Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 Preview: Technical apparel

Slimmer, more breathable winter wear aims to maintain warmth and mobility. Get a preview of technical apparel to hit retail shelves next year.
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Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015, SNEWS is previewing some of the top trends and new products you’ll see at the trade show and All Mountain Demo in Salt Lake City, Jan. 20-24. Find this story and more in our O.R. Daily Day 0 Preview edition.

On the slopes and trails in fall/winter 2015-16, it might seem as if everyone passed on that second helping of turkey.

Winter technical apparel is getting slimmer — the baggy and puffy look is heading out — and it’s not all about fashion. There are some truly technical stories behind the trend.

For starters, it’s about breathability. The over-puffed, “Michelin Man” jacket might be great at keeping consumers warm while they’re waiting for a bus, but when they’re huffing it up the mountain on a pair of AT skis, all that puff is just trapping moisture and bringing on the chills.

The growing done-in-a-day active insulation category — including down, synthetics and a myriad of hybrids — is the response, and brands are perfecting designs that are naturally thinner and more breathable, while still able to deliver warmth when needed.

In conjunction with the above, hardshells are becoming more breathable thanks to more “air-permeable” constructions that allow for a bit of air exchange without sacrificing any noticeable wind protection. And with less insulation bulk beneath, shells, too, are sporting slimmer silhouettes.

All of the breathability banter isn’t without debate, however. Watch for brands to increasingly compare and contrast moisture vapor and air transfer rates to claim superiority. Warning: There isn’t a single answer. A highly breathable piece isn’t automatically the best at moving moisture, and vice versa.

In the end, specialty retailers will play a crucial role in getting consumers in the right piece — let’s face it, not every consumer is out to break a sweat when the thermometer reads zero degrees, and no one wants unsatisfied customers when a product didn’t keep them warm enough.

Finally, while thin is in, brands are making sure their designs don’t feel like straightjackets. There’s a lot more use of stretch and articulation — replacing the baggy — to allow for a greater range of motion.

>> Columbia reboots its Titanium line, which will serve as the stage for its newest technologies, including TurboDown Wave insulation for 2015-16. An update on last year’s synthetic/down hybrid layering, the construction lays a sheet of synthetic in a wave pattern to create alternating baffles without heat-escaping stitch-throughs. Water-resistant down then is blown between baffles to create loft and trap heat. See it in the men’s and women’s Heatzone 1000 TurboDown Hooded Jacket (MSRP $450).

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>> For athletes working up a sweat, but also requiring warmth and protection, Marmot introduces the Headwall Jacket (MSRP $325), which aims to move moisture quickly via a highly breathable lining and lightweight 20-denier, stretch waterproof/breathable, air-permeable outer. Sandwiched in-between is PrimaLoft’s new Active Insulation, engineered to maintain its stability and prevent mitigation, even with lighter and more airy linings.

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>> The race to create the best “synthetic down” continues. For 2015-16, PrimaLoft debuts its Luxe insulation, which is meant to look, feel and perform like down with better moisture management. See it in numerous pieces at Winter Market, including the Montane Hi-Q Luxe Jacket (MSRP $239).

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>> Better-breathing and softer hardshells, thermo-regulating merino layers and lightweight puffies are cannibalizing the softshell market. What’s left for this category are super breathable pieces that high-aerobic athletes want to throw on and leave on for their cold-weather workouts. Case in point, Rab’s Paradox Pull-on (MSRP $150), which pairs Polartec’s highly breathable Alpha insulation with a lightweight, high-gauge, stretch polyester-knit outer. “So many other softshells have a tough nylon face-fabric with DWR that kill your breathability and range of motion,” said Rab U.S. Marketing Manager Jon Frederick. “This piece protects, breathes and moves with you.”

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>> Stretch helps with freedom of movement, but the materials aren’t always as durable, so brands are coming back to reinforce key areas like the shoulders and below the knees of pants with high-abrasion resistant fabrics, said Chris Pew, founder and lead designer at Trew. Look for this kind of tailored mapping and stretch in its upgraded Beast Jacket (MSRP $499).

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>> “The freeride kids are entering the backcountry,” said Dan Fiore, product line manager for Dynafit. The Yotei jacket (MSRP $600) aims to maintain a youthful look, but cut out some of the bagginess and weight with lighter fabrics. New Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable C-Knit is featured here, which is quieter and lighter than Gore-Tex Pro thanks to a circular knit pattern on the inner lining versus the traditional tricot.

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>> Leave it to Helly Hansen in Norway — where they’re used to little winter daylight — to perfect visibility safety in apparel. The Pace Norviz (MSRP $110) looks like any other quarter-zip top in daylight, but in headlights at night, a highly reflective, stylish pattern emerges. It’s a special treatment to the fabric, said Helly Hansen Wintersport Category Manager Philip Tavell. “We wanted to make people safe while running without making them look like a Christmas tree.”

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--David Clucas

These are just a few of the new products to debut at the show. Be sure to check out much more new and trends in the O.R. Daily, Days 1-4, published live at the show, and available digital format each day of print on SNEWS.

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