Exhibitors and retailers convened Jan. 5-8 with women’s apparel on their minds, since it’s considered to be the outdoor market’s most dynamic segment. Keith Reichelderfer, vice president of apparel for Gart Sports, described it as “one of the big opportunities to grow.”
“The women’s market is still underdeveloped,” he said, citing yoga as a strong category.
Women’s buying power and their increasing participation in outdoor activities were evident in designs that widely incorporated princess seams, novelty textures and fashion colors such as kiwi, orange and ice blue — quite a departure for an industry known for churning out function-first garments in earthy tones or athletic brights.
“The smaller, women’s-specific lines are doing a fantastic job. They’re really driving the big guys to compete,” said Brian Mildenstein, buyer for Fin and Feather, which has two stores in Iowa City. He cited Wild Roses and Horny Toad as key labels.
For the first time, Portland, Ore.-based Columbia Sportswear Co. developed a holiday delivery of knit tops and sweaters, including a cranberry turtleneck with lettuce-ruffle details and a myriad of boucles.
Several exhibitors, including Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Horny Toad, said a body-conscious fit was important for the women’s market. The $5 million brand, which recently opened its second store in Freeport, Maine, is poised to double its revenues again this year, according to creative director Tami Snow.
Like Columbia, Horny Toad has had luck with sweaters as an alternative to fleece. Merino wool styles in pumpkin, teal and brown with sleeve details are strong, Snow said.
Gramicci, which has a climbing heritage, showed pieces for “Telluride living,” including microwale corduroy shirts and workman-type pants with a yoked back.
“We’re definitely trimming up on fit,” said Gramicci designer Erlend Greulich, showing a stretchy ribbed top.
Adidas America, which has recently broadened its offerings for women, launched its Adventure line. The brand has been available in Europe for 15 years, but needed a new design sensibility to break into the U.S. market, said Stephen Sonderman, merchandiser. To that end, the design team relocated from Germany to Portland, Ore. The line focuses on “soft-shell” layering pieces for trail-running and back-country skiing, wholesaling from $20 to $95. The line has a new logo, a variation of its three bars, so they appear doubled, as a mirror image. That earned mixed reviews from key retailers who helped wear-test the line, Sonderman said.
Soft-shell dressing, which emphasizes affordable, functional pieces that can be worn in a variety of situations, was a prevalent theme.
“Don’t wear your suit of armor to a square dance,” explained Patagonia spokesman Hal Thompson. “What’s selling now is stuff you wear 80 percent of the time. It’s basically stuff that’s cheaper, lighter, softer and stretchy.”
Eryn Gregory, designer of women’s private label outerwear for Kent, Wash.-based retailer REI, said layering is a great retail trend, as long as the layers are functionally and visually compatible. She said consumers are buying multiple layering pieces, with a $200 retail tag being “the golden price.”
“We’ve got to sell layering that’s comfortable together,” she said. “Not too bulky.”
Fit and trim was also a key trend, as evidenced by Marmot, which brought a scale to its booth and slimmed its top-tier Alpinist collection by using seam welding techniques to reduce fabric use, as well as its PacLite, a seven-ounce, packable windbreaker.
As anticipated by organizers, the show was smaller than typical, drawing 642 exhibitors and 3,248 buyers. Holding the show earlier in the month and moving the venue to a warmer climate caused some ski and hard goods vendors to drop out, said show director Dieter Tremp.
While gear sales have struggled, soft goods are flourishing. Tremp said: “The market continues to grow as the distinction between highly technical and fashionable continues to blur.”