NEW YORK — The ski industry is getting a shot of fashion glam for fall, as companies team with big-name designers to create special collections.
Burton Snowboards is collaborating with British designer Sir Paul Smith, Moncler has tapped Balenciaga’s Nicolas Ghesquière and Ski Rossignol has joined with design house Emilio Pucci and its creative director Christian Lacroix for its newest line.
“It’s interesting when two companies work together who you wouldn’t expect to come together,” said Greg Dacyshyn, Burton’s vice president and creative director of product. “Burton and Paul Smith bring different things to the line, and so far we have really enjoyed the creative process of this.”
The ski industry by and large has been slow to adapt to wider fashion trends, and apart from a few notable exceptions such as Prada and Ralph Lauren’s RLX line, the category hasn’t seen an influx of designer entrants. Ski apparel sales overall have been tepid and more difficult in women’s. In specialty and chain stores, total adult snowsports apparel sales increased to $715 million in the 2003-2004 season from $677 million in 2002-2003, according to trade organization SnowSports Industries America.
But in recent seasons, ski looks have been getting more fashionable, and next fall may be the trendiest yet on the slopes. At the recent ISPO outdoor apparel show in Munich, new fashion messages included cropped jackets, fluffy fur collars and a variety of form-fitting looks.
Stascha Kaelin, co-owner of Kaelin, which has a high-end sport store in Aspen, Colo., and in Newport Beach, Calif., noted that more fashion-forward and traditional ski firms are increasing their style quotient. Bogner is well-known for its flair and has a range of bold and bright looks for fall, while more traditional ski firms, such as Obermeyer and Nils, are adding more color and pizzazz, she said.
Kaelin has already bought the Rossignol Pucci line and said she welcomed the designer additions.
“It’s really good for the industry to have these new collaborations,” she said. “For our customers, it’s a dessert. It’s something different and everyone wants something new.”
Ski companies, similar to activewear collaborations such as Adidas and Stella McCartney and Puma and Neil Barrett, are getting fresh ideas from designers known for pushing the envelope.For Rossignol, the deal with Italian design firm Emilio Pucci gives the company an established designer name to punch up its looks.
Colorful jackets, ski pants and jumpsuits with Pucci prints are among the styles in the initial collection bowing for fall, as well as base layers, sweaters and accessories. Retail prices for the base layers and accessories run from about $120 to $450, while soft shell jackets are about $600 and other outerwear sells for about $750 to $800. The line will be sold at Pucci stores, as well as ski shops that carry Rossignol. The company is targeting more high-end boutiques with this collection.
“We have already seen a strong response to our lifestyle looks that can be worn under the outerwear and apres ski,” said Mike Hermann, soft goods product manager at Rossignol Ski Co. Inc., the firm’s. U.S. division. He said the collection is estimated to account for about 15 percent of U.S. sales.
Although Pucci these days is best known for its colorful prints on silk, the move to designing ski attire takes the firm full circle. The late designer Emilio Pucci got his start designing ski clothes and was a member of the 1934 Italian Olympic ski team. Now Pucci is a division of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Lacroix is creative director of the brand. Rossignol also has a collaboration line with Jean-Charles Castlebajac.
Burton, meanwhile, is reaching to the other side of the pond with its new collaboration with Smith, the canny London-based designer known for his men’s tailored looks and women’s cardigans and dresses. The collection, called Mark XIII, incorporates technical and fashion elements, Dacyshyn said.
“It’s old school Everest expedition meets English countryside,” he said.
While Burton is best known for its snowboards and related apparel, the company has a range of products and has been rapidly building up its women’s offerings.
Among the features on the initial line of Mark XIII products are climate control ventilation, removable insulators and special Paul Smith prints that are used on a Gore-tex 3L fabric.The initial offerings are in men’s, but women’s is in development and will likely be added in coming months, Dacyshyn said.The line has suggested retail prices of $549 to $900 for jackets and $399 to $549 for ski pants, and is higher priced than most Burton products. Dacyshyn said the company is targeting retailers, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Jeffrey, as well as boutiques at high-end ski shops, such as in Vail, Colo. The line also includes accessories like bags and gloves.
Dacyshyn said the collaboration will be expanded into more products in coming months.
At Moncler, the high-tech offerings designed in collaboration with Ghesquière will have a joint label, Balenciaga-Moncler, and will be sold within both the designer’s and Moncler’s collections. Among the looks are puffy vests and jackets with unpadded nylon zip-out sleeves.
Amid the rush of newcomers, the level of sales they generate is uncertain.
“These high-end collections are for a very limited market,” Kaelin said. “We have seen designers enter ski before, but it’s cyclical. The problem with these styles is that it’s hard to know how long the looks will last. Pucci is a very certain kind of look and it may be short-lived.”
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