By Aaron H. Bible
Mountain Hardwear hinted at things to come at ORSM, but no one thought their push into fashion would go this far. The San Francisco-based creator of performance apparel and equipment is lending its name, as well as its technical and performance expertise, to fashion brand Cole Haan in the launch of its ZerøGrand outerwear line.
Cole Haan LLC, with its Global Headquarters in Greenland, NH, and Creative Center in New York City, is an iconic American lifestyle accessories brand and retailer of premium men’s, women’s and children’s footwear, handbags, leather accessories, outerwear and eyewear.
“We envision this collection becoming every-day staples for men and women. They offer the best of both worlds: style and function. It is almost impossible for the modern consumer to battle the elements on their daily commute and look stylish while doing it, but now we have a solution. It’s a breakthrough with outerwear for the urban explorer as it does not compromise style for functionality,” explained CMO and GM of Business Development at Cole Haan, David Maddocks. “Cole Haan and Mountain Hardwear are both innovators and true independents who stand out in their respected industries. At Cole Haan, we were looking to create a unique outerwear collection that didn’t sacrifice style or functionality, and Mountain Hardwear was the perfect partner to accomplish this. The collaboration is built on common understanding of style and innovation. Cole Haan makes the most technical dress footwear in the world and we wanted to partner with the most technical, high-performance outerwear maker in the world.”
The ZerøGrand collection combines technical materials and outerwear expertise with the “classic style meets modern innovation” ethos of the Cole Haan brand.
“This is a great opportunity to show the world more than just our technical expertise. We’re championing the idea that you can combine great performance with great style,” said Chris Harges, director of global marketing at Mountain Hardwear. Harges said the co-branded products, “were designed to meet a need for Cole Haan, who wanted a line of outerwear as lightweight and technically advanced as their ZerøGrand footwear. They’re an application of mountain fabrics, materials and technologies to meet the needs of the urban adventurer.”
“As part of its investment in the ZerøGrand platform, Cole Haan wanted to create a companion outerwear line as beautiful and technical as its footwear. Their brand leaders identified Mountain Hardwear as the leader in technical outerwear and reached out to us to explore opportunities for collaboration. We though it was a great match,” Harges said. “The ZerøGrand customer approaches life with the same boldness, independence and know-how as the Hardwear customer. And they understand the value of performance apparel and footwear. In house, we have a team of great apparel designers who leaped at the opportunity to apply the fabrics and technologies of outdoor to the performance and style needs of the urban consumer. We developed the line on a special schedule beginning with some conversations with Cole
Haan last fall. It was great for our designers not only to be able to design for the needs of a different consumer but also to work outside the constraints of our normal seasonal calendar.”
This blend of extreme weather protection and designer style is built on a foundation of Mountain Hardwear technologies including:
- Q Stretch Ozonic shell fabric recognized for its lightweight, durable and 100-percent waterproof, yet breathable elements.
- 800-fill Q.Shield water–resistant down that is infused with permanent water repellency to resist moisture absorption.
- Q Elite, a proprietary synthetic insulation and the warmest synthetic insulation available.
“Our designers usually solve problems to save lives and maximize experience for outdoor athletes. With Cole Haan, we were presented with a different problem: how do you keep a hard-driving, fast-moving urban explorer warm, dry and protected without slowing them down or asking them to compromise style,” said Robert Fry, global director of product merchandising and design at Mountain Hardwear.
The ZerøGrand Outerwear collection became available October 6 on ColeHaan.com and in Cole Haan stores, as well as limited availability through Mountain Hardwear direct-to-consumer channels in the U.S.
While the move may draw criticism from some hardcore outdoor industry devotees, the collaboration shouldn’t shock most. Many outdoor brands from Royal Robbins to Carhartt to Marmot to FlyLow have been embracing lifestyle and fashion as a way to endear themselves to an increasingly younger, urban consumer. Much in the same way the fashion industry has embraced brands like Adidas, The North Face, Lululemon and Teva and has been incorporating active lifestyle elements into fashion for several seasons. Cross exposure to new markets and a need to stay on the cutting edge is driving active lifestyle products from all angles, as design concepts such as “trail to table” are starting to reach maturity.
Mountain Hardwear is a leader in innovative, premium outdoor apparel and equipment and was one of the first to design toward a more casual consumer, despite its technical background. Founded in 1993, the brand “celebrates bold ideas, the drive to challenge the edges of our potential, and the joy, friendships and personal growth that come from that endeavor.” Based in Richmond, CA, Mountain Hardwear is a wholly owned subsidiary of Columbia Sportswear Company and distributes its products through specialty outdoor, running and sporting goods retailers in the U.S. and 58 countries worldwide.