Industry News

How Brands are Meeting Growing Demand for Women’s-Specific Designs

May 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

Stretch, soft-to-hand fabrics, heat-holding features and flattering form are all key design elements in women’s apparel for 2016-17. That recipe isn’t oh-so-simple—and the pressure is on: Last season, women’s outerwear sales rose 13 percent in dollars sold, jumping to $783 million, according to the 2015 SIA Snow Sports Market Intelligence Report.

Versatility still drives apparel design, thanks to erratic weather and snow patterns and a minimalist movement toward all-in-one pieces across categories. But crossover isn’t necessarily the goal for each product. Mostly, women’s ski apparel should be functional and flattering, regardless of the product’s purpose.

“We are seeing longer lengths and feminine-cut lines, stretchy fabrics and interesting color combinations. Function needs to match their male counterparts, but features and small details can be tweaked to fit female needs,” says Joanna Tomasino, Mammut softgoods category manager.

Growth Spurt

Even companies that have featured women’s-specific products for decades are adapting to the category’s growth spurt. “(Women’s apparel) is the fastest-growing segment of the Boulder Gear brand,” says President Adam Garry. “Our women’s line is growing faster than the men’s,” says Flylow Gear President Dan Abrams. Other brands are making first tracks in women’s outerwear, including i.N.i Cooperative..image002-jm.jpg

i.N.i Cooperative Le Puffy Puff

For the past five years, women have worn the brand’s outerwear but in sized-down men’s styles. i.N.i Cooperative premieres its first women’s collection for 2016-17, decked out with simple, functional silhouettes made with stretch fabrics and vibrant tones. Other priorities include female-centric features—like the new Dare2b Argent Jacket’s removable makeup guard or Mammut’s detachable snow skirt tailored to female hips. 

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Dare2b Argent Jacket

“Women typically run a little bit colder than men, so we have used our Bio-Mapped Lining to beef up the warmth of most of the jackets. We also have used some removable acrylic faux fur around the hoods,” says i.N.i Cooperative President Adam Shiffman. To achieve the launch, the brand created initial pieces—two jackets and pants—and issued samples to a few dozen women for a full season of testing. In exchange, the ladies gave critical feedback that altered and refined the designs. Ultimately, stretch proved to be most important. 

“Women like to be able to move and bend, stretch and do cartwheels, so it was important that we utilized fabrics with four-way stretch,” Shiffman says. Two noteworthy additions include the Le Puff Puffy Jacket and Bibster Bib with three-layer laminate.

Solution-Based Innovation

Ladies’ bibs have marked a gap in most female lineups, which several brands are out to change. Flylow launches the Foxy Bibs, Mammut adds the Sunridge Pro HS Bib Pants, and Dakine addresses the deficit with the Gore-Tex 3L Beretta bib.

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Dakine 3L Beretta bib (L) and Mammut Sunridge Pro HS bib (R)

“Our hope for anyone who uses our outerwear is that it feels like there was someone looking out for them on the other end of the product,” says Amy EichnerDakine product line manager. Forged by Eichner and Dakine’s new lead women’s designer, Brittany Crook, the decision to create the bibs was inspired by the question: “If you could have exactly what you want in the product line, what would it be?” The duo’s overall goal was to elevate the performance and functionality of the women’s product line—and to release something that the guys in the office would be jealous of, Eichner says. The design priorities for the bib included a drop-seat construction, an affordable price point, and a cohesive fit with full layers—meaning an insulation piece could be worn beneath and on top. The team designed the Gore-Tex Beretta 3L jacket to go with the bibs.

“As females, we don’t want to be taking our jackets off in the backcountry to do our business. Even in the lodge, you may need to make a quick pit stop, so the drop-seat construction was a number one priority—the challenge was to not have it look super technical. We wanted it to look streamlined with a more modern, feminine fit,” Eichner says.

Also filling a void, Marmot debuts the Gore-Tex Performance three-layer Women’s Cheeky Pant with removable, insulated shorts (mid-thigh length) to help her stay warm on the lift or to use as après-wear.

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Marmot Cheeky Removable Shorts

“The designer, Lisa Hadley, lives in Jackson Hole, and her experience on cold ski mornings in the single digits or below zero was that she’d get chilled sitting on the chairlift. (These pants) are a great idea—a true solution borne out of trying to solve a problem,” says Brian LaPlante, Marmot’s category merchandise director. Lengthy boyfriend-style jackets, paired with slimmer pants, are also trending, he notes. Also trending: placement prints—mixing textured fabric with plain and print fabrics—for a playful yet controlled visual.

“The mixed media (trend) has been happening in high fashion. It adds more complexity and depth, and creates a richer textual feel without being overt,” LaPlante says. The layering trend is happening in athletic and yoga wear—so ski apparel “is an interpretation of what’s already happening in general market,” he says. But like any apparel innovation, it’s typically driven by a need. Fortunately, there are stellar women on the front line putting those solutions in motion.

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