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Men'sWeek issue 02/09/2012

MUNICH — Fashion fused with new technology, as well as developments focusing on safety, comfort and sustainablility emerged as key themes at ISPO, the international sports business show. Other trends spotted at the four-day fair, held here earlier this month, were a comeback for natural colors, the use of urban materials for athletic gear, the return of slim silhouettes and ventilation system functionality.

This story first appeared in the February 9, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The fair of outdoor, ski, sport and performance gear featured 2,344 exhibitors from 51 countries. More than 80,000 visitors from 100 countries attended.

Christina Conrad, owner of 11 Ski Service Corvatsch ski shops in Switzerland, said, “We specialize in ski gear but now we have more fashion customers looking for high performance jackets to wear every day. We are here at ISPO looking for fashion.“

“In Russia this is very common,“ noted Larisa Zakhvatkina, buyer for Champion, a chain of 23 ski and outerwear shops in Russia. “Our customers wear ski hi-tech gear for every day.“

“This season we are focusing on the fusion of technology and style,” said Willy Bogner, former alpine ski champion, filmmaker and owner of the Bogner brand, which showed its high performance ski, snowboard and alpine heritage collection and Fire & Ice line for the urban customer. Bogner has a loyal base of specialty shops in Europe and, in the U.S., the brand’s skiwear ranges are carried by Mitchells and Richards in Connecticut. He added, “Specialty shops are our customers. We are not a department store brand.”

Looking forward, Bogner commented, “China is building ski resorts and that is going to be the next big wave for us.”

“We are at the beginning of a big trend,“ said Bernard Mariette, owner of Lolë, a French-based women-specific outerwear brand whose ski jackets can be worn every day for work, shopping and the slopes. “Fast fashion is over. Our customers don’t buy [clothes] and throw them away, but treat product as an investment.”

As for the state of the market, Mariette said, “I am tired of hearing about the [economic] crisis. It is not the reality for us. We doubled our business in two years. Already we have exceeded our 2012 projections by 34 percent and are up by 66 million euros [or $86 million at current exchange].”

Lolë has launched a recycled jacket program called Yellow Label in which 100 percent of sale proceeds go to a charity. Last season it was the Salvation Army.

Snowboarding brand Burton is joining in the fashion movement with its B by Burton collection designed by women for women. Clean athletic cuts and close-cut slim fits maintain flexibility for free riders and touring fans who need mobility and freedom.

At the same time, in collaboration with Mountain Dew, Burton developed a new 100 percent recycled collection called GMT, which is made out of recycled plastic bottles. This is one brand in a multitude of companies developing recycled products and eco-friendly outerwear performance gear seen at the fair.

Billabong, known for bright colors and graphics, toned down its collection. Michael Kahl, marketing manager, noted, “We are going away from bright colors and introducing commercial colors, more earth tones and uni-blocking. The brand has evolved and is a little bit older.“

One theme resonating throughout the trade show among buyers and vendors is that winter is here — albeit late. “If Mother Nature does not want you to start, then we can’t start and everyone is shifting the blame,“ said Kahl.

Reflecting on the weather, Andi Keil, managing director for Spinloop shops in Germany, noted, “We are buying less this season.” He added, “Our customers are not fashion customers but recently they want versatility. So some of the jackets we’re buying are now much more urban, and we’re also picking up waterproof technical jackets.”

Vermont based Merrell, known for its high-performance hiking boots and outdoor shoes, is seeing a shift as well in its outdoor apparel line. “We are bringing on-mountain products to the streets, even the silhouettes are changing with casual urban styles. Our true ski jackets for men and women have all the functionality for mountaineering. The bottom line is you can walk into a restaurant after skiing and not look like you just got off the run.”

Arcteryx designer Eron Chorney explained, “We are using Gore-Tex and new this season is the true back-country jacket focusing on durability and light weight. We developed a new face fabric that is waterproof and breathable with better fit.” Category 24 is its lifestyle collection with jackets and pants that can be worn 24 hours, “wear anywhere anytime,” Chorney noted. Jackets range from $299 to $499.

Technological advances, however, remain central to even the most fashion-oriented ranges, like Armani.

Giorgio Armani’s EA7 collection showed new compression technology apparel for high performance snowboarding and skiing. There were jackets and pants that are made of four-way stretch material that is water column resistance at 20,000 mm, insulated, water repellent and thermally stable. The brand was enthusiastic about the planned June launch of a new running shoe with carbon cushioning control technology which purportedly gives no vibration when running.

Natural colors and more urban winter fabrics including herringbone, wool corduroy, canvas and impermeable denim were found in ski, alpine and snowboarding jackets and pants.

Technologies that regulate all manner of temperatures were widespread at the active apparel show. Also of note were high-tech processes such as laser coatings, very thin but powerful laminates and textiles featuring elastic ceramic membranes used to create state-of-the-art climate management.

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