Outdoor Retailer Winter Market '07 Trends: Base layers

While base layers usually reside under a cover of clothes, the latest offerings boast the same attention to design and fit that you see with other garments. And manufacturers are experimenting with a wide range of fabrics and fibers. With that in mind, here's the SNEWS® take on noteworthy trends and new products for base layers from Outdoor Retailer Winter Market:
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It is Winter Market trends wrap time again, and yes, your committed SNEWS® team of editors, (some of whom should be committed, no doubt) fought through beer, sushi and dueling espresso parties 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 – or you get bored. No, each report does not name every company with new product and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned when it should have been. So if you're not mentioned, our brains were either too fogged out from the smog to think straight or we didn't think your product stood out sufficiently -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on noteworthy trends and new products for base layers:

While base layers usually reside under a cover of clothes, the latest offerings boast the same attention to design and fit that you see with other garments. And manufacturers are experimenting with a wide range of fabrics and fibers.

Design details

Like a real estate developer harps on location, location, location, base layer makers were fixated on fit, fit, fit. Duofold, Snow Angel, Hind and Terramar, to name a few, all told SNEWS® about their efforts to achieve optimum fit in their base layer pieces. Not only is the goal to get a more flattering look, but also to accomplish a closer-to-the skin fit to enhance the garment's performance in aerobic and cold-weather activities.

Duofold said it has been focusing on fit after listening to customer feedback, and removed excess fabric from pieces to make them less baggy. On women's tops, it incorporated contoured hems and princess seaming on the front and back to shape out women's waists. Hind told us its striving for a fit that is not as boxy, but still roomy with looser hems. Terramar is also working on a slimmer, less boxy fit in its new EC2 Qwik-Dri Polyvalent pieces for men and women.

Another design element that base layer makers focused on was thumbholes for long sleeve tops. Snow Angel, Hind, Moving Comfort and Terramar (among others) all made mention of the feature to SNEWS® as we made our rounds at Winter Market.

Snow Angel's Pamela Moyce said her company can do no wrong with adding thumb holes to the majority of its zip T-neck tops. "It's a design feature we're using again and again, and people respond to it."

Moving Comfort is going one step further with its thumbholes on its No Chill Hooded Jacket II (MSRP $80) and Half Zip Top II (MSRP $75). The same detailing ribbon on the hood and zippers is being added to the thumbholes to allow easier merchandising stories between various other pieces in the line. Thumbholes as a merchandising story? Just when we thought we'd seen everything.

Also on the design front, Sporthill is incorporating some interesting features like the zipper garage and storm flap (normally reserved for outerwear) positioned behind the zipper in its base layers. The men's Nirvana crew sports side ventilation mesh and a mesh panel across the back of the shoulders. The women's Nirvana pant in black has attractive multicolor flatlock stitching down the side of the leg to coordinate with the midweight zip-neck tops in oregano, Atlantic blue and chili pepper. The Nirvana pieces (MSRP $60 to $70) are constructed of polyester and spandex.

Prints kept popping up on various lightweight pieces from Hot Chillys, Hind, Icebreaker, Moving Comfort and Snow Angel.

Hot Chillys introduced prints to its silk-like micro-denier polyester PeachSkins tops for women. The plaid and monarch prints are available on the crewneck, scoop-neck and roll-down T-neck tops. Icebreaker's Nature Intimates line for women comes in a new 150 weight, as well as 200 weight, and features feminine nature prints on everything from camisoles to sweetheart V-necks and leggings to various underwear briefs. Snow Angel featured a back waist tattoo design on its Cybersilk low-rise leggings.

Fabrics and fibers
Cocona continues its proliferation into the outdoor industry this season with base layer makers taking advantage of its moisture managing and odor controlling properties. Developed by Traptek, Cocona is a sustainable fiber derived from coconut shells that are rendered into activated charcoal, ground down and blended into a polyester matrix. It's available in four forms: as a fiber, yarn, fabric or a coated fabric.

