As the colder months of the year draw near, luxury labels are embracing winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding with capsules and collections dedicated to the snowy athletic pursuits.
Though many maisons have released apparel based around the icy pastimes before, now, they increasingly include more functional wears and wares, with branded sports equipment becoming a norm for these year-end drops. This year, French fashion houses Dior, Balenciaga and Balmain, as well as Italian fashion house Fendi, are among the companies in the luxury space looking to skiwear as an expanding avenue of interest.
“Today’s winter sports market offers excellent brand and business potential for luxury fashion houses,” said Daymon Bruck, chief creative officer at The O Group, New York.
“The growth of the global ski market provides exceptional opportunities for fashion brands to build awareness, create partnerships, develop activations, push technical development, showcase sustainable practices and expand their visual impact and creativity within a classically glamorous activity,” Mr. Bruck said. “Some brands realized this opportunity many years back but even those who are just now showing up to design for winter sports are being supported by an enthusiastic and highly desirable consumer base.”
Several luxury maisons are working their way up the slope with the debut of their new capsules and collections of winter wares.
Balmain is releasing its first-ever ski collection, a part of its overarching women’s winter 2023 capsule. Included in the drop is a selection of coats, ski suits, hats, handbags, shoes and sunglasses, among other luxury clothing assemblage staples; unlike most collections, it also features a set of skis, branching the brand into the sporting gear category. The equipment is produced by Italian winter sports gear brand Bomber Ski, which uses a handmade full-wood core construction on the product outfitted in Balmain’s “PB pattern.”
Balenciaga is doing much of the same as Balmain, but is also including snowboards, ski poles, helmets, balaclavas, ski sneakers with attached chains, boots, backpacks and gloves as a part of its first-ever winter sports line. Cargo pants and parkas feature throughout the drop as well, highlighting functionality over form.
Each item in the collection is said to be aerodynamic, water-repellent and insulated, allowing for a stylish and warm downhill adventure. Another facet is the availability of options for men and women, something not present for each of the other maisons putting out skiwear assemblages this year, as they cater to one gender each, not both.
Balenciaga’s drop is available online now.
Fendi’s collection is exclusive to the menswear side, featuring a ski suit, snowboard, helmet, goggles, coats, sweaters and gloves. Each of the pieces of the set is emblazoned with a stylish Fendi design, melding functionality and style.
The assemblage is up for purchase on the brand’s digital retail platform.
The annual Dior Alps womenswear campaign is back this year with a key change, including goggles, boots and ski suits on top of its usual ready-to-wear and handbag offerings for the winter season. Designed by creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, water-repellent fabrics were used in crafting the items for a more practical, athletic purpose.
“This winter sports category requires a long list of products for fashion brands to develop, on and off the slopes,” said Mr. Bruck.
“Hats, helmets, gloves, scarfs, parkas, sweaters, goggles, glasses, skis and snowboards (not to mention a long list of off-slope items) can each become unique luxury brand expressions, potentially delivering on both form and function, style and performance at the highest levels of craftsmanship,” he said. “With the recent advancements in high-performance fabrics and materials that offer a host of benefits for winter sports (insulation, breathability, weather production, aerodynamic functionality) and in some cases, utilizing sustainability practices
“Fashion houses today can meet or exceed the demands of a discerning luxury consumer.”
Skiing and other alike winter activities are mainstays of luxury, a fact bolstered by recent findings and previous branded releases.
Global real estate consultancy Knight Frank recently reported that the resort market in the Swiss and French Alps is going strong following pandemic-era booms. The firm found that demand is still high despite the surge in popularity subsiding, with ski chalet prices remaining high and the stock of listings remaining low (see story).
While the time of year that skiing and other related activities is short and climate change threatens to make that period even more brief, luxury has increasingly looked to the practice as a sustainable market to indulge.
Last year, Italian fashion brand Gucci worked with German sportswear brand Adidas on a collection suitable for shredding the slopes (see story). Around the same time, Italian fashion brand Prada brought its Linea Rossa line to the Riders Republic video game, a move that united luxury, gaming — a market luxury is increasingly looking to tap into (see story) — and sports under a single umbrella (see story).
German automaker Audi took a different approach earlier this year, renewing its sponsorship of the Ski World Cup through 2026 (see story).
The skiwear and gear market looks to be an apt target for expansion as luxury looks to secure younger audiences as consumers going into the future.
“Even though the winter sports season is short and weather patterns make seasonal snowfall unpredictable, this global market is still an excellent opportunity for brands who wish to build lifestyle connections with an enthusiastic luxury audience who will invest in the finest (both in design and performance) to elevate their favorite winter activities,” said Mr. Bruck.