It’s that freezing time of year again: time for roaring fires, warming egg nog and schussing down slopes on vacation. If it’s Christmas, it must be ski season. Packing for jaunts to Gstaad and Aspen used to require at least two suitcases (one for bulky ski wear; one for presentable après ski ensembles), leaving travellers in a quandary when faced with new airline regulations that dictate one bag per person. However, this is no longer the case. Just in time for the holidays, skiers can finally have their gear and look gorgeous too.
“The separation between sport and fashion is breaking up,” says Peter Kappler, director of Jet Set, a premium ski line stocked in boutiques from Aspen to St Moritz, Gstaad and Zermat. Though brands such as Chanel, Prada and Giorgio Armani have long had successful luxe ski ranges, in past seasons they have been focused more on demonstrating the performance side of their products and less on the clothes’ ability to carry a consumer off the mountain and into a soirée. This autumn, however, runways were packed with ski-slope inspiration, from D&G’s alpine extravaganza of retro snowflake print jumpsuits, sweaters, ski masks and bobble hats to Chanel’s angora sweater dresses (£1,050) and faux fur shaggy Arctic monster boots (£610). Meanwhile, Ralph Lauren’s cosy ski wear and knits are so popular that the brand recently launched standalone stores in St Moritz and Gstaad.
“There used to be a compromise. Now people can buy ski wear that’s warm and fashionable,” says Averyl Oates, buying director at Harvey Nichols, adding, “It’s a great extension [for brands] business-wise, as the starting price points with ski outerwear are so high. Ski jackets retail from £700 upwards.”
The economic incentive works both ways, however. “People want ski wear they can wear in the city or on the slopes,” says Colleen Sherin, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. “They want it to be multipurpose if they’re going to invest.”
Such is certainly the case with Moncler, which launched its new performance ski range, Moncler Grenoble (from £120), at this February’s New York Fashion week. So confident of the collection’s style credentials was the brand that it unveiled the line with a dramatic fashion show presentation of 100 models spot-lit against the Hudson River and sporting a series of futuristic black, fitted, quilted jackets, skirts and treated wool pieces, all designed to be worn as much in the city as on the slopes. “Nowadays nobody would use a 1980s puffy jacket on a slope. Combining performance and style is getting increasingly important,” says Moncler president Remo Ruffini.
“There is definitively more value to a piece if you can wear it not only on the slopes but also on the street,” agrees Jet Set’s Kappler. “People do not want to look too sporty and too high-tech any more: The Jet Set woman wants to look feminine and sexy when she goes to the slopes, not like a member of an expedition to the arctic zone. The man wants to look masculine and cool, and not like a sports teacher.”
This season Loro Piana collaborated with ski wear label KJUS on a capsule ski range of what look simply like chic jackets (€1,100-1,500) but which are made from 100 per cent New Zealand wool treated with a high-tech laminate to make them water resistant, waterproof and breathable. Bally has also launched a après-ski collection, including down jackets, high-heel ice-skate-inspired boots, fluffy hats and shawl collar knits (from £330).
“Slopes continue to develop as fashion catwalks. We are seeing more and more customers building a wardrobe of ski styles,” says Jason Broderick of the Harrods men’s wear and sports department, adding that ski wear-inspired fashion pieces by fashion labels Dior, Moncler, Prada and Fendi are top sellers. (Women’s ski wear by cult label Napapijri, Tecnica Moon Boots and performance ski brand Colmar are new to its department for autumn.)
“It was always so frustrating that you couldn’t get something that would look elegant and sleek but also keep you warm and dry,” relates Katherine Thomas, who launched an eponymous London-based couture women’s ski label two years ago and has seen turnover triple in the past year. For £2,000 upwards, Thomas makes her professional, wealthy clients chic fur-lined ski suits in luxury technical fabrics and treated silks capable of withstanding ski conditions. “We can create whatever they want,” she says. “I’m amazed that it has taken fashion this long to catch on,” says Lee Coleman, managing director of Quintessentially Gifts, a present-giving service which regularly sources ski accoutrements for its clients. “Brands realised sooner with summer clothing. The same people buying designer fashion in the cities are the ones who are skiing in these exclusive resorts.”