Marmot is banking its all-new base layer collection for men and women on Cocona. Constructed of a new, exclusive Polartec Power Dry with Cocona-based fiber, the line has 14 top and bottom styles for men and women. Offered in two weights, the lightweight base layer has a smooth face, while the midweight has a drop needle, loop-knit back for added warmth.

Continuing its natural materials push, Sierra Designs said it has advanced its base layer program on products like the Ember Pullover by using Cocona. It's also keen on the fact that Cocona remains effective after continued washing, and washing actually enhances it.

Other fabrication face-lifts include the next generation of Hind's best-selling DryLete fabric. Exclusively developed for the company, we were told this re-invented DryLete is lighter and softer than previous versions and maintains its thermal capabilities. It's used in tops and bottoms for multiple outdoor activities and works alone in warmer climates or in combination with other products in colder climates.

Additionally, Kenyon is switching from acrylic Outlast to Outlast Viscose. According to the company, it features Thermocules that reduce thermal spiking, help delay the onset of perspiration and allow a soft hand similar to cotton.

Varitherm is Duofold's fastest-growing base layer line, and the company filled the gap between its midweight and expedition weight by adding a 7-ounce heavyweight. Varitherm pieces are designed for a wide variety of cold weather sports and now feature new odor-resistant fabric. The heavyweight pieces include a crew and zip mock (MSRP $32 to $37) and pant (MSRP $32) for men and women.

Hot Chillys launched a new technical fabrication called Ortega fleece made of 85-percent nylon and 15-percent spandex. The expedition-weight base layer is reputed to transport moisture away from the body to promote warmth and dryness in high-aerobic activities. Ortega fleece pieces include a men's crewneck, zip-T and tech T (MSRP $70 to $85) and a tight (MSRP $70).

What's up with wool?
We barely heard was a word about silver-based fibers in base layers, but we couldn't turn around without running into another manufacturer getting into the merino wool base layer game. Companies hoping to nip at the heels of merino wool mainstays SmartWool and Icebreaker are Terramar, Kenyon, Isis, Ortovox and Dale of Norway. Strong apparel players like Hind and Arc'Teryx are working to put their own unique imprints on the category.

For fall/winter 2007 season, Terramar introduced a new line of Australian merino wool base layer pieces called Thermawool. Among the midweight pieces are a pant (MSRP $55) and crew and zip mock (MSRP $55 to $63) for men and women. Kenyon said it had good retail response to its lightweight mercerized Australian merino wool top and bottoms for men and plans to gradually add weights.

After numerous consumer requests, Isis introduced a wool base layer collection made from fine-gauge New Zealand merino wool. The company told SNEWS® that its female customers are savvy consumers and know that wool is a great performance fabric. Featuring a spiral pattern and nylon for extra durability, the collection includes a zip turtle, V-neck and tights (MSRP $72 to $75).

Ortovox is a German company with a heritage of wool base layers. It is trying to make headway in the U.S. market with its line of merino wool base layers available in four weights from 130 to 280. Both long sleeve and short sleeve tops, hoodies, tanks and turtlenecks plus long and short pants, boxers and briefs are offered for both men and women. Tops have color-blocked sleeves and side panels.

Dale of Norway is doing some interesting color combinations in its merino wool base layers. The best pieces are the raglan long sleeve and short sleeve tops with sleeves of contrasting color in shades of blue/teal, red/brown, blue/brown, blue/royal and black.

Hind has offered up a twist on wool by producing a seamless wool-blended piece for trail running and hiking. Reportedly the first to market with the concept, Hinds showed us the Speedwool Hoody, which features seamless wool technology to reduce chafing and provide enhanced comfort and fit. Made of Hind's EcoLete fabric -- a blend of wool and two nylons -- the hoody is produced on the same tubular drums as synthetic seamless garments. Unlike other seamless pieces, the wool hoody is a little more forgiving and has some drape to fit a larger demographic of wearers, the company told SNEWS®. It's also machine washable, anti-microbial and offers 50+ UPF protection.

Arc'Teryx told SNEWS® that it's moving into more merino wool base layer pieces, blending merino wool from sheep in the Southern Alps of New Zealand with a touch of Lycra to hold garments' shape in the fitted athletic silhouettes it's known for.

