Partnerships between leading outdoor technical apparel brands and manufacturers of technical fabrics continue to bring innovation to outdoor specialty retailers, but retailers want vendors to keep lifestyle in mind as well when developing new products. New fabrications offer improved performance across a wide range of environmental conditions as well as respond to consumer’s call for more eco-friendly products.

Mountain Hardwear’s Refugium electrically heated jacket, Merrell’s NADA (Not Any Dye Applied) Jacket, Gore Comfort Mapping Technology, Schoeller c_change and Climashield Green, an insulation made of 100% recycled materials, are examples of technical innovations that attracted attention from retailers at the recent Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.  Line extensions were also a common theme of product presentations.
Brands like Mountain Hardwear, Arc’Teryx and Marmot expanded technical outerwear and lifestyle collections to offer retailers and consumers incredible level of variety and choices. Color options for each product category also increased.

For 2009, GoLite is introducing technical outerwear using Sympatex Reflexion. Featuring 4-layer performance with 3-layer weight, Reflexion pairs an ultra-thin aluminum radiant heat barrier that retains body heat with the thinnest waterproof breathable membrane available. Reflexion is used in men’s and women’s McKenzie jacket and pant.

Mountain Hardwear and Ardica introduced four new Snowear jackets that can deliver three temperature settings of on-demand heat for cold snowy days and a portable charge for your favorite electronics. Think of it as a jacket that not only delivers heat, but can also recharge your personal electronics-including your cell phone, MP3 player, GPS, SAT phone and head  lamp.            

Developed as a 3-in-1 jacket system, the Men’s Refugium Trifecta and Women’s Radiance Trifecta combine a full featured, waterproof/breathable snow sport shell with a Thermic Micro insulated liner jacket enabled with Ardica Technology.  The liner jackets for the Men’s Refugium Jacket and Women’s Radiance Jacket come pre-wired and ready for the Ardica heat and power system. The jackets and internal wiring come with Mountain Hardwear’s lifetime warranty.

Ardica’s Moshi Power System, a 295-gram portable heat and power system (sold separately), can not only deliver heat while integrated within the outerwear, but it also supplies a power source to charge anything by a USB cable.

Merrell Apparel unveiled its fall 2009 concept piece, a jacket made completely dye-free. The NADA (Not Any Dye Applied) Jacket is 100% polyester and features Merrell Opti-Warm in the sleeves and body and is fully seam-sealed for waterproofness.

Westcomb’s Phantom Hoody uses eVent fabric throughout the body for breathability and waterproof qualities, while Schoeller c-change panels under the arms and in the mid-back provide waterproof stretch panels that respond to body heat. The panel’s pores open as the temperature warms, allowing for more breathability.

Canada Goose unveiled its new line of lightweight down jackets and vests filled with 100% Canadian Hutterite down. The Lodge Collection for men and Camp Collection for women utilize a system of layering with components that may be purchased separately.

Rab is combining eVent waterproof breathable technology with down. Weighing only 600 grams, the Rab Microlight Alpine Event is constructed using two-layer eVent fabric for the outer shell and traditional Microlight down baffling inside.

Technical fabrics continue to evolve, offering outdoor brands greater access to recycled content and flexibility in design, performance characteristics.

Reflecting the increased consumer interest in environmentally sustainable apparel, Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) has become a member of bluesign technologies ag. Founded in Switzerland in 2000, bluesign technologies provides an independent international quality standard that calls for manufacturers to use low-pollutant textiles, environmentally friendly processes and sustainable use of natural resources in the production of their products.

REI considers the bluesign standard as the strongest global solution available to proactively address textile environmental, health and safety strategy. In addition, utilizing the standard is an important step in managing the substances used to create products the co-op sells under its branded labels.

Given retailer concerns about pre-season orders, inventory control and sell-through, will technical and lifestyle apparel brands find it necessary to contract their lines and reduce their collections? 


Retailers noted that the manufacturers’ rationales for line extensions often do more to confuse consumers than offer clear distinctions between technical apparel options.

Technical details are important but the fashion component can’t be overlooked.