Hike society: performance wear attains peak style

Hike society: performance wear attains peak style

Few of us will ever take on the trek to Everest Base Camp, but that hasn’t stopped men’s fashion from harnessing the mountaineering spirit, now as sought after on the street as on Himalayan hiking trails. Think haute couture meets high performance: a tapedseam, Thermolite-padded and heat-bonded spin on the savoir-faire of Savile Row.

It’s a trend that trekked firmly onto the A/W18 runways: take the reflective and multi-pocketed gilets and fleece sweaters at Lucas Ossendrijver’s Lanvin, Gucci’s gem-swathed hiking boots, Junya Watanabe’s collaborations with North Face, Karrimor and Canada Goose, and Prada’s celebration of functional nylon. Even at June’s Pitti Uomo 94 – considered the epicentre of tailoring and Italian sprezzatura – the menswear platform’s I Go Out installation was aimed at assimilating fashion with an active lifestyle.

The installation showcased nearly 30 global activewear brands, including hiking shoe stalwarts Danner and Diemme, and merino wool specialist Reda Active, against a leafy eco-friendly backdrop. This fresh-air focus is one pioneered by hip menswear retailers like the UK’s End and Present, and Japan’s United Arrows & Sons, as well as niche, expedition-inspired magazines such as Stay Wild, Sidetracked and Another Escape.

British fashion boutique Browns bolstered its sporting connections in April, inviting customers on a 10km run to celebrate the opening of a Satisfy pop-up shop at its east London store. Satisfy, a Paris-based running brand, is one of ten high-performance labels that Browns’ menswear buying manager Dean Cook chose to stock for spring, before increasing the boutique’s buy for A/W18.

“byborreinstall”

A pop-up space at Browns East in London’s Shoreditch celebrates knitting studio Byborre’s latest collection. Image courtesy of Browns

Breaking down the distinction between functional and high fashion, Browns presents performance-wear brands – running-shoe label Hoka One One and Canadian outerwear specialist Arc’teryx – alongside luxury labels. ‘We don’t have a dedicated sports section on our site,’ Cook says. ‘The clothing is geared to be worn with brands like Rick Owens.’ Browns are also the exclusive UK stockist of knitwear studio Byborre, and have celebrated the launch of its newest collection with a pop-up space at its Browns East outpost in Shoreditch, on view until mid-November.

Performance wear pieces by And Wander, Prada, Roa, Nonnative and Victorinox

Vest, £295, by And Wander. Top, £640; shorts, £1,020, both by Prada. Shoes, €305, by Roa. Hat, ¥16,000 ($145); gloves, ¥11,000 ($100), both by Nonnative. Maverick Chronograph Black edition, £589, by Victorinox. Photography: Josh Hight. Fashion: Jason Hughes

According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual survey, wearable technology is the third biggest worldwide fitness trend of 2018. Increased interest in quantifying our physical activity has extended into a desire for super-functional gear – such as Japanese label And Wander’s odour-reducing Deodorant Stitch pieces, or Italian hiking footwear label Roa’s use of resistant aramid fibres, a material seen in bulletproof vests – whether or not we’ll actually test such items to their limits.

Ultra marathon-running twins Steve and Nick Tidball launched British label Vollebak in 2016. Their ‘100 Year Hoodie’ is made of Kevlar, pitched as being five times stronger than steel and able to withstand extreme temperatures. In May, the brand launched a global treasure hunt, enlisting former military operatives to hide a lifetime discount card, and encouraging active Vollebak enthusiasts to find it. Another brand using an adventure-led retail strategy to emphasise the strength of its product is Woolrich. Its Milan flagship features an Extreme Weather Experience Room, a snow-filled space where customers can test out its signature parkas to temperatures of minus 20°C.

Performance-wear stalwarts are also designing specifically for the luxury market. Salomon’s Black Edition (a sell-out collection for Browns) sees the French brand’s footwear styles reinterpreted in monochrome, while North Face’s Black Series (available in select fashion stores only) blends technical prowess with a more everyday aesthetic.

Material innovation is keeping leading brands at the top of their game. Rainwear expert Herno, which has an annual turnover of nearly €100m, turns 70 this year and marks its 50th year selling in Japan. The label produces nearly 3,000 prototypes a year at its HQ in Lesa, Italy. ‘We have exclusivity on a specific type of machinery for the next three years,’ says Herno president and CEO Claudio Marenzi. ‘It is focused on the production of 3D-thermobinding and ultrasound stitching for the neck and armholes of garments.’

Similarly, two years ago, Stone Island, the Italian sportswear brand founded in 1982, introduced the Prototype Research Series, an annual project showcasing treatments that have not yet been industrialised. For 2018, the brand predicts a turnover of nearly €200m, an 83 per cent increase on 2016. It attributes this success, in part, to selling to high-end retailers (Mr Porter buying director Fiona Firth notes an uplift for 2018), and to pushing a wide range of performance-focused products, not simply entry-level categories.

A host of newer brands, too, is developing high-tech fabrics and treatments. Leonardo Fasolo, who cut his teeth at CP Company and Stone Island, co-founded Nemen in 2012 in a bid to ‘investigate unknown territories in textile research’. Specialising in dyeing techniques, the brand created one-of-a-kind hand-sprayed nylon jackets, and has just developed a nylon with a flame-retardant metal lamination, which when acid-dyed resembles Tyvek (a protective synthetic fibre commonly used in construction).

The month it launched in 2017, Alpine outerwear brand Templa was awarded the prestigious Ispo Brandnew Award for Apparel. ‘Every piece is meticulously made to function in different moments,’ says Templa’s Antwerp-based co-founder Anati Rakocz. Its outerwear boasts details such as internal sleeve extensions, Recco Avalanche Rescue technology, and a removable snow skirt. For S/S18, the brand launched with three global stockists. For autumn, it increased its retail presence by five times. ‘We push the boundaries of functionality and design,’ says Rakocz. ‘Our pieces are meant to be worn on the slopes but can be placed in any urban location.’ Whether you are base jumping or just strolling, looking the part is no sweat. §

As originally featured in the September 2018 issue of Wallpaper* (W*234)

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