Winter whiteout: sporting success at ISPO
The sporting goods trade show ISPO provides an excellent platform for new trends, developments and technology across the entire range of footwear, apparel and accessories. Penny Leese visited the show last week, and reports on what's hot for winter 2002.
Sporting goods fair ISPO got off to a slow start for winter 2002.
Its timing coincided with the International Security Conference in Munich, and the thousands of extra police called in to deal with angry demonstrators meant that the city centre was out of bounds to visitors. Safety measures at the fair were also highly visible, and visitor numbers did not start to pick up until the security conference closed.
Germany's major brand adidas exhibited in a hospitality suite next to the fair, and took a small tent inside the entrance to promote its 360 degrees all-round cooling shoes which are launched to retail this spring. Subsidiary company Salomon had no stand at ISPO. Company representatives explained that the adidas and Salomon collections had already been shown privately to major customers.
Winter 2002 will be white: pale and bleached colours emerged as clear leaders at ISPO. Creamy coloured hand knits were shown by the more sophisticated Italian "sportswear" brands like Napapijri and North Sails.
White and winter white appeared in nearly all collections of ski and snowboard wear, often combined with other pale colours or black. The boundary between skiers and snowboarders is less defined now, with a return to the 1970s fitted zip-front jackets and matching pants. High technology and new materials are a natural part of every collection, but they are often less visible. Vaude's woolly knits are actually machine knitted from non-scratchy synthetics with Coolmax for added comfort.
Children and the family are more in focus in winter sports according to trend bureau Promostyl. Many leading brands like Quiksilver and British Columbia are expanding their children's lines.
Women's winter outdoor sports clothing is now better fitting and more distinct from men's. There were so many entrants at the DuPont Brand New Awards that a new category was created, just for women's clothes.
There is always focus on new sports at ISPO. Not so long ago it was kick scooters, this time there are 'mountain bikes' for winter use, with two or even four big fat tyres. No longer considering the sport to be seasonal, Vaude introduced a range of winter biker wear for men and women.
Music and sport
Music and sport are closely connected. Skateboard and rollerskate brand K2 launched a backpack with inbuilt music system. The MP3 player fits into a pocket on the side and the headphones are wired into the padded shoulder straps just below the ears. The hands are then free and skaters are in no danger of getting tangled in the leads when doing stunts.
On-Yo-Ne of Japan had a prototype jacket with the loudspeakers popped into soft rubber grommets in the jacket's padded collar so that the sound is just below the ears. The system can easily be removed for washing.
Reima, the Finnish skiwear company that hit the headlines last year with its "Smart Shout" jacket for group telephony developed with Nokia, has launched the Smart 3305, a cross the body belt/bag for GSM phones. According to Reima, the phones plug in to the belt pockets and connect to the group snap connectors to form a user group. A pull-operated band enables users to speak, and then all members of the group get the message one by one. This eliminates the need to remove mittens in the cold, and prevents the phones from getting damp and ceasing to work. There is no dialling, and messages are heard through the loudspeaker.
On-Yo-Ne showed a (prototype) totally bio-degradable jacket. The company is also sponsoring the Lichtenstein Ski Team with its Hyglater temperature regulator system. These systems are popular in skiwear where sweat can quickly turn cold against the body.
Clothes provide warmth by trapping a layer of air between the body and the colder air outside. The lining of Peak Performance's vest is made up of two Gore-Tex membranes welded together to form an inner chamber. When the wearer feels cold, he/she blows air through a tube near the collar into the chamber (like an inflatable ring). The warm exhaled air increases insulation properties. When the user is too warm, some air just needs to be let out. Gore-Tex calls the new system Airvantage.
Gore-Tex XCR has been used in clothing for about two years with great success, and is now available in a one way stretch version. XCR means eXtended Comfort Range; it is 25 per cent more breathable than a normal membrane and is ideal for very active winter sports where the user will sweat heavily. The new stretch membrane has been used by various companies, often in the side panels or under arms of active ski jackets or winter biking wear.
The winter Esprit sports range includes swimwear, bikinis and all-in-ones. New to the fitness collection are simplified graphics and three-quarter Capri pants with slits below the knees.
