SNEWS chats with designer Kim Brannock

Designer Kim Brannock, who spent a decade at Columbia Sportswear and now heads up SY Design, recently chatted with SNEWS about the industry’s top design and textile trends. One unique challenge ahead, she said, is the need for the industry to evolve and stay a step ahead of every day lifestyle brands
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Throughout the month of February, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 19-22. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

If you’re seeking a peek into the future of outdoor product trends, talk to a designer. They see product development at its crossroads — where concepts meet textiles and function meets fashion. Helping put together the pieces of the puzzle are designers like Kim Brannock, who spent a decade at Columbia Sportswear and now heads up SY Design, recently shared with SNEWS on the industry’s top design and textile trends. One unique challenge ahead, she said, is the need for the industry to evolve and stay a step ahead of every day lifestyle brands, which are now using more technical fabrics as they become more widely accepted by the consumer.

What are the top outdoor design trends you are seeing?

In our current economy, multifunctional design is more important than ever. Something might be very specific to one use, but the secondary design challenge is to also make it relevant to daily living, or additional uses. Also, cross-brand collaborations – I have to say the outdoor industry is not that well known for this as of yet, though it’s a major trend in the snowsport and street/lifestyle area as well as other industries. I hope we’ll consider more in the future, because the combined efforts can yield in powerful leaps forward. Imagine if Arc'teryx and Icebreaker worked together, or Mountain Hardwear and Alite Designs. Thinking outside the box collaboratively could really benefit our industry. Another trend I see is companies bringing production home. It’s in its early stages but as the costs for production overseas continue to increase, there is value in looking once again at domestic sourcing and production options that all but disappeared over the last 20 years. It’s a little like a phoenix rising from the ashes right now, but I think it’s worth investigating. One last one – vintage outdoor remains on my radar, vintage design, but with a modern twist.

What are the most popular fabrics and textiles that your clients are asking you to work with these days?

Superfine denier plus down insulation is a continuing trend that has seen huge growth over the past year. Now that these types of pieces are showing up in shopping malls and chain stores, it seems to be a sign that this combination is being widely accepted and it will be our challenge in the outdoor industry to keep it evolving. Technical fabrics with a more natural look and sometimes feel, too, is popular. There is a lot of interest in fabrics across all categories with heathered faces, textured yarns or a percentage of wool in their content. We continue to experiment here to find the best balance of function together with desired feel. Wool continues to be very important across many different areas of the outdoor industry, and it’s exciting to read about brands like Ibex who are beginning to find ways to have some of the wool grown and sewn here in the USA.

Do any of these fabric/textile trends present a challenge for designers?

In the outdoor industry almost every fabric that we work with has its limitations and it takes a strong skill set to know and understand those limitations and work to design or engineer production around them. Superfine denier fabrics plus down came to the top of my mind recently because the needlework involved creates quite a puzzle. There is a fine balance that is required so there is not a constant bleed of feathers coming out of the jackets.

What are your goals when you attend Outdoor Retailer?

Outdoor Retailer is a connection hub for me, a place for face-to-face real time interaction with friends, clients and potential clients. It’s also a great place to research new fabrics and trims, catch a few seminars and of course walk the aisles to get a pulse for the evolutions that are happening in the industry.

--David Clucas

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