Peached surface fabrics ― ultra lightweight but with high performance ― play a key role in the latest O'Neill range of specialty sportswear for snowboarding enthusiasts. Just launched into the UK market, the collection will be distributed by the Tyne and Wear based company, Sand City Ltd, a member of the Blacks Leisure Group, drawing stock from the Netherlands where O'Neill has its European headquarters.

"Snowboarding is the fastest growing winter leisure activity and far from being the poor relation fashion-wise, it is now setting the styling trends for mainstream ski wear too," says Sand City, which claims that next winter will see the return of the snowskirt and jackets making particular use of both high denier 5000mm microfiber manmade fabrics, and enzyme treated canvas. "Within the section of the range that will be marketed as the Boardcore Tech collection and targeted at truly serious snowboarding enthusiasts, special attention has been paid to retaining breathability in those fabrics which have been rendered windproof or water repellent."

Meanwhile, the companion Natural Riders range, though designed primarily for the snowboarding fraternity, is expected to sell equally well to lovers of many other types of year-round outdoor activities. It makes widespread use of natural fibers especially in the field of knitwear.

"Indeed in O'Neill knitwear the stress is very much on 100 per cent wool which has been selected for its soft handle and in-wear comfort," says Sand City. "Most knitwear items, however, have the added protection of a techno fleece lining," it adds.

Important to each of the ranges are details that help to improve the garments' functional efficiency, including pocket linings made from Lycra, which is also used to ensure the snug fit of cuffs, while snowboarding trousers are cut with plenty of room for movement and have cleverly placed knee darts. Toggle fastened elastic drawstrings and decorative rubber badges are other finishing touches that help to give the collection its distinctive character.

In the women's wear range, which will be marketed as a capsule "Boardbabes" collection, widespread use has been made of both faux fur trimmings and asymmetric panels in bright fluorescent colors which contrast with the white or grey shades generally selected for the main body of the garment.

Meanwhile, in the children's wear collection, the Adrenaline series of garments is targeted particularly at bordercross and BMX bike riders rather than snowboarders. Bright primary colors set the youthful mood of the range, while gel and silicone logos allied to cleverly designed graphics help to create an illusion of added speed when the wearer is on the move. The range offers items for both boys and girls.

The total look is completed with a full range of fashion and function accessories, including footwear which will be promoted from September by a nationwide £l50,000 advertising campaign using hoardings and ad-shel poster sites. Two styles will be particularly featured ― a classic and a modern hi-tech trainer with a zipped front fastening and ankle sock grip.

Tipped as a UK winner is the Cruise shoe which its creators describe as bridging the gap between conventional leisure footwear and the "ubiquitous trainer." The Cruise has uppers made from a combination of nylon fabric and suede leather with a molded sole and tennis ball-style swerve stitching on the tongue, which also bears the O'Neill logo.

The O'Neill collection takes its name from the now legendary Jack O'Neill whose buccaneer-like eye-patched image still adorns the covers of the company's catalogues. Jack is the man generally credited with spotting the potential of translating the professional diver's rubberized wet suit into a tool for the amateur water sports enthusiast, which made it especially useful in temperatures lower than the American west coast or the Australian beaches.

This was the marketing reasoning which took O'Neill into Europe in the early l970s. But though the surfing market remained ― and still remains ― buoyant there was always a feeling among the brand leaders that saturation point might soon be at hand, due to the limited time span of the European season. It made sense to seek a counterbalance that would hit peak in the winter months.

And in the newly emergent sport of snowboarding O'Neill felt it had the answer. "What we hadn't bargained for was that garments and accessories specifically designed for boarders would become cult buys within the general leisure wear market, which is where we are now," says JSI Holland, since the mid 70s the European arm of the O'Neill organization. It adds that a recent independent survey of the key distribution channels for the O'Neill range showed that 37 per cent of buyers operated specialist surf and snowboarding outlets, a further 26 per cent came from the general sports trade sector, but remainder came from department stores and independent fashion boutiques.