Outdoor brands are increasingly blurring the lines between performance and fashion.

North Face and Canada Goose, for example, have progressed from products purely created for outdoor use to global lifestyle brands that are worn for every occasion. This reached new heights earlier in the year as Prada, Balenciaga and Givenchy sent models down the runway wearing bum bags and rain macs. ‘Gorp-core’ is the term used by the fashion set to describe the style of dressing in outdoor items traditionally classed as unstylish and functional.

Younger, urban consumers have been attributed as the catalyst behind the demand for more style-led outdoor products that can be worn both in the city and the mountains. This consumer is very active, with a high participation in outdoor activities and sports such as triathlons, skiing and hiking. They demand products which display strong technical attributes alongside style, and are happy to pay more for brands that intersect the two.

Many brands have already been successful in bridging the gap between performance outdoor wear and everyday wear, and it is not unusual to see city workers in London with a Rab jacket or Lowe Alpine rucksack. Whilst many operators may shy away from the fashion extremes, there are still opportunities for outdoor brands to capitalise on the fashion lifestyle trend to drive sales and reach new markets.

So, how can operators take advantage of the trend?

Keep your outdoor credentials
The best brands stick to what they know whilst adding a stylish twist. Arc’teryx have recently launchedVeilance, a premium range which combines clean designs with the latest technical innovations. The range is clearly targeted at urban, affluent consumers and even includes items such as blazers, shirts and wallets.

Reach new consumers
Whilst traditionally outdoor brands have focused on channelling sales via specialist outdoor retailers, some have started to sell through fashion retailers to reach new consumers who have different needs. For example, Patagonia is sold at Urban Outfitters and winter boot brand Sorel is available on net-a-porter.com, as well as specialists such as Snow+Rock.

Make your brand cool
On top of this, brands need to be perceived as ‘cool’ by consumers to increase demand and appeal. American brand Poler was launched in 2011, with the aim of appealing to younger modern consumers who had become disengaged with traditional outdoor brands. By using fun prints and logos, alongside modern, inclusive campaign imagery and design collaborations, it is often seen as a new breed of cool, indie outdoor brands bridging the gap between outdoor and fashion markets.

As the demands of outdoor apparel consumers change, the combination of style and performance will become an ever-important selling point for brands. If the rise of athleisure is used as a parity, we expect the outdoor market could be transformed over the next few years, and brands that change their propositions will capitalise on the opportunities that arise.

Caroline Pollard