Exactly one year after its launch, the Esprit Sporty young fashion and lifestyle division has been a resounding success, claims head of sports Dietmar Axt. The company has a very structured and rapid delivery cycle. While "Winter-Snow-Arctic" has two seasonal collections and "Sun - Fun - Beach" has seven lines, the two all year round segments "Fitness - Wellness - Training" and "Fashion Sports" launch 12 collections annually. This gives European sports retailers, who suffered a general downturn in the second half of 2001, the opportunity to tie up less capital and speed up stock turnaround.
Many companies at ISPO offer street sportswear too. Customised looks are strong, including dirty denims with pre-stretched baggy and stained knees. Think Pink's fine needlecord trousers in rich berry colours looked worn, faded and splashed.
Mixed materials and decorative details flourished at Mambo, with tropical cowboy the main theme. Western cut shirts, with curved yokes and pearl studs for men and women were made by mixing three different faded prints and were also over-embroidered and printed with hibiscus flowers. For women, ruffled front knitted nylon blouses in muddy retro Swedish looking prints had frayed raw edges.
Unpretentious styling and the US college look are recurring themes for sporty clothes. Etnies was founded as a skate brand 15 years ago in Paris. Now it has launched simple retro clothing, in line with today's anti hi-tech feeling from some skateboarders. There are simple hooded sweatshirts and cotton T-shirts, and long sleeved crew necked tops.
Fur and pile are still strong. Parkas and hooded jackets have fur trims, and simple denim and corduroy button front jackets have teddy bear lining, or fur trims edging out at the hem and sleeves. New for snowboarders is a fur jacket for men from award winning team WE of Sweden. They are snowboarders - and make clothes for snowboarders.
Nike was at the fair again after a long absence, but the company wanted to make clear that only its ACG (All Conditions Gear) division was represented. Nike ACG uses the new more breathable Gore-Tex XCR (eXtended Comfort Range) membrane in its new winter jogger for running on snow.
The ACG Oregon series is for serious hikers - many ACG boots in the past have been more for leisure users than serious winter hikers. The new hiker boot has extremely good stability, and the phylon midsole with Nike Air gives shock absorption and insulation without hardening in cold weather. The shank is placed as a semi-exposed torsion type bar under the midsole, between the midsole and the sole, which means that none of the cushioning effect of the phylon is compromised.
Vasque won the outdoor award for footwear with its Super Alpinista high performance boot for ice climbers. A Stealth rubber outsole maximises climbing traction, and a four layer Exo-Therm upper maximises flexibility and warmth. The patented four-layer composite consists of TPU outer, Kevlar nylon mesh, Mylar film layer and inner layer of Aveo foam. A clear Pebax external frame adds support and protection. The EVA midsole insulates and is shock absorbing too, while the new Skywalk outsole is suitable for crampons.
For children, Spanish hiking boot maker Chiruca made what it calls a "three-generation" boot, which is actually three sizes in one. The sizes are adjusted by changing the removable insock. The last has been designed by the company's R&D department and the Biomechanics Institute in Valencia, so that the position of the functional axes of the foot (located at the ankle and metarsophalangal joints) are constant in all three sizes and always coincide with the midline of the boot.
Tecnica's long-standing classic, the original moon boot, is still going strong: new colours for next winter are real denim, with a fur collar, and overdyed denim. The cow hair après ski boots launched last year have done well, and Tecnica has now added new models which use less hair: colourful uppers are in a patchwork mix of cow hair and suede. The new styles use the extra grippy polyurethane compound Gecko - which has the advantage of being better insulating and lighter in weight than rubber.
Tecnica's new T-Shoes (travel shoes) are breathable, waterproof (using the company's own Tecni-Dry membrane) and anti-static smart leather shoes. Their thermal rubber outsoles offer optimal grip, increasing stability on all terrains (snow, wet, ice) while maintaining lightness and flexibility. The wide fit provides maximum comfort and ergonomics says the company. The lining has thin silver fibres with anti-static features, while the air circulation system in the shoe guarantees an ideal temperature both indoors and out.
Nordica's ski and ski boot collection was totally colour coordinated, with the shading going from the skis to the boots, designed as a whole. New technology in Nordica's ski boot collection is the New Perfect Fit Programme, which allows the inner boots to be customised by heating them to mould to the shape of the foot.
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