At this year’s OutDoor by ISPO change was in the air, down the aisles and along the rails. But, this time, we’re not on about the new location.
Spring’s Stephanie says: “For the first time we noticed a real change in the offering of outdoor brands. It’s something that’s been creeping up on us but, seeing it in the flesh at a trade show, has made it very real”.
What are we talking about? Well, we’ve had “athleisure”, now meet “tech-casual”.
What is tech-casual?
The European culture change towards a much more informal workwear wardrobe combined with our growing attitude towards flexi-working and love for active outdoor weekends has led to younger consumers demanding clothes which work across multiple occasions, at different times. Apparel that technically functions no matter what the day throws at you or where it takes you. This is accompanied by an emphasis on premium fabrics and features and a desire to buy fewer, better clothes which last longer.
Who’s at the forefront?
The change is being led by fabric innovators, like Spring client Polartec, who exhibited at this year’s OutDoor By ISPO. As Polartec CEO Gary Smith told trade magazine Outdoori at OutDoor by ISPO: “Young people have grown up with technical efficiency and now the expectation is that their apparel not only has to look good, but it’s got to work – work in an active setting and a lifestyle setting too. You can’t just sell something on status anymore and charge a premium price. It’s got to work.
“What we’re seeing is the coming together of outdoor, sport, athletic, urban and fashion – there are no lines anymore. Most department stores don’t separate high end and sport now. Boundaries are over. Outdoor is everything that you do when you’re not indoor.”
What this means is that our obsession with wearable tech is becoming so ingrained that we’re expecting our clothes to be as capable as our phones, watches, gadgets and gizmos. But more than that, we’re expecting clothes with a conscience; not only do we want it to work, but it should work without impacting the environment. An environment we all want to spend more time in.
Polartec has most recently released Power Air: a fabric which encapsulates lofted fibres within a multilayer, continuous yarn fabric construction. It’s a revolutionary new material offering advanced thermal efficiency that is proven to shed five times less than other premium mid-layer weight fabrics. It’s just one element of their Eco-Engineering initiative which sets a new standard for sustainable textiles – including the creation of the world’s first fully recycled and biodegradable fleece, other knits, insulation fills and breathable waterproof fabrics.
“If you look at the consumer, they are wearing athletic and outdoor brands and it’s about what their apparel does for them: they want it to keep them warm dry safe and cool. In a nutshell it needs to work but it also needs to look good, feel good and be versatile. As the newer generation takes over there’s an expectation of sustainability. Ultimately the most sustainable product you can make is the one that lasts a long time.”
It’s that younger consumer who the most innovative brands are looking towards; they’re the ones who are changing the field. Not defining outdoor brands by being just for cyclists or walkers but instead focusing on the features, the tech, the extras offered by each brand.
“Many brands are getting super interested by tech fabrics.” Says Gary Smith. “Aesthetics are no longer the only important selling point in the clothes we buy. We expect our clothing to do something for us too.
“The expectation for things to work are high. When the new generation buys something, they expect it to work. All the non-technical brands are waking up to the fact that they need technical components. Upcoming generations of designers will never go back to the cotton domination. This is not a phase.”
Look out for brands including 66 North, Diadora, 8Js, Bleed, Magnethik, Bon Geulle, Moncler and Banana Republic who all use Polartec fabrics.