As skiers and snowboarders were enjoying fresh powder in the Colorado mountains last week, thousands of retail buyers and manufacturers of cold weather gear descended on Denver for the annual
SIA Snowshow to decide what to offer consumers next year.
More than 1,000 brands were represented, many of them either based in Colorado or with local connections.
On the apparel side, there was something for everyone, from hard-core mountaineers to people who spend their high country getaways mostly in front of a fireplace in the lodge.
But some trends carried through. Colors overall are muted. Earth tones are back in a big way, as are longer jackets and bibs. Technical features are paramount as designers create clothes that keep snow sports enthusiasts warm, dry and outdoors all day long.
"From a style and color perspective, a 1970s influence was a definite touchstone," said Jessica Kaplan, a trend consultant based in New York City who works with SIA. "Earth tones like maroon, olive, burnt orange and rich browns from the golden years of skiing are back. "
Silhouettes featuring long A-line jackets, and pants with flared legs also recall the 1970s, Kaplan said.
Also carrying through many brands is the idea of sustainability — designers and manufacturers are intent on sourcing textiles responsibly, making garments in ways that limit their adverse impact on the environment, and companies are focused on giving back to their communities.
Denver-based Phunkshun exemplified the trend. The company, which started five years ago when two ski instructors couldn't sew warm ski masks fast enough to supply their fellow mountain employees, now makes most of its products from recycled fiber. About 10 plastic bottles are recycled to make enough Repreve yarn used in each one of Phunkshun's masks, said founder Lanny Goldwasser. The company's Denver plant is wind-powered, it recycles scrap material, produces no wastewater and employees are encouraged to use alternative methods of transportation. Also, a portion of the sale of each product is given to The High Fives Foundation, which supports athletes with life-altering injuries.
Voormi makes garments using wool sourced from sheep in the San Juan mountains near its Pagosa Springs headquarters and factories. Through trial and error, the company developed what it calls Surface Hardened Thermal Wool, a fiber offering warmth as well as water-resistance for mid-layer garments and a technical woven stretch wool for outer garments and pants. "This is a family business with the underlying goals to bring business to a mountain town and be able to design and manufacture on a small scale," said spokesman Chris Dickey.
On and off the slopes
But for all the careful sourcing and good business practices, people have to want what you're selling, so design is also paramount, say brand representatives. And what consumers are asking for now is versatility in their winter apparel.
A garment with wide appeal is going to "transition seamlessly from the city streets to the slopes," Kaplan said, citing bomber jackets from FlyLow and Vans as being examples that will appeal to guys.
"We are thinking more street, less slope," agrees Robert Yturri, senior vice president for sales, product and brand management at Aspen's Sport Obermeyer.
In the men's line it showed at SIA, Obermeyer included a System Sequence Jacket in a charcoal gray material that at first glance could pass for suiting fabric. A shopper might pause at the parka's $529 price tag until discovering it's a 3-in-one garment: the waterproof outer layer can be worn alone, or layered with its attached goose down insulator jacket. The insulator can also be worn on its own.
For women, Obermeyer offers the Payton down jacket, $399, in a streetwise plaid fabric, and such slope-friendly features as a powder skirt and thermal insulation as well as a removable hood and lined hand-warmer pockets.
Bergans USA, which is a wholly owned North American subsidiary of Bergans of Norway, has its North American distribution facility in Longmont. It is also thinking about garments that do double duty. Its Flora Hybrid Coat, $259, which hits about mid-thigh, has a polyester-wool blend fabric on the shoulders, and wind- and water-repellant soft shell fabric on the torso, sleeves and hood. A fixed hood and storm flap on the front offer further protection from the elements.
Skirting the issue
Other signs that women's snow sports apparel and street fashion are mixing were the number of skirts on display at the trade show. Shkoop, which was founded in 1999 in Sweden, prides itself on being the originator of insulated skirts, but it is not alone. Vail-based Skea Limited, which for the past few seasons has had short quilted skirts in its line, added a wool blend style with side chevrons.
Skirts work well when you wear them "over your first layer leggings for a car trip," before or after a day on the mountain, Kaplan says.
Other fashion items making their way from the runway to the mountain are down-filled quilted capelets with or without fur trim and faux fur shawls.
Skea is known for always having a pop of color or something fun in its collections, and this time around has hologram fabric jackets, vests and cargo pants.
Krimson Klover, which is based in Boulder, aims to set itself apart from the pack by offering one-of-a kind base layers and lifestyle looks. Wool and viscose sweaters are handpainted, while performance wool knit tunics and leggings in lively patterns can layer under ski wear or be worn alone as fashion statements.
It used to take runway trends several seasons to influence what was happening in snow fashion, but that's no longer true, Kaplan says. "The bridge is getting shorter because of access to technology" and the fact that designers are finding inspiration both on the streets and the slopes.