Fall/Winter Outdoor Lifestyle Preview

by | Nov 10, 2016

Designers tuck away performance behind chambrays, textures and natural fibers.

By Courtney Holden

Outdoor lifestyle apparel connects the dots between work and play. It gives us a chance to show the world that we’re enthusiastic about the outdoors, even when we’re not out on the trail. Whether it’s a pair of yoga tights that pair well with a chic tunic or a man’s button-down with wicking power, we want function to intermix with fashion.

“Urban-styled quality, performance and function are being sought after by outdoor enthusiasts in their everyday urban lives, not just when they are in active pursuit outdoors,” said Arc’teryx Product Line Manager Judy Smit.

For this fall/winter season and next, designers continue to talk about the importance in lifestyle apparel of versatility, the requirement that a garment hold its own in any setting. Meanwhile, in menswear, natural fibers play nice with synthetics, textures take center stage and we see a major shift away from an old standby.

Photo courtesy Arc’teryx

Secret Performance
The biggest trend in outdoor lifestyle apparel is one we’ve been writing about for the past few seasons: versatility still reigns. “Consumers want their clothing to be as versatile as their lives are spontaneous, and they don’t want to have to sacrifice style for function,” said Sue Jesch, design director for Smartwool. “The concept is that it will perform all day long, no matter the activity or environment the consumer puts themselves in.”

The garment needs to not only transition across activities; it must fit into different environments and seasons. Brands are achieving these multi-purpose characteristics by mixing materials, blending base fibers and injecting performance qualities where they’re least expected — all without sacrificing style.

This season, designers have taken to brushing spandex to give it a matte finish and toning down prints, so that now the same pair of tights looks equally at home in both the yoga studio and on the street when paired with a skirt, sweater and low-rise boots.

But it’s not just about the look. Beneath that chic exterior lie moisture-wicking and quick-dry properties. Some designers even add heavy-duty utility with DWR coatings. The goal — “Make the overall look of the garment blend into everyday [life] where we don’t want that tight to stand out as a technical tight,” said Paige Harvey, senior design manager for Toad&Co. “It should look like it’s an everyday tight. [The functional elements are] almost your little secret.”

Many designers say the athleisure trend is shifting from “lifestyle wear that looks functional” to “functional wear that works in everyday life.”

“We’ve gone full circle where the athleisure customer is no longer stoked simply looking comfortable,” said Ibex’s Vice President of Product James Fisher. “They are now demanding performance from their athleisure pieces.”

Pared-Down Plaid
In men’s lifestyle wear, solids dominate some seasons, graphics others, but plaid has consistently trended as the outdoorsman’s unofficial uniform. That’s about to change. The reason — oversaturation. Toad&Co’s Harvey described how difficult it is to convince the consumer that he needs another plaid shirt when he already has 12 hanging in his closet. “While plaids are still very important, we are seeing an evolution to small-scale plaids and a more balanced approach to assorting plaids and solids throughout woven shirt collections,” she said.

Tom Williamson, vice president of sales & marketing for Ecōths agreed, noting that this season only half of his woven shirt lineup will be plaid compared to three-quarters in the past. He added that the shift away from plaid might make retailers nervous, but it’s a necessary step to stay relevant with consumers. “It takes a leap of faith with some retailers to try to be a little different,” he said. “That’s sometimes scary in a retail environment. It takes a little bit more courage, but I think they need to offer … a little more diversity for their customers.”

In place of plaid, menswear turns to chambrays, as well as herringbone and dobby patterns. Prints will also make an appearance. Silhouettes are slimmer and more refined with clean lines. Contrast stitching adds a modern flair. “People are really mixing a lot of different styles, inspiration and fabrications, but doing it in tonal or monochromatic colors,” said Karuna Scheinfeld, Woolrich’s vice president of design. “These solids — when paired with one or two really strong graphics, plaids or prints — allow consumers to choose a few pieces that give them a point of view for the season. This gives a really versatile wardrobe in terms of mixing trends and styles, but allows a sense of customization without having to completely rework one’s closet.”

Ecoths Asher Longsleeve Hayes Hoodie and Cameron Pant
Photo courtesy Ecoths

Photo courtesy Krimson Klover

Hybrid Hype
There was a time when the outdoor industry overlooked natural fibers in favor of supposedly superior synthetic options. Cotton especially was a pariah. The past few seasons, however, have seen the pendulum swing the other way as designers, and in turn consumers, recognize the many attributes that cotton, lambswool, merino and duck down possess. After all, they have unbeatable hand-feel, are often odor-resistant and offer top-notch insulation.

This season, naturals and synthetics are taking on the elements together. Look for lambswool/nylon and merino/Lycra combinatinos from Krimson Klover, DWR-coated cotton from Outdoor Research and recycled wool/poly blends from Mountain Hardwear. Often, synthetic fabrics are used selectively rather than across the whole garment, e.g., waterproof shoulders or a wind-resistant body.

“Customers still want natural and sustainable fibers, but now have increasingly high expectations regarding function,” said Woolrich’s Scheinfeld. “The more function you can create from ‘natural’ roots, the easier that integration becomes.”

An Uptick In Texture
Modern, sleek, clean. Designers across the lifestyle category reported that simple silhouettes are stealing the spotlight. “There’s a movement away from over-complicated, over-designed clothing,” said Brita Womack, co-founder of Purnell. “Details have some kind of purpose, a more thoughtful design than just trying to throw everything on there.”

That movement manifests in fewer unnecessary pockets and panels and less trim, making for a “classic look and silhouette,” she said. As the old adage goes — less is more.

Instead, brands are turning to texture as a way to add depth and interest. “Whether it’s knitwear with cable and fringe embellishments, or an outerwear jacket with nylon and tweed, multi textures are trending,” said Caroline Grimsley, North American sales manager for Dale of Norway.

It’s not that prints are nowhere to be found, but expect to see an increase in high- and low-pile yarns, brushed knits and polyesters and garment-washing treatments instead. Many brands are incorporating quilting as a way to up the style factor while simultaneously increasing comfort and functionality in cold weather, noted Stonewear Designs’ Sara Roberts.

The reason why goes back to that push to make lifestyle pieces more versatile. “If you have a chambray shirt that has some nice variation in the weave that’s not in your face — more of a subtle look — that transitions through a lot of different looks and can be paired with a lot of different clothes,” Purnell’s Womack said. “It leads back to that idea of comfort and versatility that we’re all looking for as clothing evolves.”

In the women’s category, we’ll see more mock-necks, cowl necks, turtlenecks, bomber jackets, puffers and sweaters. For men, the shirtjac remains a favorite. Neutral tones will dominate color palettes for both genders. “We’re seeing color get much more focused and neutral, with key statement prints and graphics defining a look,” Woolrich’s Scheinfeld said.

“It should look like it’s an everyday tight. [The functional elements are] almost your little secret.”

Paige Harvey

Senior Design Manager, Toad&Co

Dale Of Norway Viking Sweater
Photo courtesy Dale of Norway