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OR Winter Market '03: Women's Casual/Technical Apparel

"Women's anything" ranked No. 2 as the fastest growing product category for 2002, according to the latest SNEWS Retailer Survey -- published in the most recent GearTrends magazine. Responding retailers wrote that everything from sportswear to casual clothing and footwear to technical gear for women was selling well.

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“Women’s anything” ranked No. 2 as the fastest growing product category for 2002, according to the latest SNEWS Retailer Survey — published in the most recent GearTrends magazine. Responding retailers wrote that everything from sportswear to casual clothing and footwear to technical gear for women was selling well. According to the recently published Outdoor Industry Association’s State of the Industry Report, women were the fastest-growing demographic in 2001. More than 70 million women took part in outdoor activities, making up 47 percent of the market. and the number of female enthusiasts increased to 19.6 million. What does all this mean? Women’s products are hot, and companies at Winter Market were answering the call with a slew of new apparel offerings for technical and casual outings.

Arc’Teryx — The company that turned outdoor apparel on its ear in 1998 keeps debuting new pieces that we want to get out and wear. On the soft shell side, Arc’Teryx has added a third classification to its offerings with the Sigma jackets, ideal for nastier conditions and slower-moving activities. The women’s Sigma LT jacket is designed for aerobic endeavors and has Windstopper in the front, and Polartec WindPro in the arms and back for ventilation without sacrificing heat retention. Arc’Teryx has also made base layer its own category and added new designs and features for women. The Rho LTW zip top and bottom are made of merino wool, while the mid-weight Rho LT zip top and bottom is a synthetic alternative with silver-ion treatment.

Be As You Are — If you didn’t see this company at Winter Market, you definitely missed out. Touting “fun and funky stuff,” this T-shirt and ball cap company has a wide range of stick figure caricature graphics with quick phrases beneath. Featuring sports and lifestyle graphics, one favorite that caught our eye was the lotus-position girl with Ommmm written underneath. These fun graphics and attitude are reminiscent of the very successful company, “Life is Good.”

Blurr — Offering sleek modern designs with twists in detail, Blurr shouldn’t be overlooked. The company is adding small details to its tops that we haven’t seen anybody else doing, like two mini zippers inline with the collarbone on a mock neck T-shirt for venting. The women’s Ion soft shell jacket for winter use is hip length with a unique snap closure on the neck and an industrial look. The Panterra Hoody is made of Malden Power Stretch and has a women’s figure in mind so she looks good too during various multisport activities. The company is also playing with velour loungewear. That’ll give a whole new meaning to the term “snuggle.”

Columbia Sportswear — The apparel giant is branching into soft shell in its more technical Titanium line. Using Schoeller materials, the women’s Mountain Mobility has an asymmetrical, clean look and follows the industry’s currently popular color palette for women — bright tonal colors.

Horny Toad — It’s come a long way from its fleece beginnings and keeps getting stronger in the casual sportswear realm. Horny Toad’s new Billie and Ella sweaters are made of Lambs wool and come in a variety of colors from fuchsia to subtler charcoal. The Billie is a V-neck pullover with a cable pattern and contrasting tipping at cuffs and hem. The Ella is a classic high neck piece with a relaxed fit and saddle sleeves for easy movement.

Ibex — Known for its richly colored wool jackets, Ibex has added the Sora jacket to its Loden collection. The 400 medium-weight jacket has a longer length for extra warmth, clean stitching on the front and an adjustable hood. Another fun addition is the Hoody jacket made with a terry-looking merino wool. Made of a winter-weight merino wool/Lycra blend, its new women’s Loose and Rendezvous tights can go from the couch to the trail — and aren’t really tight. The Loose tights have a stylish stitching detail on the lower leg, and the Rendezvous fits a little closer to the body with off-side seam lines.

Isis — The women at Isis know that one size does not fit all and is offering its line in sizes 4 to 16 with petite, regular and long lengths. With 15 new jackets and tops and five new pants and tights, the company is on a color craze showcasing bright yellows, purples, limes and oranges. The new soft shell Venus jacket features the company’s proprietary Duet fabric, an abrasion-resistant stretch woven nylon with DWR bonded to a polyester microfleece. For more grab-and-go activities, the Damselfly jacket has zip-off sleeves that can be stashed in a rear pocket. The ultra-light ripstop nylon shell has a wicking polyester lining.

