Outdoor Retailer Winter Market ’10: Outerwear makers showcase the allure of in-/out-of-bounds pursuits

Shells are merging with insulation or fleece linings for extra warmth and they're getting lighter, but are just as durable as heavier cousins...jackets are going shiny...sweaters have more dimension...and colors...let's just say bring your sunglasses. SNEWS has all the details in our latest apparel report.
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Consumers, especially women, want jackets that are not just shells but have added insulation to provide extra warmth. Designers are treating bright colors like eye candy to attract a younger demographic. And traditionally core companies are trying to encourage the resort skier to go around the gates and explore the sidecountry. Those trend themes were the connecting threads that wound through the halls of the Salt Palace Convention Center where apparel makers emphasized customer base diversification.

With an eye on those trends, here’s a breakdown of what caught the eye of the SNEWS® team Outdoor Retailer Winter Market ’10:

Sidecountry & snowsports

Companies that have catered mainly to backcountry skiers, like Outdoor Research, Mammut and Marmot, are trying to entice resort skiers to explore the sidecountry -- that area beyond the gates of lift-assisted skiing.

Designed for inbounds and sidecountry skiing, Mammut’s men’s Alyeska (MSRP $699) and women’s Jewel (MSRP $549) jackets are made of Gore-Tex soft shell fabric and lined with fleece, with helmet-compatible hoods, pit zips, detachable snowskirts and Lycra thumb gaiters. www.mammut.com

Outdoor Research’s sidecountry line consists of a jacket and pant for men and women, as well as gloves and hats. Both jackets (MSRP $399/StormBound, photo left; $365/Axcess) and pants (MSRP $165/Ingeo) are lightly insulated, waterproof shells made of Pertex Shield with Recco reflectors and a zip-in/zip-out balaclava, and the pants have a beacon pocket. www.outdoorresearch.com

Marmot’s Alpinist insulated shell jacket (MSRP $550) can zip into the Alpinist pant (MSRP $450) using a stowable gasket that zips from the pants into the powder skirt zipper to create a fully integrated suit. It’s also hoping sidecountry skiers will be drawn to the Access jacket (MSRP $400; photo right) with Boa dial on the hood for one-handed tightening. www.marmot.com

Going hand-in-hand with the inbounds/sidecountry theme is the merging of shells with insulation or fleece linings for extra warmth, bypassing the traditional concept of layering a separate shell and mid layer. “Stats show that interest in women’s shells have fallen,” noted Carolyn Cooke of Isis, “and they’re looking for insulated shell jackets now.” In addition to Isis, others picking up on the trend are Sierra Designs, Canada Goose, Arc’Teryx, Mammut and The North Face.

Retooling the past

Heritage is a big theme this season with companies showcasing designs that have been around for decades -- Sweden’s Fjallraven and Canada Goose, for example -- or going through archives to resurrect styles and colors, like Woolrich. Others are taking the old and making it new again with tweaks for a new decade.

With a company-wide initiative to increase durability, performance and comfort, Patagonia refreshed its entire Regulator R1-R4 fleece collection (MSRP $119-$249), improving the fit and updating fabrications. New fabrics have improved durability and softness, combined with better warmth-per-weight ratios and improved compressibility. Among the changes is the addition of an R3 Hi-Loft jacket, which maximizes pile height and minimizes weight, and is considered by the company to be its warmest layering piece. www.patagonia.com

Arc’Teryx’s Theta jacket, which ushered in a new era in outerwear design in the ‘90s, has been redesigned for fall ’10 with a more contemporary cut, while Cloudveil, which ushered in the modern soft shell with the Serendipity, has done the same by restyling old standbys in the line. www.arcteryx.com, www.cloudveil.com

Filson took a classic design from 1914 and lightened it considerably with updated fabrications. The men’s Dry Finish Tin Cruiser is now available in an 11-ounce cotton cloth that’s treated with Scotchguard (MSRP $195; www.filson.com). And Ibex is bringing back the wool pant in a carpenter cut – the machine washable Global wool pant for men and women (MSRP $180; www.ibex.com).

Lightweight

Technological advances in fabrics are allowing companies to balance weight, warmth and strength to create lighter-weight performance pieces. That is, shells are getting lighter, but still maintaining the abrasion resistance and insulation properties of their heavier counterparts.

Both The North Face and Rab are achieving this improved warmth-to-weight ratio in insulation jackets with an exclusive on Pertex’s Synchro fabric. Compared to Pertex’s Quantum fabric, Synchro is a 10-denier nylon ripstop fabric that is 20 percent lighter with a smaller packed volume. Rab’s owner Matt Gower said he’s been waiting for a fabric like Synchro to come along before he would dare design a jacket like the Infinity, an ultralight, high-loft insulation jacket with 850 fill down weighing 18 ounces (MSRP $280; http://us.rab.uk.com). The North Face said its Diez jacket (MSRP $229), with a Synchro shell and 800 fill down, is the lightest insulated jacket ever in its line, noting a women’s medium weighs in at 9.7 ounces. www.thenorthface.com

Biomapping

Always looking for the optimal blend of materials and design to provide protection in cold temps, companies turned to biomapping techniques to place materials in strategic spots.

Part of its Core Climate Control initiative, Mountain Hardwear has expanded MicroClimate Zoning into every apparel category for fall 2010. It’s a construction technology that provides warmth in key areas, like body panels and sleeves, and ventilation where needed, like side panels. Combining design details with appropriate materials and insulation, the company said MCZ helps regulate body temperature with the ultimate goal to keep users warm and dry. Among the pieces with MCZ is the waterproof/breathable Contika jacket for snowsports with zones of fleece and insulation (MSRP $325). www.mountainhardwear.com

By mapping the body’s warmest and coolest parts, Sierra Designs said its Core Comfort Technology places insulation where it’s needed most, creating a garment that retains heat during times of low exertion and cools the body through non-insulated areas when you’re finally moving. The Solar Fusion jacket (MSRP $325; photo left) has 800-fill down in the chest, back, shoulders and arms to provide warmth, while non-insulated panels along the sides, under the arms and in the hood allow excess heat to escape. A PrimaLoft Eco version -- the Prima Fusion Jacket – is also available (MSRP $289). www.sierradesigns.com

Known for its puffy Arctic down parkas, Canada Goose is moving into lighter weight product via Thermal Mapping – where down and soft shell are incorporated into strategic areas to maximize effectiveness. Available in men’s and women’s, the Hybridge jacket and vest have a slimmer silhouette for an urban aesthetic (MSRP $375/vest, $500/jacket). www.canada-goose.com

Colors

For most outerwear companies, there was nothing subtle about their color palettes as bright superhero-esque colors were pervasive throughout many lines. At the forefront of the movement were several non-U.S.-based companies, which are used to pushing the boundaries on the color wheel. The hope, as expressed by one representative from Mammut, is to create an edgier line to draw in a younger generation. Colors included plum, purple, raspberry, fuchsia, turquoise, electric blue, day-glo yellow/green, Kelly and apple greens, and orange. Also “hot” right now: white. Companies were pairing these bold colors with an opposite complementing zipper color (purple with red, blue with orange, red with blue) to create more merchandising pop that will display well with other pieces in a line.

Detailing with design and shine

While the down sweaters fly out the doors and take up market share, the fleece jacket tries to reinvent itself. Adding texture and dimension to women’s jackets, Mountain Hardwear, Isis and Marmot were embossing designs (many reminiscent of topo map lines) onto fleece. We also noted a wet, shiny look in insulated jackets, many for street wear use, from the likes of Lole, Marmot, The North Face and Westcomb.

--Wendy Geister

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