How the outdoors affects high fashion


A gold chain link water bottle holder worn by the princesses of Beverly Hills in ignorant. Miuccia Prada, a bow after a fashion show in Teva sandals. A tent decorated with interlocking G’s, yours for just $3,500 on Gucci dot com!

For decades, high-fashion designers have dressed their models in gorpy drag and sent them to the catwalks, wearing items that are sometimes gorgeous (Gucci and The North Face’s retro-floral ski jackets), sometimes silly (Proenza Schouler’s climbing rope-and-jewelry with carabiners in the shop for three figures) and sometimes beautifully crazy (Jacquemus ‘La Montagne’ collection from 2021, which combined small, striped spandex shorts for men with a tennis ball green vest, blue oxford and hiking boots).

For serious climbers or backpackers, the practical, technical clothing that makes up “outdoor fashion” means they stay dry, warm and blister-free during their adventures. For other consumers, this clothing telegraphs luxury, artistry and sexiness.

“Fashion has always had an interest in diving into outdoor gear,” said Jessica Glasscock, an adjunct professor at Parsons School of Design and author of several books on fashion and culture. “It recognizes certain outdoor activities as well as leisure activities as sports, and therefore sees it as a status activity. Fashion is usually interested in having the time and resources to go on an adventure.”

The first high-fashion outdoor design that comes to mind for Glasscock is the so-called safari suit. The lightweight jacket-and-trouser combination that became popular in the mid-20th century was based on European military uniforms worn by British and German troops in warm climates in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Usually made of lightweight fabric and with epaulettes and front pockets, the outfit was sometimes complemented by a rifle and a pith helmet. Affluent Europeans began wearing the suits on “safari” trips to African countries, and the outfit became synonymous with famous men’s adventurers, including Ernest Hemingway.

“The idea of ​​taking a fabric associated with rugged outdoor living, and using it to create something precious… it’s like the bread and butter of fashion.”

A generation later, Glasscock said, the safari suit was updated for women. A famous photo of Yves St. Laurent from 1969 shows the French designer flanked by very groovy-looking it-girls Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise, all three in sexy versions of the khaki suits. Betty combines her lace-up safari mini dress, a silk scarf and belt that hangs over her small hips, and pirate leather thigh-high boots. These outfits are not for camping.

“Fashion likes contradictions, and it likes suspense, and part of that comes from taking signifiers of one thing and putting them in unlikely people or in unlikely places,” said Robin Givhan, senior critic for the Washington Post. “And so the idea of ​​taking a fabric associated with rugged outdoor living, and using it to create something precious… it’s kind of like the bread and butter of fashion.”

Versions of the safari jacket are still popular on the runway and in the mall, although politically savvy brands have abandoned the garment’s colonial roots by calling items “field jackets” and pairing them with jeans instead of pith helmets.

Other iterations of outdoor-influenced fashion aren’t as clear cut. One of the most enduring examples of the aesthetic is Prada’s use of nylon — a durable, unsexy fabric often used by the outdoor industry for everything from running shorts to chalk bags — to create coveted handbags and backpacks, all outfitted with the telltale triangle of the house. logo.

“We’re going to take this concept that’s associated with utility, with utility, with utility, also with this kind of privilege of being able to go out in a certain way,” Glasscock said. “But we’re going to make it a product and we’re going to make it more appealing to an audience that might be into that lifestyle, but also want to talk about themselves as a fashion label person.”

Do people carry these items to camp? It’s hard to say, Givhan says. Maybe in Aspen?

Recently, high-fashion homes, including Jil Sander, have made the influence of outdoor recreation even more explicit by partnering with brands like Arc’teryx, says Adrian Verin, a sports and lifestyle expert at Carlin Creative, a France-based trend agency.

Working together makes sense, as luxury brands draw more inspiration from streetwear, he said. The line between more luxurious clothing and outerwear blurs when fashionable young people combine Patagonia or Arc’teryx with pieces from Louis Vuitton or Balenciaga.

“People who used to wear outerwear or accessories were like nerds, just people who don’t look very stylish,” he said (his French accent made this sound less loud). But “A lot of people are now wearing clothes that you can wear in the city, that you can wear at home, that you can wear outdoors. Something very modular.”

Perhaps the collaboration that has attracted the most attention is Gucci’s collaboration with The North Face. The brand’s first collection (introduced at the end of 2020) was so successful that the two rolled out a second at the end of 2021. In promotional photos for the line (prices averaged in the middle four digits), a model in a pink ski jacket and corset climbs loose gravel on the bank of an Icelandic river, white Lillies in one hand, a black leather Jackie- $3000 handbag in the other.

Do people carry these items to camp? It’s hard to say, Givhan says. Maybe in Aspen? “Every time I’m on the subway, I think I see someone with some sort of industrial gym bag, a backpack, and a big metal water bottle,” she said. “I’m like, where are you going?”

Some people have ruined Gucci and Jil Sander’s collaborations. An online commentator called a huge mud-brown, puffy jacket from Gucci “the Uncle Buck special,” and some (rightly) pointed out that a knee-length Jil Sander ski jacket wasn’t as practical for skiing, thanks to its long length.

“You can’t have a mountain in the background and the subject in the photo doesn’t look incredibly chic.”

But the timing for the collaborations makes sense, Verin said. The two high-profile partnerships kicked off about a year after COVID-19 brought much of the world to a standstill. After all, during a pandemic, health and freedom could be the ultimate luxury.

“I think the new luxury is the ability to get out and move in a safe environment,” he said. “During the lockdown, many people dreamed of going into the mountains or into nature.”

Abigail Tananbeaum, the founder and creator of the outdoor clothing brand MATEK, which makes cozy base layers and balaclavas for men, women and children, said that aesthetic telegraphy not only makes leisure but also competence and expertise.

And as anyone who’s admired the elegant way a lightweight rain jacket can be folded into a small pocket, or marveled at how a hiking boot holds back an icy stream of satiating wool socks, knows… that outdoor gear just comes in handy. “That’s why I wanted to make a turtleneck sweater that doesn’t have to stay in my ski wear closet, but in my regular closet,” she said. “’I’m definitely inspired by both [fashion and function], but certainly the function of outdoor equipment is the most important. I think it almost has a good influence on fashion, if it gets a little more functional.”

The beauty of nature is automatically grafted onto outerwear by association, Tananbeaum said. Wearing a ski jacket, even if you’re just traveling by train, imagine yourself standing atop a mountain ski lift, ready to run down a hill covered in crisp snow and dark green spruce. “You can’t have a mountain in the background and the subject in the photo doesn’t look incredibly chic,” she said. ‘I don’t even know if I answered your question, I’m sorry! I’m just in Colorado looking at a mountain, so I’m a little distracted.”

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