Kavu — Its booth may not have been much to look at, but what Kavu had behind the sheets was worth a peek. It’s offering a new cashmere/silk blend of sweaters for women. The Cabinator has a solid front with alternating color side panels and backside of the sleeves. The open neck sweater has a nice look and is suitable as a base layer or casual wear. The Chalet has a classic 4-inch zip polo style collar available in a bold dark cherry, black and camel.

Lowe Alpine — Lowe Alpine was lighting up the show floor with glowing mannequins showing off its new Warm Zone technology. By mapping a person’s natural hot and cold spots, Lowe has developed a technology that focuses on areas where insulation is needed most, as well as where it can be reduced and breathability increased. The women’s Warm Zone top has a raised pile in a grid design that allows warm air to be trapped in key areas of the body that need heat. In areas that need less insulation, the bulk is reduced. When the temperature drops, it can be reversed so the pile is next to the skin and provide 25 percent more insulation. Also available is the Dryflo Seamless Top that maps bodies hot and cold spots, offers a close fit and extra stretch for increased mobility. A company favorite is the women’s Emotion jacket, a lightweight technical piece made of eVent fabrics, with an asymmetric design, shaped panels and stretch fabric for mobility.

Marmot — Like so many other companies in the industry, Marmot is playing more in the world of wool. Building upon the success of the Adamant jacket, the category has expanded and has some notable pieces like the Cariboo sweater. This V-neck, boiled merino wool sweater has a tech fit sized for women in three colors (black, light blue and yellow).

Millet — Millet’s new Fusion and Energy jackets for women are made with Dry Edge fabrics, a polyamide with DWR laminated to a polyurethane hydrophilic membrane. Designed for all mountain activities, the jackets have a snow-shedding skirt, adjustable and detachable hood, and heat-sealed seams.

Moonstone — Companies are playing with the stitching pattern of their down jackets this season and Moonstone is helping to lead the way. Its women’s Minimalist Down jacket has a wavy diamond stitched pattern and comes in striking colors like chicory, lichen and amethyst (and we’re just positive you know what kind of color chicory and lichen are, right?) Moonstone’s down is $30 cheaper than last year, making this piece an attractive $150 retail. A grand slam among retailers, according to the company, is the Ariel jacket, a 200-weight Thermal Pro sweaterknit fleece. Ideal as a performance fleece insulating layer for multiple activities, it can make the transition easily to a night on the town.

Mountain Hardwear — Change is good, just ask Mountain Hardwear as it switches its mid-weight and featherweight base layers to Milliken’s VisaEndurance fabric. The polyester knit fabric in the eXtend tops and bottoms are designed to fight odor with embedded silver, and it manages moisture with a strong wicking finish, according to the two companies. A Mountain Hardwear spokesperson said the new fabric allows the company to drop prices significantly in the collection, making them more competitively priced. The company also has two new categories in soft shell: Gore’s lighter, stretchy Taifun and its own Conduit. The women’s Synchro jacket has the Conduit membrane sandwiched between a stretch face fabric and a microfleece back. The company has placed stretch taping on the seams on the outside (a first in the industry according to Mountain Hardwear and a design that won it an award at ispo) and welding the pockets for what it says is the first completely waterproof and windproof soft shell jacket.

Ojai — Always a little left of field, Ojai is retaining its funky style but shifting gears slightly to incorporate function back into every piece it produces. The core concept behind the line is active lifestyle — clothes from “workout to work in.” The women’s RoboBlend line has tops, pants and skirts made of a highly wrinkle-resistant polyester/acrylic/rayon/Lycra blend. The pieces breathe and move moisture well and can go from the yoga studio or bouldering wall to the street. Ojai’s Everything capri and pant are made of a cotton/Tencel blend for a durable, wrinkle-resistant soft hand for doing, well, just about everything. And, Ojai’s crazy streak still rears its head occasionally. Its Troll vest has an active cut with fleece pile reminiscent of hair on a troll doll.

