Never mind “how does it look?”, the question fashion fans are asking this winter is “what does it do?” and “how warm is it?” as jackets and utility trousers used by those who scale mountains find favour with city dwellers.
Extreme outdoor clothing, the sort fit for climbing Everest, is the prevailing streetwear trend this winter and a sign outdoors brands will continue to dominate our wardrobes, whatever the temperature.
This rise of “gorpcore” – the trend for wearing outdoor labels in the city, making Patagonia fleeces and North Face jackets a style staple – means storm-proof hoods, technologically advanced Gore-Tex, and frostbite-preventing underlayers are now mainstays of a trip to the pub or even a leisurely walk around the park.
Browns Fashion describes its collection of high-performance brands as one of its “strongest categories”. “Our customers have made fashion with function part of their everyday lives,” says the retailer’s activewear buyer, Joe Brunner. Matchesfashion notes the same interest with sneakers from the former ski-boot brand Salomon and outerwear from Japanese Snow Peak among its bestsellers.
Brands such as Icelandic 66North and the Switzerland-based Mammut, which made climbing ropes before expanding into clothing and is now favoured by the singer Frank Ocean, are most in-demand.
Arc’teryx, a Vancouver-based mountaineering brand, is central to this extreme moment for our wardrobes. With endorsement from rap stars such as Lil Yachty and A$AP Rocky, the Alpine specialist has been moonlighting as a fashion heavyweight. This month, as proof of Arc’teryx’s appeal, the brand launched a collaboration with the fashion house Jil Sander.
The collection spans jackets, bibbed trousers and a one-piece intended for mountain sports. It will undoubtedly become a favourite with the street-style influencers attending fashion shows in chilly temperatures. With considerably higher prices than Arc’teryx’s main product line, the collection is intended to bridge the gap between “high-performance clothes and high aesthetic quality”.
The fashion platform Lyst predicts that the J Sander collaboration is the tip of the iceberg for this trend, citing fashion with “future-minded technology” as its primary prediction for what to expect from the fashion world next year.
“More than ever, people want their clothes to have a purpose and ask more of them because technology enables us to,” says the fashion writer David Hellqvist, the founder of Document Studios and a contributor to the New Order magazine and Orienteer Mapazine.
There may be talk of a return to glamour, but our appetite for outdoors-inspired clothing suggests otherwise. “We have come to appreciate open spaces and beautiful scenery again on a different scale,” says Hellqvist, “to enjoy the simple things in life again. Luckily there is clothing to buy that matches that ambition.”