Holden founder and now co-owner Mike LeBlanc sat down with BOSS to talk over the major developments for his brand, namely, the end of the companys relationship with K2 and new parent company, Jarden Corp. Previously, the Holden side of the business took care of only design and marketing, but now the entire business will be brought in-house. LeBlancs joy at this development was apparent as he reported significant growth ahead for the company.
Holden will continue to push its eco-conscious story, which it has had since the companys founding, through the core, boutique shops in which it has always focused its distribution. LeBlanc has a goal of an eco story on every product in the line by 2012, but admits that the process will become easier as larger players in the industry tap in to the green trends that are flowing throughout the sporting goods industry.
Kjus, with the aim of extending its sales season and growing its dealer base, is launching Sprint, a high-end, design-driven casual line, for Winter 2008/09. The collection includes both mens and womens pieces and materials used in the garments include cashmere, lambs wool and angora. Kjus has also expanded its mid-layer line.
For the past four to five years, Helly Hansen has been going in a strong outdoor direction, underscored by the prevalence of multi-use designs. On the apparel side, the company has increased its number of down offerings, and has added SKUs across the board for both men and women for Winter 08. In terms of style, clean designs with fashion pops, such as low-key plaids and pinstripes, are prevalent.
A key initiative is Ekolab, a sustainability project that features recycled fleece mid-layers, eco-friendly dyes, recycled hardware and minimalist design. In addition, the company has removed PTFE from its proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane, and now uses a fluorocarbon-free DWR coating throughout its Winter 08 line. Helly also reports that the Lifa base layer brand is its fastest-growing category. In footwear, Helly has expanded its technical and casual lines, focusing on soft shell construction on the performance side, and luxe looks in the lifestyle realm.
Spyder Actives highlights in the line include the womens Fly Suit that has a zipper connecting the pants and jacket, meaning that the pieces can be worn separately or as a one-piece garment. (FYI: The North Faces Unity Suit was designed using the same principle.) The Asian-influenced womens Realm jacket offers an origami twist with detachable pockets that can be moved to a variety of locations on the waist, hips and sleeves.
Polarmax, which reports that it is now the number three brand in the specialty base layer market, introduced Opedics Knee-Action Ski and Board Tights for both men and women. The patent-pending technology is intended to support the knee, thus helping to minimize stress and reduce injury.
Kombis big story is the new Bamboo Charcoal base layer line that offers pieces made of Bamboo Charcoal with Merino wool, and bamboo with CoolMax. The Bamboo with Charcoal is incorporated in lightweight and mid-weight layering pieces, as well as in glove linings.
Yellowman is bringing a new look to the base layer market through the use of original artwork from some of the worlds top tattoo artists. The designs are digitally printed on gender-specific tops and bottoms made with proprietary MadKool technical fabric.
Yellowman founder Peter Mui started the company two years ago and has been collecting tattoo art for the past seven years. He now works with 75 to 80 tattoo artists, including “nine of the 10 best in the world.” He also notes, “The line is multi-sport and multi-functional, and can be worn as a ski base layer or as a surf rash guard. The appeal of the collection crosses into many demographics-the designs are common catalysts.”
The attraction of the brand is not lost on major mainstream companies, either. Mui reports that Yellowman is currently working with Hasbro on a “Transformers” collection, is doing a limited edition run for Disneys “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and has a partnership with Harley-Davidson. A deal with Gibson Guitars is also reportedly in the works. Nevertheless, getting inked, whether for real or via an ultra-cool garment, can be a bit painful: Yellowmans retail prices range from $218 to $888 per garment.
In its base layer program, Dale of Norway has removed anti-shrink agents, thereby making the garments softer. Dale has also added new mid-weight pieces to the line, and has expanded its Mid Shell program to include jackets, vests and ski pants. Other initiatives include the expanded use of Merino wool, redesigned U.S. Ski Team sweaters, and a move toward gender-specific styling and sizing.
Pow Gloves, a 6-year-old Seattle-based company is focused on quality, and utilizes a variety of leathers and waterproof materials in its line. One of the most interesting models in Pows line is the Pho-Tog glove, part of the Filmer category. It is made of windproof soft shell and corded nylon for extra stretch, and has cool camera graphics, as well. When extra dexterity is needed, the middle and index fingers and thumb flip back and are held in place by strong magnetic snaps.