Lightweight and streamlined, ultra-thin apparel took the lead at the recent ISPO, Europe's biggest trade fair for sports apparel and equipment. Winter 2003 sees multiple technologies updating soft-shell jackets, traditional fur trimmed parkas and hand-made sweaters reports Penny Leese.

Soft-shell jackets are now more practical for general use, with taped seams and stretch panels placed strategically under the arms and across the back. Gore has made soft-shells more water repellent by using Windstopper in the mid layer, its new Soft-tech water-repellent laminate in the mid-ply, and soft tricot or fleece next to the body.

Mad Rock climbing shoes, winner of
the Outdoor Award
Arc'teryx pioneered single thickness jackets with laminated membranes. The jackets look very smooth and flat, pockets are laminated, seams are welded, there is underarm stretch and all zippers are waterproof. Arc'teryx's Patriot parka style jacket uses Primaloft bonded to the inner lining to keep down weight and bulk.

K2's Versa, designed for snowboarders, is a soft-shell jacket with a removable water resistant hard-shell outer in exposed areas like upper arms and shoulders. It can be worn both ways.

North Face's jackets use infused polymer construction to reinforce high stress areas such as the shoulders, panels and cuffs, without sacrificing the flexibility of the material. HyVent Alpha passes perspiration to the outside of the garments as soon as it is produced, without waiting for condensation to build up first. Elsewhere, four-way stretch Gore-Tex XCR enables the jackets to be very close fitting without sacrificing ease of movement.

Nike's outdoor sports jackets are lined with Dri-Fit which creates a layer of trapped air inside, without bulk. Tops combine different stretch and Dri-Fit materials placed where they have the most function - maximum breathability under the arms for example.

Reima of Finland is constantly updating its clothing collection in line with mobile phone technology. Its Wearaphone is not a jacket but a simple harness rucksack. The phone is inside a waterproof pocket in the strap of the jacket. It can be answered by pulling a rip cord on the opposite strap so there is no need to press any buttons or expose the phone to rain or damp. The harness can be worn on its own, or with a number of different rucksack attachments.

Environmental concern is still alive and well, but less obtrusive than before. Patagonia, always environmentally conscious, now has fleece jackets which are made from 100 per cent recycled material (previously only the inside was recycled). Soccer and tennis brand Lotto has replaced PVC with polyurethane for its footwear production.

Descente metallic ski wear
Nordic looks
Traditional Nordic looks still have a place in ski wear, but colours are soft beiges and browns or pastels. Nordic snowflake patterns appeared on pastel sweaters by North face and Think Pink, and pale blue soft needlecord coats that look like shearling from Chiemsee had embroidered silver snowflakes.

Napaijri's Amundsen inspired collection included cream canvas parkas with real fur collars, natural details like horn buttons and cotton patches, and maps printed inside the linings. The collection had a retro theme, the ultimate being a real sheepskin cagoule with embroidered flags and patches. Other jackets looked ancient but included hi-tech details like powder skirts and Gore-Tex.

Pure wool knitted caps from villawool.com in Finland are designed by Rasmus, skateboarding son of the owner. The peak is worn at the back so the snowboarder's goggles don't steam up. Inside the hat is space material - polycolon by Schoeller - which transfers sweat into the wool.

There is still glamour in Alpine ski wear: the Descente collection was shiny metallic with an 80s look. In its Olympic inspired collection Descente uses negative ions from tourmaline, which is ground into a fine powder and mixed into a coating which is applied to the fabric.

On the crest of a wave
Surf wear is getting to be a major trend, even in winter fashion. Shearling bootees from Merrell are fashion comfort hybrids. Natureform roomy clog types in waxy leather with printed calfskin lining are also for après ski and city wear.

Ice climbing boot by Salomon
Tecnica's moon boots have changed little in the past 30 years, although the new collection includes chiffon overlays. Tecnica's casual collection of T-shoes features exposed seams and full grain leather, two trends seen from many at the show. Après ski shoes from Tecnica, and casual shoes from Vans, both used real cow hair or pony skin.

Running is still adidas' core market. New styles have angled air vents on the side so that more air is pushed into the shoes the faster the runner moves. adidas has extended its "shock" sole system - which looks like a series of springs - right through to the forepart of the new a3 models. This technology is also used for tennis, basketball and fitness training.

Running is an all year round activity, hence the popularity of Nike's ACG Gore-Tex runners with gaiter loops and innovations like Ice-Bug's retractable spike running shoes.

Expert Analysis

Performance Apparel Markets
Performance apparel represents one of the fastest growing sectors of the international textile and clothing industry. Market growth is being fuelled by the emergence of new fibres, new fabrics and innovative process technologies. The market is also being boosted by changes in consumer lifestyles. People are living longer and spending more time on leisure activities. Make sure you take advantage of this fast moving sector by keeping pace with new developments and opportunities. Find out more here.

 

Pearl Izumi introduced running footwear to Europe at ISPO, with five men's models and two women's. The designs are very unusual and minimalist, in lightweight all-over mesh with a contrasting midsole. For winter safety a reflective is laminated onto both the clothing and shoes which are colour co-ordinated. They all have Pearl Izumi's Impact Quotient shock absorbing systems with added shock panels, orthotic footbed and dual density midsole. The pared down upper design allows supreme breathability and ultra light weight.

Ski boots showed innovations too. Fischer's new ski boots worked out from ergonomic principles, so that the feet are in a relaxed natural 'V' position, with toes slightly outwards. This means that the knees are in a straight line and all power goes directly into the skis. The skier's centre of gravity is now exactly over the centre point of the ski.

The next ISPO takes place from 29 June to 1 July 2003, and is combined with a new street, denim and club fashion fair ISPO Vision. For more details visit: www.ispo.com.