And what are the merino wool pioneers up to? Both Icebreaker and SmartWool have added more weights to their lines. Icebreaker's Bodyfit active base layer system now covers three weights -- the new 150, 200 and 260. Available in styles for men and women, the 150 weight piece is the lightest. It features a slim fit, so it's made for high-output activities, and it balances low-bulk warmth with the performance of pure merino. SmartWool's base layer line now comes in three weights: micro, light and mid.

What's new
Imagine our surprise when we came upon Cass and Co. presenting its shapewear collection at its first Winter Market. An avid outdoorswoman, President/Designer Susan Ledyard is breaking new ground, saying she felt her Invisibellas line of invisible stitched camisoles, sport bras, shorts and tights would appeal to outdoor women. It appears that shaper under pinnings are being snapped up by women ages 12 to 80. Favorite pieces are the V-camisole (MSRP $72), the crew (MSRP $72) and the V-sleeves top (MSRP $98). Companies like Cass and Co. exhibiting at Outdoor Retailer bode well for the future.

After three years of research and a tour of duty with soldiers in Iran and Afghanistan, 180s introduced a totally new base layer line at Winter Market. The midweight and seamless collections for men and women feature core body regulation, moisture management and functional zoning to provide warmth where wearers need it -- wrists, kidneys and body core. The semi-fit design is supposed to decrease muscle fatigue, which often results from compression fit garments worn for extended periods. Also new is a silkweight collection for women.

At least two companies shared with SNEWS® that we should keep an eye out for some base layer overhaulin' in the future. The North Face said it's planning a product line face-lift for spring '08, while Mountain Hardwear said it will revamp its base layers with new fabrics in fall '08.

SNEWS® quick hits:

Add some POP: Nominated for a design award, Isis' new Body Layer point-of-purchase display is a four-sided piece that holds 80 to 90 base layer pieces. With an approximate 4x6 footprint, the fixture can be configured in multiple ways. Fro example, you can add baskets to display up to 30 to 40 more pieces…. Dale of Norway's new base layer packaging and freestanding fixture is outstanding. The product boxes have a modified "backpack" shape. The fixture holds 120 base layer boxes and has a colorful header that echoes the photo on the boxes.

A+ showing: It was rewarding to see the Beautiful Skier line of plus-size clothing displayed at the show. In addition to outerwear jackets and pants, the company produces a line of silk underwear tops and bottoms for men and women. Sizing for women ranged from 16/18 to 28/30. Men's underwear sizes ranged from 42/44 to 62/64. There's long been a need for plus sizes. Thankfully, they are finally part of the show.

Seamless stories: Isisdebuted the seamless Peony Silkweight body layer collection made of its nylon/spandex material with Evaporator finish that has a silky hand. They have a peony flower embroidery and come in a mock turtleneck, crew, long Jane bottoms, camisole and brief (MSRP $16 to $50)…. ExOfficio has a new soft lace seamless thong and bikini brief, as well as a top…. Moving Comfort's seamless Echo mock turtleneck has a slightly fitted body, straight hem line and longer length so it stays put rather than riding up as you move.

It's a wash:One more weapon in the arsenal against base layer odor is Nikwax's new Base Wash. The biodegradable formula features powerful anti-odor qualities that are supposed to be effective in both preventing and eliminating odors. It also enhances synthetic base layer wicking abilities, softens fabrics and speeds drying time.

Fashion forward: Ailin stood out for its innovative approach to design, blending fashion with function in interesting base layers. The ladies Polartec fleece short sleeve top (MSRP $40) in tomato red, gold and black was a stand out and featured a pleated front hem, mock neck and feminine contour…. Lolë once again provides women with fashion and technical function. Of special interest were the company's First Layer sweater and leggings (MSRP $90), as well as scarf and hat (MSRP $40), in washable wool. The leggings feature a ruched knee for both greater mobility and a new look. Each piece bears a label that features icons illustrating the garment's functionality.

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