Outdoor’s rugged aesthetics and performance tech have permeated streetwear and fashion for decades, but the latest seasons have arguably reached an apex in the marriage of the two markets.
Back in March 2018, Balenciaga debuted its Track Trainer, a trail running-inspired silhouette, for fall ’18. Since then, other high-end brands have followed suit in adopting outdoor aesthetics, most notably Gucci, with a leather and mesh spring ’19 sandal that raised some eyebrows at Keen. The momentum has not waned during the spring ’20 season, showing in Europe now.
But the trend is not just a one-way street. Lifestyle expert Jerome LaMaar, who hosted trend forecast lectures at Outdoor Retailer for a decade, said he witnessed a dramatic style shift among attendees throughout his years attending the show.
“When I started doing outdoor market trend forecasting for OR over 10 years ago, I was the only person of color wearing Y-3 and edgy streetwear with hybrids of outdoor. It was taboo; it was new for them,” LaMaar said. “To come back in 2018 after three years of not being there, there was more fashion design for women and even more fashionable colors for men. Now, I think they understand you need a fashion element.”
Although streetwear and fashion are still largely focused on aesthetics, nowadays functionality — not just looks — is driving the moment.
“When you integrate elements that are protective for surviving on a summit and you’re wearing it to school or work or in the city, you feel like you’re wearing something that has quality without spending thousands of dollars,” LaMaar explained. “[Brands] put so much effort into the function to make sure it is sturdy and strong, so you’re wearing an amazingly crafted garment, and it becomes part of who you are. You feel like you’re wearing luxury.”
Despite the desire for style and current trends, core players in the outdoor space see no reason to change their approach to product development.
“People want authentic brands and Hoka is authentic and is being adopted as is,” said Hoka One One global VP of product Gretchen Weimer. “We’re not doing anything to make it more appealing to streetwear; we’re making it for consumers who want to use it in the outdoors. So it’s being adopted because of the performance and aesthetics of the product.”
That doesn’t mean brands aren’t expanding their horizons through collaborations. Hoka has gained attention in the past for teaming with Engineered Garments and Outdoor Voices.
“It’s about finding partners who appreciate the brand for what it is. We’ve been really selective,” Weimer said. “If people are interested in the brand because it’s the newest, shiniest thing, that’s not what we’re interested in.”
Other brands playing with collaborations include Kith with Adidas Outdoor and Supreme with The North Face. Salomon has partnered with Boris Bidjan Saberi and The Broken Arm.
“Fans are now avidly anticipating the seasonal releases from these collaborations,” said fashion program manager Jean-Philippe Lalonde. “Working with such creatives has also allowed us to explore beyond our traditional design language.”
While fashion can be fickle, industry insiders such as Matt Powell, senior sports industry analyst with The NPD Group Inc., believe the union between outdoor and streetwear is here to stay. “These things do come and go — trends in streetwear — but there’s still a lot of runway here,” Powell said. “If brands pay close attention to what the consumer is asking for, they can extend this for some time.”
Ankur Amin, CEO of TGS (parent company to retailers including Extra Butter), noted that the outdoor market should also get a boost from competing athletic brands.
“Nike’s had ambitious rollouts of their iconic ACG line, and Adidas did collabs around their Terrex franchise recently,” Amin said. “The upcoming Off-White x Nike collab on the Air Kiger will surely add another level.”
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