NAPAPIJRI TRIES TO SCORE IN U.S. MARKET

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — What Italian company with a brand name that is Finnish for Arctic Circle and a Norwegian flag logo is making a play for the U.S. activewear market?
It’s Napapijri.
The brand, a division of Green Sport Monte Bianco, opted for the Norwegian flag logo because it is the international symbol for exploration, and Norwegian people were among the first to venture to the North Pole, said Giuliana Rosset, founder and chief executive officer.
The brand name is the Finnish word for the Polar Arctic Circle. Napapijri, based in Val d’Aosta, Italy, makes all its merchandise in Italy.
To branch out into the U.S. market with women’s apparel, Napapijri has diversified its fall collection into three groups — “Geographic,” its signature, performance-oriented group, and two new offerings, “Ahead View,” featuring fashion-forward sportswear, and “Inventive Spirit,” focusing on sportswear-inspired active styles.
The new selections are designed to be worn before, during and after athletic activities. Among the more contemporary looks are quilted nylon vests, hooded zip-front sweaters, tapered ski jackets and loose-fitting ski pants. The company has not walked away from its exploration heritage, but the new offerings have a more casual twist, Rosset said.
“It’s sportswear that transitions beyond athletics and sports,” she said.
Founded in 1993, Napapijri outerwear, sweaters, activewear, footwear and accessories are distributed in 15 countries. Most of the merchandise has an alpine activity theme, from hiking to scientific expeditions. Last year’s sales were $43 million, a substantial leap from its first-year sales of $1.1 million in 1993.
Sales of women’s apparel account for 30 percent of the brand’s sales, and that figure is expected to increase to at least 40 percent in the next couple of seasons, Rosset said.
Napapijri is distributed in 1,500 worldwide. Of the 75 doors in the U.S. that carry Napapijri, more than 50 are expected to offer women’s apparel for fall. Wholesale prices range from $60 to $320.
A boiled wool jacket with an aluminum-coated lining and ceramic fleece jackets are a few of the more unusual pieces. Ceramic fleece is like ceramic cookware in that the temperature of the interior and the exterior of the garment varies by 15 degrees.
Napapijri’s fall catalog also has some different looks. There are images of La Venta Geographical Association scaling rock ledges, exploring caves and in the midst of archeological digs. The company sponsors LVGA, an Italian team of explorers and researchers, that has ventured to such remote locals as Patagonian glaciers, Central Asia’s lost mountains and the Yucatan’s submerged labyrinths. The team decided on its name after its first exploration of Rio la Venta in Chiapas, Mexico, a famous archeological site that contains the remnants of an Olmec ceremonial center.
Given its exploration roots, Napapijri plans to pitch “Batavia” tents to show off its line to skiers at the base of ski resorts in Aspen, Vail and Snowmass, all in Colorado. Batavia is the island in Asia where the cotton is made for the tents.
“We want people to know what we have to offer,” Rosset said.