MUNICH, Germany--The women's activewear market is going technical. Activewear manufacturers showing at the International Fair for Sporting Goods and Sports Fashion (ISPO) here last week continued to emphasize products specifically for women. The four-day event, held at the Munich Messe, closed Friday. While the focus last season was on styling and fit, this time around makers played up technical features such as ventilation in their garments, particularly in skiwear, snowboard apparel and other outdoor clothing. "We have done women's products for several years, but this year we've moved it into our more technical, top-end lines," said Martyn Hurn, marketing manager at outdoor apparel manufacturer Lowe Alpine Systems International Ltd. of the UK. "It's grown by demand really, since more and more women are operating at a very high level of the sport." Other outdoor apparel companies such as North Face, Gentic of Austria and the British firms Sprayway and Berghaus took a similar tack, launching more highly technical apparel in women's sizes at this season's ISPO. "Almost all of our products now come in both women's and men's sizes," said Charlie Campbell, director of product development at The North Face Europe. The main emphasis at ISPO continued to be skiwear and snowboard apparel. Manufacturers said snowboarding continues to boom worldwide, with apparel sales growing by up to 30 percent a year in some markets, such as France, Germany, Italy and Austria. Skiwear sales, on the other hand, generally remain flat in Europe where participation has leveled off. For fall-winter 1996, skiwear has a Fifties retro feeling, with tighter, almost tailored styles. Texture is important, either through diamond quilting or the use of fabrics that look like rip-stop. Most manufacturers showed more two-piece skiwear than single ski suits; executives said consumers now want to get more use out of skiwear than simply wearing it on the slopes. "Ski suits now make up only about 15 percent of our sales," said Stefan Englmair, product manager of the sportswear division at Head Sport AG. "The look now is much more feminine in color and style," said Cindy Fry, senior associate at London-based Nevica Technical Sportsystem Ltd., which also owns Killy, a skiwear firm. Nevica introduced a women's shaped jacket and belted parka filled with goose down in bright colors such as orange, yellow, lime, plum and forest green. In technical skiwear, it showed monochrome styles with nickel and black trims or textured finishes using a diamond rip-stop trim fabric. Colors range from rich dark tones to acid shades. In Killy, the group showed two new lines of women's technical skiwear. Smart Tech is in rich jewel tones with top-stitching and stud details in gold and copper. Styl Tech is a Delfy-coated shell fabric with quilting, shawl collars and dart stitching details in citrus or dark shades. Belfe & Belfe of Marostica, Italy, showed two-piece skiwear styles ranging from Sixties looks in candy pink jackets or miniskirts and bright floral prints to more sophisticated solid silver or black designs, often with diamond quilting and shawl collars. Head emphasized texture with white, snakeskin-look skiwear or white jackets with a rubberized fabric wave pattern in black or black mesh with a plastic coating. Luhta showed skiwear ranging from bright pink and fuchsia to metallic prints in deep purple, green and burnt orange. As a contrast to the more fitted skiwear, several companies--including Head, Nevica, Nordica and Luhta--showed lines meant to serve as a crossover between skiwear and snowboarding apparel. Shapes here were looser and longer, while colors generally were muted earth tones. There was a move by footwear companies to introduce apparel collections, with Airwalk--the U.S. casual footwear brand that produces snowboard boots--launching a nine-piece line of unisex snowboard clothing. In other sports, Adidas continued to expand the women's fitness collection it launched last spring. Mary Peveto, international marketing manager, said the company will take a grass-roots approach to promotion, signing individual instructors in each country. The fitness apparel includes eight silhouettes for women and four for men, since 30 to 40 percent of fitness instructors are male, Peveto said. The women's styles include a Supplex nylon bodysuit with a back zip adapted from the company's high-performance swimwear and cut out in the abdomen to improve ventilation.
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