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Stories

Fashion on a trail

What’s all the outdoor fuss about? Catwalks full of trek gear and outdoor brands with a new fashion appeal. We explore how functionality suddenly got sexy.

24012019
Words Jonna Dagliden

Chunky hiking boots and multi-pocket trousers, a colourful parka and a nylon belt bag – you’d be forgiven for mistaking these as accessories belonging to your most adventurous friend, packing to climb another mountain. But in fact, as of recently, they might as well belong to your most fashion-forward friend, who regularly trails the latest catwalk trends.

The athleisure trend – where fashion jumped on the sports movement – has now taken another turn. The millennial’s thirst for authenticity, health, and environmental wellbeing has given birth to fashion with a nod to the outdoors.

At Prada’s Spring/Summer 2017 show models wore typical outdoor gear such as parkas, raincoats, backpacks and carried metal canteens. In 2018, fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton, Lanvin, Givenchy, and Balenciaga followed suit with anoraks, oversized shorts, and fleece jackets. There have also been collaborations, such as those between The North Face and Junya Watanabe, Sacai and Supreme.

— In our always-connected world, people have started to understand how important it is to spend time in the outdoors, as it has such a great effect on our wellbeing, to connect with oneself but also to get a greater appreciation for nature. Outdoor brands have credibility in caring for the environment and focus on quality, smart and functional clothing – now fashion brands get more cred by being linked with them, says Sofie Brodén, insight and foresight manager at Stockholm-based trend agency, Grow.

Numbers from global trend agency Foresight Factory show that in 2018, 56 per cent of glob- al consumers were concerned about what they personally could do to help protect the environment. More people want to live –and buy – with a clean conscience. Many people feel that being eco-ethical should be effortless, without having to compromise on price, convenience, quality, and personal style.

— Appearing conscious and caring through the clothes one wears can be rewarding and also help to boost social capital. It shows that you’re a conscious consumer – conscious as in responsible consumption behaviour, but also responsible for one’s wellbeing, having an active and adventurous lifestyle, Brodén adds.

Although the merge between fashion and outdoor has been slower to pick up in Scandinavia, there is some exciting activity going on here as well, highlights Martin Kössler, who has a long experience of exporting Scandinavian outdoor brands abroad as the founder of SOG, Scandinavian Outdoor Group, the export collaboration between leading Scandinavian outdoor brands. According to him, the urban outdoor trend started in Portland, USA, 10–15 years ago, but outdoor brands were not really interested in becoming fashionable, so the trend was soon ”hijacked” by fashion brands, adding outdoor aesthetics and details in order to appear ”outdoorsy” without sacrificing the feel for style.

But adding function is more complex and some labels with urban potential even found themselves taken over by new owners who identified the potential and had a bigger vision than preparing people to survive in the wilderness.

— Consumers also compensated materialistically to revive the feeling of staying in touch with nature. Woolrich shirts, picnic blankets, and barbecue kits are new hybrid products that represent spending time in the outdoors, even if just used in the nearby park hanging out with your favourite friends and a guitar, he says and adds:

— Originally the trend was started by forerunners feeling too comfortable in their favourite outdoor pieces to take them o in between weekends, but a new crowd of consumers were looking for authenticity and rede ned functional outdoor brands normally only worn by outdoor nerds. The best example is Fjällräven. They have made the same boxy trousers and coats for the past 50 years with a lousy t. Just because of that they became trendy. Martin Bergling and Andrea Westerlind who had the licence in the US could see the trend where they lived and took advantage of it. They opened a Fjällräven shop right after the financial crisis in Soho, New York. That started a trend that Fjällräven wasn’t prepared for. They remade some of the garments, including their Greenland parka, to fit the US market, and soon Asia wanted to do the same. All of a sudden Fjällräven was hot. Now they have just launched a collaboration with Acne – they are on a fantastic journey.

Launched in August 2018, the collection between Fjällräven and Acne Studios is a clear example of how two completely different brands can borrow cues from each other. New details like fake fur trims and reflective patches added to the Expedition Down Jacket, or an extended blush-pink panel added to the hem of a women’s blue parka, give the classic designs a fresh edit. Pockets have been oversized, and Fjällräven colours and technical materials have been used in playful ways.

