It was not so long ago that sports purists would have scoffed at the idea of wearing ski gear from a fashion house rather than by a specialist outfitter. But today fashion designers and luxury brands are increasingly offering serious sporting credibility and a styling upgrade.
At the Ralph Lauren Purple Label show, for example, held at the company’s Milanese palazzo earlier this year, the brand revealed its first skiwear collection, all in colours and fabrics that effortlessly dovetailed into the main line. The insulated Gurnell jacket (£3,745) and matching olive ski pants (£2,895) have hidden stretch-mesh ventilation, rubberised metallic trims and zips worthy of test pilots and, perhaps most reassuringly, feature Recco Rescue System technology that’s designed to help rescue teams locate the wearer under up to 300m of avalanche snow. It was a look of such Top Gun meets piste-savvy style, it would be hard to ask for more, except perhaps an ejector seat.
British designer Neil Barrett, known for combining a modern aesthetic with high-performance materials, has also introduced a small skiwear range. The technical ski jacket (£2,000) comes in black, or black bisected by white articulating bands on the shoulder and elbows in a striking chevron pattern. Ever since a sad, salopette-wearing school ski trip in the 1980s, I have been searching for well-fitting black ski pants – Barrett’s tailored front-pleat pants (£560) with a tuxedo-inspired stripe down their subtly flared leg are a revelation.
If sports brands tend to favour bright colours for their skiwear, fashion designers gravitate more naturally towards black with white. DSquared2, however, adds bold red flashes to its monochrome mix to great retro effect. I particularly like the jumpers (£790) with black, white and red striped sleeves. Lavish fur trims on ski parkas (£1,515) and gloves (£790) complement massive faux-fur trapper hats (£2,850), big enough even for Pharrell Williams. Canadian brothers Dean and Dan Caten – designers at DSquared2 – nod towards their inner lumberjacks with a black and red check belted parka (£1,515), fur-trimmed lumberjack hats (£440) and ski goggles (£204) featuring a maple-leaf motif.
EA7, Emporio Armani’s sports collection, has long featured skiwear; new this year are its Ski Extreme and Ski Elite lines. Ski Extreme is aimed at the more experienced skier, and the Thermore insulation technology used in its super-comfortable jackets (£190) ensures they are lightweight, breathable and waterproof. A strong style statement combined with high-performance capabilities can also be found in Ski Elite, where a black wool jacket with taped seams and faux-leather details (£1,100) looked thoroughly sci-fi fighter pilot on the Milan catwalk teamed with a ski helmet with a visor (£320) and laminated silver trousers (£800).
Applying its playful aesthetic to ski and après-ski gear for the first time is French brand Vilebrequin, which looked to the Atlas Mountains of north Africa for inspiration and came up with the Atlas Snows print featuring snowy mountains, ski lifts and silhouetted palm trees against sky blue or pastel pink. Sky-blue versions of the print appear on a quilted, reversible sleeveless vest (£220) and a round-neck fleece jumper with raglan sleeves (£140), and on the lining of a chic black hooded parka (£540).
Among other labels pursuing the lighter side of ski cool, there is Fendi’s splendid monster-themed collection. Padded jackets (£980) in navy and grey feature fiendish-looking yellow eyes glaring out from the breast pockets. A Sesame Street-reminiscent red monster zip sweatshirt (£410) not only has big dopey monster eyes but also a comic jagged-toothed snarl. If the down monster jacket (£1,800) with the fur-trimmed hood is a little too tame for your taste, it can be livened up with a monster bobble hat (from £315) or a scarf (from £400).
Stefano Ricci’s strongly graphic approach to ski sport, featuring lavishly fur-trimmed jackets (£6,325) and puffa jackets (£2,799) with geometric stitching, is no less striking. And if some of the jumpers (£1,075) in white/blue/navy block designs take me back to that salopette-swaddled trip to Chamonix in the 1980s, it is in super‑luxurious style.
And in an interesting twist to this trend, renowned ski brand Rossignol has just launched Rossignol Apparel – a line aimed at both the slopes and the city, with some refreshing twists on typical ski style. Standout pieces include its Odysseus nautical stripe padded jacket (£799.99) in navy and cream and a snowflake/geometric rollneck knit (£279.99) with matching black balaclava (£99.99).