Technically advanced clothing has not previously been known for its style credentials, but that is changing. And when the streets of Germany are hit with sub-zero temperatures this winter, the fashion-conscious can remain warm, dry and stylish.
Function and fashion
The family-owned Schöffel label is one example of a brand that combines function with fashion. Founded over 200 years ago, it was involved in the early development and manufacture of windproof, waterproof Gore-Tex in the 1980s, and has since become one of the leading names in skiwear and outdoor clothing. Increasingly, however, the label is being spotted off the slopes, worn by city dwellers keen to sport its collection of streamlined and stylish technical apparel. Schöffel’s minimalist, brightly coloured winter jackets are constructed using Ventloft insulation and the company’s own Venturi Stretch laminate, which combines breathability and waterproof and windproof qualities with close-fitting flexibility.
German heritage brand Bogner, founded by Olympic ski jumper Willy Bogner in 1932, remains as popular as ever. Today the brand’s menswear collection combines a distinctive retro aesthetic with cutting-edge functionality. Goose-down jackets take inspiration from the original jacket worn by Germany’s Olympic ski team (Bogner was a sponsor as early as 1936), incorporating striking motifs with reflective panels, a detachable, adjustable hood and water-repellent zips. The snow gaiters may not be necessary during a leisurely stroll around the city, but as temperatures fall you’ll stay cosy.
An emerging genre of men’s apparel is simultaneously performance-enhanced and suited to an urban lifestyle – an offering that cold-water surf brand Finisterre has built its name on. ‘Just because a garment has technical features doesn’t mean it has to look like a technical product,’ explains the company’s marketing manager Natalie Beck. Finisterre, which started out serving the needs of surfers in cold-water regions, now sells its well-edited mix of colour-coordinated merino wool base layers, sweats, technical jackets and socks to a much wider market.
One of the European markets where Finisterre is seeing strongest growth is Germany. While Germany is one of the few countries in the world with a surfable inner-city wave, on the Eisbach river in Munich, it’s not German surf culture that is driving this growth. ‘We have seen an increasing proportion of our customers coming from the big cities,’ explains Beck. ‘This year we’re particularly excited about a new insulation development we’re using within our cold water surfing range. We’ve replaced the recycled polyester filling with British wool insulation. For the same amount of filling you get more warmth, better moisture management, and improved heat retention. You can leave your jacket on a radiator or car engine to warm up before you put it on, and it will retain that warmth, like a wearable hot water bottle.’
Best foot forward
Functional footwear is also becoming increasingly popular in Germany, spearheaded by Vivobarefoot, whose ‘barefoot’ technology means feet can enjoy the benefits of barefoot walking whatever the weather. ‘Germany is one of the four areas in the world that is very receptive,’ explains digital marketing manager Jamie Page. ‘It’s a country of people that seem to really understand what we’re doing, the importance of functional footwear and the benefits of healthy feet.’
The Scott, a key style in Vivobarefoot’s autumn/winter 2015/16 range, is a lightweight, waterproof lace-up boot in soft leather that is ideal for colder climates. ‘We’ve included a range of features for thermal protection, while still allowing the foot to be free to function fully,’ explains Page. The Vivo aesthetic is defined by its pared-down approach. The Ra is a leather Oxford shoe, while the Gobi is a desert boot made from watertight waxed canvas with a thermal layer underfoot. ‘Our entire lifestyle range is designed primarily for everyday wear but we stick to the same principles with all our shoes, so technically you could run marathons in our Oxford lace-ups and desert boots,’ says Page.
Marathon-ready Oxford shoes, Olympic-standard ski jackets and wearable hot water bottles are all part of a blurring of boundaries between fashion and function; a long overdue influx of clothing companies that cater for fashion-conscious urbanites who want to equip themselves for winter’s extremes. Clients, says Beck, are ‘urban-based customers who are active, affluent, and clued-up on good product’. Smart products are being driven by even smarter consumers: function is in fashion.