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Main Image: Courtesy Fusalp

Why Ski Season Is Big Business For Luxury

The Northern Hemisphere is in ski season, now a growing opportunity for luxury brands and retailers.

As more and more fashion-conscious consumers are taking to the slopes each year, the skiwear sector is undergoing a massive surge in growth. It is now big business: a 2019 report by retail analytics firm Edited shows skiwear sales contributed a substantial USD$11.3 billion to the US economy last year, while the market is currently worth GBP£3 billion in the UK.

Increasing consumer demand calls for high-performance options that don’t compromise on style. Thus brands and retailers who aren’t well versed in the world of skiing have been dipping their toes into the category in recent years; heritage outdoor specialists have realigned their style offering for the modern sophisticated consumer. ORDRE takes a look at field leaders and what’s selling in the sector.

  • Fusalp AW'19. Images courtesy.

Luxury Prevails

Despite affordable fashion brands expanding into ski apparel, the category is largely dominated by luxury: Edited suggests luxury skiwear lifted a staggering 260 percent in the US from October 2018, and some of the biggest names are taking charge.

Following in the footsteps of Fendi, which debuted its ski line in 2016, Chanel launched Coco Neige in July 2018, its first dedicated winter sportswear line. For AW’18, French furrier Yves Salomon tapped into the après-ski market with a line of casual snow boots in collaboration with Moon Boot, while Louis Vuitton has enlarged its ski accessory offerings in recent years including functional fibreglass skis and ski goggles.

Retailers Make Their Mark

With luxury brands increasingly leveraging the skiwear trend, its counterpart retailers are inevitably following suit: in 2014 Net-a-Porter launched its activewear sister site Net-a-Sporter, including an in-house après-ski collection, while its main e-commerce boutique features skiwear from brands like Fendi, Pucci and Perfect Moment. MatchesFashion’s ski edit includes technical skiwear, après-ski and accessories, while Harrods online site features skiwear for women, men and kids.

Online retailers and department stores are not the only ones wading into the snow: Specialist boutiques dedicated to holiday wear are becoming progressively popular across the globe such as Koibird in London, which changes its label edit according to season, and Gorsuch, Aspen’s leading destination for luxury ski apparel.

Technical Brands Up Their Offering

Premium outdoor specialist brands like Moncler and Canada Goose are also commanding this space, with the advantage of having technical expertise and more accessible price points than their luxury competitors. Over the past decade, Patagonia reported quadrupling sales, while North Face’s US revenue grew 15 percent for the first quarter of 2018.

These brands have witnessed commercial success by striking a balance between utility, style and authenticity, often including clever functional features like water-repellency, windproofing, and pit zips to release heat.

Retro Reigns

So which styles are selling? Edited suggests that ‘80s nostalgia is making a comeback, with significant interest in retro and vintage designs as well as bold colours. Additionally, a preference for women’s onesies is on the rise, with sales doubling year on year in the UK.

Lifestyle performance brand Perfect Moment is winning over A-list stars like Nicky Hilton and Michelle Williams with its block coloured one-piece suits adorned with graphic star and arrow motifs. Idaho-based Cordova is another brand offering a fresh spin on classic ski staples with vibrant puffer jackets and tailored ski bodysuits in bubble gum pink, lemon and fire engine red.

Back to Basics

Yet black remains a key colour for the sector, with many consumers opting for the shade for its polished and timeless look: according to Edited, last year it made up 34 percent of new women’s skiwear arrivals in the UK and 32 percent in the US.

French ski authority Fusalp is one such label finding success with its elegant and unfussy fitted silhouettes in a range of classic dark colours, while heritage Austrian brand Toni Sailer is leading the trend with its clean sophisticated pieces, often including accents of contrasting colour on sleeves and hems.

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