved outdoor industry is taking up more and more of Prana's line every season. For fall '05, nearly 60 percent of the collection is lifestyle and as usual the apparel-maker didn't disappoint. Lots to choose from for men and women with even more organic cotton sprinkled throughout the line. Also on the jean bandwagon, the Ruby jean for women is snug in all the right places, sits low on the hips and has decorative stitching on the back pockets. The guy's Drifter jean comes in vintage wash and indigo stretch denim and straight cut legs and an inseam gusset for climbing moves.
Royal Robbins -- Anointed as its most comprehensive cold-weather offering to date, Royal Robbins said the fall 2005 line was energized by lively colors not normally associated with fall and winter. Trying to change its perception in the marketplace, Royal is continuing to delve deeper into sweaters offering a variety of styles, knits and fabrications. Even with so much to choose from, the Seviah Lambswool Tie-Dyed Sweater was a standout. Royal is also going where few outdoor companies have gone before and offering jeans for the first time. Made of cotton and T-400 elasterell-p (a fancy name for a CoolMax/Lycra blend), the Nox Jean is available in a men's and women's style -- each with their own special details. The company told us that customers are always asking for a dual-purpose piece and the Nox jean is a logical extension. Retailing for $64, they can compete price-wise in the specialty and mainstream markets.
Ryan Michael -- Around for about a year, Ryan Michael has made casual lifestyle apparel buying simple for outdoor retailers by offering eye-candy tops and jeans. Men's and women's long-sleeved shirts are made of silk, silk/cotton blend, cotton and Tencel in more colors and "I want to wear that" prints than we can count. If you're looking for western-inspired shirts that'll get you noticed on the street, check out this Georgia-based company and you won't be disappointed.
Sierra Designs -- Sierra Designs has taken another step to wed fashion and function. At Winter Market, it introduced a three-layer jacket with a cotton corduroy exterior. The jacket is 100-percent waterproof/breathable with a removable faux fur collar for men and women. SD offers the same style jacket in wool. It also has multiple lengths in streetwear down jackets including the fashion-forward Alta, a nylon motorcycle-styled jacket with decorative stitching patterns, and the Mirabeau faux fur-lined snow fox miniskirtâ€¦ and it is a mini. Also, among the offerings were stylish organic cotton woven shirts.
Sportif -- Sportif continues its trend toward clothing with a younger attitude for both men and women. The women's Italian bias-striped sweater fleece in the Zoe Poncho and Sweater is a winner as is the Rachael shirt in a cotton/poly crinkle yarn dye. Another interesting piece is the women's insulated reversible Icicle Jacket constructed of quilted nylon taffeta with asymmetrical cuffs. The continuity of coordinating colors throughout the women's line makes it easy to merchandise at retail -- a plus for buyers. Men's organic cotton shirts, the Crossing 3/4 Zip neck and the Wanderer Pullover, were right on target, as were the men's Chillnot Fleece pullovers.
Stonewear Designs -- Apparel veteran Kitty Bradley is expanding Stonewear Designs' reach as brand director and introducing new textiles into its apparel mix. Now using polyester spandex stretch woven in the pants and polyester chenille in most tops, the Element line is a multitasking wonder that not only goes from the street to the gym but works for a variety of body types. It also travels well -- it's wrinkle resistant, cleans easily and dries fast. Also new is the Dryflex line that is a moisture-managing, quick drying fabric with styles that allow a range of movement.
The North Face -- Among the myriad number of The North Face's new offerings, Tekware's new Moxie collection features Vaporwick Moxie Ventair for breathability in sweaty areas and Vaporwick Moxie Jersey fabric, a polyester blend with a terry back and jersey face. Available in men's and women's T's, hoodies and pants for high-aerobic training outdoors. TNF's A5 line also had new colors and fabric washes in rich fall tones.
Weekendz Off/Pulp -- Despite being a newcomer to the Outdoor Retailer trade show, Weekendz Off has been around for 10 years and its "luxury casual wear" shirts, jackets and pants are a welcome sight to the outdoor lifestyle. Eighty percent of the Weekendz Off label is men's, and its Pulp line for women makes up the remaining 20 percent. Specializing in pigment and garment dyeing, its signature fabrics include cotton, linen, Tencel, silk, knits and stretch nylons. Lots of colors and clean styles that'll surely stand out to shoppers on the retail floor.
White Sierra -- When we saw White Sierra's new fall line, it was quite clear to us that the folks in the design department had outdone themselves and turned out some great pieces that were very UN-White Sierra (that is a good thing!). The Daytrip line has your bottom half well covered. For the men, there are the fast-drying Alamere pant with long cargo pockets on the front and the jean-looking Marshall pant. Ladies have the low-waisted Fern pants with two front patch pockets and a handy side zipper pocket.
Wild Bleu -- Having trouble sleeping because of hot flashes and night sweats? Wild Blue, a new line of performance sleepwear and bedding, targets boomer women suffering from hot flashes but its products are also beneficial for those who experience night sweats after pregnancy or chemotherapy and those who appreciate the comfort and performance of Wild Bleu's Dri-release fabric. Its incredibly soft hand provides comfort, while its wicking properties keep the skin cool and dry. Sleepwear styles include two nightshirts, a gown, three tops, a Capri pant, a regular pant and boxer shorts. The colors are simple but restful -- pale blue with white and a signature blue penguin print.
Woolrich -- As Woolrich starts its 175th year, the company told SNEWSÂ® that it's very comfortable with where it's at and will continue to stick with its tried-and-true natural and authentic theme. It's self-actualized and knows it doesn't need to be trendy to be successful or delve into new technology. The company is continuing to live by the credo that Woolrich is the piece you put on when your time is your own. On the eve of such a historical birthday, Woolrich still knows how to straddle the line between classic and 21st century with the new women's Doe Run Jacket, a buttery-soft faux suede exterior with a sherpa-pile lining. Colors include light grenadine, putty, light plum and chocolate.
QUICK HITS: The urban-inspired Blurr is going organic with the climbing Jem Top for women and the lifestyle Chancellor Polo and Mantis Shirt for men. And for a day on the rocks, Blurr has added the Cassette and Elise climbing pantsâ€¦ American Backcountry has switched its T-shirts to Dri-release moisture-wicking fabric with Freshguard odor management treatment -- but still has the same sharp graphicsâ€¦ For fall '05, JanSport has a new line of men's and women's apparel based on the premise of value-oriented pieces for the youth market. The line consists mainly of streetwear jackets and fleece hoodies with a line of hatsâ€¦ Based in South Carolina, Oobe's line included western-inspired pieces, like the women's long-sleeved Louise shirt and the Wrangler for men, complete with snap-front placket and pocketsâ€¦ Calispia offers a sportswear/loungewear women's line that has the three "C's" -- cute, casual and comfy. Its polyester suede jacket with faux shearling liner has a button up front and can handle cool to cold climatesâ€¦ Ladies, if you ever wanted a jean jacket look with high-tech fabrications, check out Moonstone's Gendarme Jean Jacket. Its Mercury stretch-woven fabric outer has a textured double-weave face with wicking properties inside and Super DWR on the outsideâ€¦ After more misses than hits internally, Swiss Army has decided to hold off on a women's apparel collection launch until it can ensure it is "spot on."