Patagonia — Between refinements and new additions, Patagonia is making sure women are outfitted for all that life brings, indoors and out, base layer to outerwear. It’s very successful Body program has new seamless long sleeve and T-shirt tops that offer body-hugging, breathable insulation with unhindered mobility. They’re versatile enough to be worn as a base layer or solo. In the alpine arena, the Stretch Element jacket has been designed specifically for a woman’s body. No more boxy unisex hand-me-downs, this piece has the same technical performance as the men’s piece — three-layer stretch nylon with H2No HB — with a silhouette that’s styled to the curves of a woman’s body. The sweater line is brimming with seven new styles, including the especially notable All Mountain V-neck made of merino wool. For a little fun, check out the Floral Puff vest with a psychedelic floral pattern in shades of green and red.

Sickle — When we came across Sickle, all we could think was “wow” — especially when we saw the women’s pants. With a start in chalk bags, the company branched into men’s pants, and then they say had the girls clamoring for their own. The women’s Cirrus pant has a nice look with a flat front, straight cut legs, a small web buckle/belt and Velcro “zipper” and can go from the crag to the street in no time flat. The Paseo Capri is similar in style sans pockets. Definitely a company to watch.

Sierra Designs — The folks at Sierra Designs have two things on their minds — soft shell and insulation — and they want to bring them to the people in a variety of colors, styles and price points. Among the women’s soft shell offerings is the Euphoria jacket that the company says takes all your layers and rolls them into one. Its Polartec Power Shield HD has a stretchy woven nylon outer face with a high-loft fleece backing for weather protection, durability and stretch. On the insulation side, the women’s 650 Powerfill goose down Shangri-La jacket has a ripstop shell coupled with Barricade soft shell side panels for stretch and packs into its own pocket.

Sportif — Sportif makes it easy to mix and match its new apparel offerings with a coordinating color palette across all lines. In the casual cotton lifestyle collection, the long-sleeved Calamity Jane shirt with snap buttons we think will be perfect for catching a drink in the local saloon at the end of the day.

SmartWool — The perennial merino wool company is delving into even more wool fabrications, such as a terry-like Boucle and wool twill. The women’s Croix Hoody is made with a textured Boucle knit face and a soft jersey back. Even though it’s a hoody, it’s a smart-looking casual piece with full front zipper, thumb-hole loops and concealed pockets on princess seams. In its new Bodywear line, a standout piece was the women’s Yoga pant that has a flat tubular waistband, no outseam and a wide leg. All pieces in the Bodywear line, which also includes a camisole, wide strap tank and brief, are made of a stretch jersey fabrication of merino wool and Lycra.

The North Face — The North Face is cranking up its women’s product offering and says it will comprise 50 percent of the company’s entire line. Included in the rollout of new products for fall was the company’s new Infusion technology, an infused polymer construction process that reinforces the fabric of outerwear garments in high abuse areas like zippers and pocket flaps. A company spokesperson said the combination of polymers ensures a water-resistant surface, while keeping the garment lightweight and flexible. The new technology has been incorporated into the women’s Ama Dablam Stretch Infusion jacket. TNF’s women’s Hybrid Infusion jacket is an all-mountain jacket made up of Hyvent Alpha, two-way stretch Apex and Infusion technology reinforcements in high-abrasion areas. Hyvent Alpha is a lightweight, waterproof, breathable technology that passes perspiration to the outside of the garment as it is produced to provide protection in high weather exposure.

Wild Roses — The P-System for select styles of Wild Roses’ bottoms has been redesigned for fall. The overlapping fabric has been tightened and made more accessible under other layers, making it ultimately easier to use it seems. The Cristo Rose LS Crew is an eye-catching Powerstretch 50 base layer top with alternating color blocks of fabric stitched together. Worn as a base layer or alone, our SNEWS take says it’ll turn heads on the trail or slope.

Woolrich — A good gift item to have around for the holidays are Woolrich’s new pajama sets. Available in solid colors and plaids, the PJs come in short and long-pant styles, as well as nightshirts.