By Karen D. Lorentz
Bright colors, bold color blocking, plaids, and prints are all part of the ski and ride fashion scene this year, along with some longer and fitted jacket styles and the retro look of quilting. The emphasis on snow wear that provides warmth (staying dry) and comfort (think lightweight, functional) is not new but the revival of styles seen in the 1970s is. However, it is difficult to classify the trends, as variety is extensive in today’s fashions.
Lifelong mountain aficionado Jessica Kaplan, an editor and trends consultant in sports fashion, recently told snow-sport press and industry members at the SnowSports Industries of America breakfast in Boston: “When you’re looking good on the mountain, you feel good. And when you feel good on the mountain you gain confidence, which inevitably enables you to have more fun when skiing or snowboarding. You perform better when you’re comfortable–warm and dry–it’s not just about vanity.”
Boston-based fashion stylist and event producer Kathy Benharris, who produced a fashion show for the Boston Ski and Snowboard Expo, also believes that if you look good, you feel good. “You don’t have to give up form,” she said, noting the trend toward more fitted styles now and that you “can still have technical delivery while bringing back fun and whimsy.”
Kaplan and Benharris spoke at length with The Mountain Times on some of the trends they presented in Boston.
Fashion trends: tech world, mountain life, and city twist
“Runway fashion from shows in Milan, New York, and Paris along with street-wear fashion influence design trends in ski and snowboard apparel,” Kaplan said, adding that she sees “three trends in today’s world of ski wear: tech world, mountain life, and city twist.”
Tech is as it sounds, featuring hi-tech fabrics, coatings, and insulations for peak performance as well as the use of the latest materials in accessories. “We see technical wear in apparel like Patagonia and Helly Hansen as well as in helmets like Bern, which is light and safe due to carbon fibers,” she said. Seirus “heat touch” gloves and Zeal Automatic Plus goggles, with lens that change color for you (so you don’t have to change a lens) are examples of technology contributing to more comfortable days in the mountains, Kaplan added.
“City twist is a trend aimed at urban consumers who want to wear products that will work both in a mountain environment and in a city environment while still exuding a strong sense of style,” Kaplan explained. The Skea poncho with down fill is an example of wear that fits both, she noted. Snow wear is often adopted by non-participants who just want to be warm, too.
“Mountain life is where skiing and snowboarding blend together with being in the outdoors like camping overnight or going out in the backcountry on your splitboard and staying out overnight. It’s about exploring the mountains and outdoors, which requires technical apparel, but with today’s trend promoting style now as well,” Kaplan explained, noting that the mountain life echoes the vintage vibe of the ‘60s and ‘70s and staying in an unheated cabin.”
These trends means there’s something to suit just about everyone and that includes children.
Today’s children’s clothing is more rugged to withstand playing in the snow while sporting features and fabrics that will keep them warm and dry.
“Invest in brands for your children that give room to grow to get two or three seasons out of your investment,” she advised, noting several companies offer this option.
Fitted and sexy
Benharris encourages individual style, noting that the multitude of options available today means you don’t have to give up anything when it comes to warmth and comfort.
She sees a trend in jackets and pants that are more fitted now. Concurrent with that more feminine look, she notes that color blocking, which helps play up a lady’s shape, is popular this year as are longer lengths in parkas. Statement block color separates can be found in men’s wear also, both on jackets and sweaters. You’ll see black or neutral toned jackets paired with bright pants (or vice versa) on both men and women.
Another hot look is contrasting accents on pipings and zippers—yellow on blue or purple for eye-popping looks. “Diagonal details mimic pockets and add visual interest as do contrast zippers,” Benharris noted.
Just as we see more leggings and tight-fitted jeans now, Benharris sees a trend of more street style making its way into ski wear and gear. The feminine fit is back and that’s a good trend, she said, noting the fitted trend promotes a more sexy look.
Benharris promoted that with her own touch of silver belts on the show’s models. “A cute belt defines the waist and is a nod to being feminine–and fun in the sense it livens up and shows originality. It’s a way to play up the feminine and gives a little punch as one strips off layers at lunch or après,” she noted.
Color is hot
The Skea Amalfi print cargo pant with hot pink Skea jacket is a prime example of the heating up of the color trend this year. Vibrant colors–limes, oranges, reds, pinks, bright blues–are in.
“It’s how they look against the snow, they pop,” Benharris said, noting that “there is an embracing of color and pattern that plays up the fun of being on snow.”
“When waiting to get on a chairlift, people check out what others are wearing–skiing and snowboarding are fashion sports,” she added, noting, “they’re an opportunity to express yourself.”
One jacket sure to bring whimsy and personalized expression back into skiing is Skea’s full length, down-filled Anna coat which features a snow tiger print and detachable hood with optional real or faux fur trim (also detachable).
A longer length in parkas is a throwback to earlier years and is seen in many brands this season. It’s great for those wanting the extra warmth while riding chair or going out at night, Benharris noted.
Practical, convenient, and comfortable
One design that Benharris personally enjoys is the Skea cargo pant with pockets located above ski boot. That placement is a big help when riding chairlift, she notes, saying it’s easier to get something out of the hand-sized pockets. “The lower pocket for storage is also smart for working with a women’s body for a more flattering figure [no stuffed pockets in hip area],” she said.
For warmth and comfort, the three-layer approach of shell (jacket), midlayer (like a puffer or fleece sweater for warmth), and a base layer that wicks away moisture can provide windproof and waterproof dressing that means one stays dry and therefore warm. Benharris noted that the hi-tech insulations like Primaloft® or Primaloft® combined with down are light but warm and pack well for travel. Volkl’s puffer mid layer doesn’t add bulk but adds warmth and can be worn as an après ski jacket, she added.
While today’s jackets feature technical fabrics, coatings, and insulations, they are also designed for tech with cell phone pockets, attached cloths to wipe goggles, and goggle/sunglass pockets, while more helmets come with built-in headphones and Bluetooth.
One good thing about slope fashion today is that variety is accepted. So someone who feels more comfortable being understated can wear a blue or red plaid jacket or black cargo pants. The truly baggy snowboard pants may be waning but snow wear lasts–“you can tell an era on the slopes,” Benharris observed, adding, “but celebration of previous eras is good, too.” Provided it protects you from the elements and keeps you warm and dry, that is.
Influences on industry sales
In addition to these trends, there are influences both within the snow-sport industry and from outside it that impact industry sales, fashions included, Kaplan noted.
Within the mountain sports industry, events like the renovation and redevelopment of New Hampshire’s iconic Balsams Resort will have major impacts, Kaplan said. “The Balsams is positioned to be one of the largest resorts on the East Coast and will bring excitement and an influx of people to try skiing or snowboarding for first time.”
Kaplan also cited industry developments such as multi-resort passes. The Mountain Collective pass gives access to resorts across North America and includes Stowe now. She sees this as as opportunity for snow-sport participants to spend more money, noting her friends in NYC are talking about using this pass to visit British Columbia this year.
In discussing outside influences, Kaplan gave as an example the après-ski show on the Bravo network. “It’s positive for the industry because it’s reaching a national audience and serves as a catalyst to get people excited . . . it reaches a demographic that doesn’t ski or snowboard,” she stated.
Influences like these that generate excitement and interest “stimulate sales for the industry as a whole, including fashions,” Kaplan noted.