— Keeping the significant features and assuring the core functionality of the products was one of the main conditions for the collaboration, says Henrik Andersson, Head of Innovation and Design at Fjällräven.

— We allowed Acne Studios to play around with our product icons, but we were pretty stubborn when it came to unnecessary details, because by our definition everything that is added but doesn’t serve a clear purpose, lowers the overall functionality of the product, he says.

In Stockholm, Tretorn’s Creative Director, Fredrik Ekström, explains the merge between outdoor and fashion with an overall appreciation for nature and functionality. To add some style to their 128-year-old functional heritage, last year Tretorn launched a sneaker collaboration with hip hop artist and style icon André 3000, and in 2019 they are launching a collab with Finnish fashion brand Makia.

—There is a paradigm shift where the market is realising that fast fashion is not the future. At the same time as Tretorn adds quality and long durability, we seek collaborations with people that can give us a new perspective on a rubber boot, a shoe or a jacket, Ekström says, and adds that he sees strong interest in dressing both functionally and stylishly. Not least because of the grim weather conditions in Scandinavia, but also because of a deeper appreciation for nature.

— Nature is becoming part of people’s health image. And it’s not just extreme sports. In a way, nature is becoming more available to us. We call it ”low pulse outdoor,” where functionality is combined with style. You don’t have to go skiing in the mountains, it might be a hike in a city park. Hiking, Ekström says animatedly, ”is definitely the new yoga.”

Martin Kössler is now starting to see Urban Outdoor 2.0 – if 1.0 was the fashion industry taking on outdoor (without the functions) – 2.0 represents outdoor function with a fashion appeal. Japan, in particular, has been on the forefront of this movement, with brands such as Snow Peak, White Mountaineering, And Wander, F/CE and Neighbourhood taking the lead. In Scandinavia, Helsinki-based Formal Friday, Varg Clothes from Gothenburg and UBR from Oslo, combine fashion and outdoor. Kössler is hopeful that the big Scandinavian outdoor players will realise the potential soon.

— Scandinavian outdoor brands have a great capital to proceed from. They have brand stories that can’t be copied, that are authentic. You can’t find that anywhere else in the world, he says.

Experience Tretorn’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection at Revolver Trade Show (stand 183) in Copenhagen next week, January 30-February 1.

VOICES FROM THE OUTDOOR

PEAK PERFORMANCE Jeanette Francke, Creative and Marketing Director

Why are outdoor brands turning to fashion and vice versa lately? What is it that makes consumers interested in these garments even though they are not necessarily going for a hike?

— I believe it’s a mix between the aesthetics, the technologies, and increased interest for actually being in the outdoors. You’re always after what you don’t have and the contrast between fashion and nature creates excitement. The garments are created in great materials, easy to wear and comfortable, so after turning in that direction it’s hard to go back. The products also symbolise a healthy lifestyle. While stuck at the office we are longing for activities in and outside the city. The focus on a healthier lifestyle and the easy fact that it’s a trend right now also fuels it of course.

How would you describe the Scandinavian outdoor consumer?

— I think Scandinavians are experts in using their time wisely and maybe that’s how we differ from many other countries. We work less and put more time into what really matters – family, friends, and activities. Mental wellbeing is linked to physical wellbeing which also makes us more motivated to buy into active fashion. At Peak Performance, we want to empower all kind of activities. We believe that our consumer has that mindset too and that our products support that lifestyle. Even if they work office hours, activities are a big part of their lifestyle and they require garments that can move them seamlessly throughout life.

HAGLÖFS Paul Cosgrove, Global Product Director

Scandinavia has a strong heritage in outdoor brands, how will this heritage move in to the future? —Our customers and our climate is changing and we need to adapt to this. Our Swedish design philosophy and DNA is firmly grounded in our landscape and home of Dalarna, and progression and innovation drives us. Famously, our founder Wiktor Haglöf made his first rucksack on day one and then on day two he improved it. Fundamentally our heritage is curiosity and we know this will continue to help us to be one of the world’s leading outdoor brands.

How would you describe the Scandinavian values linked to this?

—The Scandinavian consumer fascinates me personally – they have one of the most outdoor active lifestyles in the world. They care more about the environment than any other consumer group in the world and the provenance of the product is essential. In many ways, it is the Scandinavian consumer and their values that has driven the shape of the outdoor brands in this market, not the other way around.