During the seasonal menswear shows in Florence and Paris, I regularly go running with a group of fashion buyers, sales agents and designers. We gather early in the morning on either the Ponte Vecchio or in the Jardin des Tuileries and I’m always impressed by how cool all the guys look in their sports kit by a collection of rising niche brands. But they don’t just buy into these brands for sport – they also mix pieces from the collections with daywear.
One of the frontrunners in this pack is Dean Cook, menswear buying manager at Browns, the retailer known for its cutting-edge fashion. “Technical fabric pieces by a select group of sports labels also work as casualwear,” he says. One such label is Satisfy, which makes nylon running shorts (£180) and tees (£115), but whose new season horse-print packable nylon windbreaker (£375) comfortably crosses from sports to daywear. Other A-list performance outerwear for everyday in Browns’ roster includes the Descente Allterrain line, whose padded mountaineer jackets (£365) have a matte finish and shadow-like woven patchwork body, and Norrøna, whose bright zip tops (£119) and Gore-Tex jackets (£599) are streamlined versions of traditional sportswear. Cook also singles out Byborre, whose black and grape-coloured jacket (£505), matching tracksuit bottoms (£410) and hooded vest (£460) come in a cool eight-bit knitted multi-jersey that’s pleasingly matte and dry to the touch. Cook teams the tops and jackets with pieces from fashion labels including Rick Owens, Haider Ackermann, Yohji Yamamoto or Comme des Garçons – and this is exactly the sort of juxtaposition that’s creating a buzz.
Another fellow fashion week runner is Takanori Kasuga, creative director of Arc’teryx Veilance, the Vancouver-based brand at the vanguard of premium performance style. “Our goal this season was to create a collection that allows for seamless transitions between different conditions and settings,” says Kasuga. “Winter involves a barrage of temperature shifts – indoors to outdoors, day to night. This collection is designed to comfortably carry you from one to the next.” Check out the Isogon MX jacket (£530) and Align MX trousers (£320) in double-weave, four-way stretch softshell fabric with breathable weather resistance; the cool, clean-lined bomber jacket (£490) in a robust yet lightweight wool softshell; and the nylon Conduit LT jacket (£530) and vest (£440), which have exceptionally high weight-to-warmth ratios.
Aforementioned top-flight Japanese mountaineering label Descente is carving out a reputation for cool kit. Known for its futuristic black stripped-back aesthetic, the brand is most celebrated for its award-winning Mizusawa Down jackets, including the ultra-lightweight Shuttle (£880) – now also available in muted teal. The Active Shell jacket (£449) in wind/waterproof Dermizax Matte Flex 2.5L nylon is also a key piece.
Another important Japanese brand is relative newcomer And Wander, launched by duo Keita Ikeuchi and Mihoko Mori, both alumni of Issey Miyake. Their love of nature and the mountains inspired them to create outdoor performance clothing with a cool sci-fi tracksuit vibe that works beautifully in urban settings too. Notable are the breathable nylon double ripstop jacket (£790) and bottoms (£140) that are resistant to friction, rips and water; and the breathable and waterproof polyester laminated jacket (£790) with matching trousers (£395). Elegant finishing touches – logo, pockets and fastenings – give And Wander extra edge.
Traditional outdoorwear brands embracing this new mood include The North Face, whose new Apex Flex waterproof and windproof Gore-Tex thermal jacket (£360) in two-tone blue is a cool update of an early 1980s windcheater. And Woolrich, whose new line Outdoor launching in early January takes colour inspiration from the natural world; it too is designed to work in urban environments. A moss‑green padded Pertex nylon jacket (£255) with matching bottoms (£230) and a slight sheen is a case in point. Meanwhile, the check cotton/polyester seersucker shirt (£180) has bona fide performance credentials and a rugged, huntsman American feel. And lastly, Italian premium casualwear brand Napapijri’s Foundation line has introduced a black polyamide hooded jacket (£245), padded vest jacket (£140), and narrow ski-pant-style trousers (£100) that straddle sports style and city chic with ease.
It may not be the first time fashion has been informed by performance outdoor kit, but this new take is keeping the trend on its toes.