The Best Streetwear-Influenced Lines from Outdoor Brands
It’s assumed that, among the outdoor market, the typical consumer is someone middle-aged who hikes, goes camping, or partakes in similar activities, like kayaking or mountaineering. Statistically, this isn’t far off the mark, but over the past few years, younger, urban consumers have started throwing on Patagonia parkas and wearing The North Face’s moisture-wicking garments. Gorpcore’s rise, fuelled by streetwear icons sporting key outdoor pieces in the city, could be behind the shift. Thus, beyond the usual neutral-coloured performance offerings, collaborations bring streetwear brands into the fold – Columbia with Kith’s Ronnie Fieg, and The North Face x Supreme for starters – and high-end fashion has attempted its own take on gorpcore – think Balenciaga, Prada, and Louis Vuitton adding puffers, anoraks, and rain coats to SS18 runway presentations. While most of these efforts are one-off projects, a few outdoor-originating brands have already introduced streetwear offshoots. We round up some of the strongest offerings:
The North Face Purple Label
The North Face formed the template for struggling outdoor brands to reinvent themselves. Now one of the world’s top outdoor retailers, The North Face started as a strictly outdoor brand – think hiking, backpacking, and camping – in 1966, but in an effort to diversify its customer base, it simultaneously alienated its core group and grew a reputation as a “basic” brand in the early 2000s. As a way to recover, TNF stepped away from the middle of the road, and the result now encompasses serious outdoor pieces and more streetwear-leaning ones. Purple Label, sold only in Japan but sought-after across the world, started capitalising off the brand’s heritage in 2003, and has since created two offshoots – White Label in South Korea and Black Label in Europe. Beyond just the heritage, occasionally vintage aesthetic, Purple Label might be the paradigm of a gorpcore fusion. On the surface, baggy silhouettes, workwear-influenced designs, sweatpants, and anoraks look good in the city – that’s essentially the line’s primary intention – and perform like you’re up on the trails, with waterproof, breathable, and other key treatments added.
Many associate Arc’teryx with some degree of technical apparel – perhaps hiking, definitely climbing, and even tactical, if you’ve worked in the field. Yet, the climbing-originating brand, which expanded to apparel later, suffered from the same conundrum that The North Face did: Its technical pieces perform well, but look seriously out of place in an urban environment. Enter Veilance, which, at face value, might seem like a compromise, until you see how high its garments are priced. Arc’teryx’s team steered Veilance with a luxury outlook from the beginning, introducing only a handful of high-quality pieces in 2009 and slowly expanding the collection since. Its fusion, however, pulls from extremes: Technical features you might find on a jacket designed for summiting Mt. Everest, with a classic menswear look – down to the neutral, muted tones and structured cuts – and off-the-runway price tag. The result is the definition of unassuming, and likely because of the lack of press, word-of-mouth has fuelled much of its selective popularity.
Features found in outdoor apparel and workwear frequently overlap, from lugged outsoles to waterproof and stain-resistant treatments. The former, for packability, leans toward the lighter; the latter often uses cotton duck or a similarly heavyweight material to withstand everyday rigors. Carhartt, long strictly an American-based workwear brand, found its footing overseas in the burgeoning streetwear market, when Edwin and Salomée Faeh started selling the brand’s original styles across Europe. Getting featured in 1995 film La Haine added another boost to its profile. Work in Progress, or WIP, grew out of this, maintaining a similar amalgamation: Rugged, technical construction with more youthful, streetwear-influenced silhouettes. But, beyond the Cordura and water-repellent fabrics lies a true streetwear strategy: Lots of collaborations – A.P.C., Burton, Vans, and many others – and a long-standing, photography-driven magazine to maintain both its urban image and exclusiveness.
Within the outdoor apparel market, two types of brands dominate: The strictly technical ones, like your Arc’teryx or even your TNF, and the lifestyle ones, designed primarily for camping, travel, and other leisure activities, with the occasional technical piece thrown in. Yet, while the lightweight, often organic fabrics might seem conceptually appealing, the styles often look like wallpaper: Beige, faded navy, or tan, with a light print added on occasion. While Canadian brand Muttonhead adds some tech features, including water and wind-resistant treatments, its unisex designs veer more in that lifestyle direction – they call it a “cottage wardrobe” –blending in some streetwear and workwear influences for style that doesn’t stick out in the city. Lighter-weight, packable designs make their pieces ideal for short excursions, whether that’s a weekend camping trip or a full-fledged vacation.
Is Canada Goose actually a streetwear brand? Not really. It’s more like Carhartt without the WIP offshoot: A long-standing, technical line that’s built a strong following within the streetwear and hip-hop communities. Although garments like the Expedition and Skreslet Parkas, designed for Antarctica and Mt. Everest, respectively, place Canada Goose clearly in “extreme” outdoor territory, most recognise the brand from its October’s Very Own, or OVO, collaborations. Knitwear and some lighter-weight styles have since expanded its offerings, but the designs Drake’s label has conceptualised over the past seven years truly make it a status symbol – anything from pink satin or gold reflective taping to AW17’s internal backpack straps. Of course, like lots of record label-run lines, OVO brands its Canada Goose jackets inside and out.
For those of a certain age, Karrimor brings to mind innovative hiking packs. If you’re younger, on the other hand, you associate it with Sports Direct’s discount portfolio of semi-recognisable brands ranging from No Fear and Muddy Fox to Gelert. In either case, street style and Karrimor’s products just aren’t in the same circles. Yet, much like TNF’s Purple Label, Karrimor has its own fashion-forward yet heritage-leaning arm in Japan – one simply called Karrimor Japan. Conceptually, designs repurpose or rework Karrimor’s classic styles for a modern audience yet are cut like streetwear garments. In the process, materials like wind-resistant Pertex® and Supplex® nylon add a technical element or two to puffers, shell jackets, work jackets, and even bum bags. As well, collaborations with the occasional designer like Junya Watanabe – specifically, a jacket made out of deconstructed hiking packs – allow Karrimor Japan to distance itself from its parent company’s bargain-bin status.