The race to make the best warmest winter clothes

Last year, Burberry and Chanel announced they would no longer sell merchandise with fur. They followed brands like Gucci, Michael Kors, and Jimmy Choo (which is owned by Michael Kors), which all phased out fur from their collections last year. The city of Los Angeles also just banned the sale of fur.

Scheinfeld says Canada Goose Outlet is open to the idea of alternative materials to fur and is exploring new options.

“Fur is a crucial element at the highest level of warmth, and no other fake version can currently function like it,” she says. “That being said, it’s for extreme environments, and there are alternative solutions.”

Down feathers, on the other hand, are another story. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has waged war against brands like Canada Goose, publishing investigations on animal cruelty (which the company denies) and buying billboards near the brand’s stores in New York and Chicago to persuade customers to stop buying down coats. But purists in the winter apparel industry say there’s no getting around the use of down in premium products.

“We’ve looked into synthetic fabrics that say they are as authentic and as warm as down, and they just aren’t,” says Berkowitz, of Norwegian Wool. “The truth is that the alternatives don’t have the same results. Synthetic down doesn’t have the same effects in the form of insulation. When we are selling a premium product, we’re not going to compromise because we want to give the customer the warmest option out there.”

But some companies are choosing to invest in new materials and abandon feathers altogether. Fortress, a Utah-based winter brand that promises to keep customers warm as they are “working in the oil fields in North Dakota in the dead of winter, paragliding in November in Utah,” has ditched down-filled puffy coats. Instead, it’s invented its own insulation material it calls Aeris, which is a polymer foam that the company says is just as warm as down but can also get wet.

It’s similar to Arc’teryx, the technical outerwear company long favored by outdoors enthusiasts, which sells shelled jackets made with Gore-Tex, a fabric company specializing in warm and waterproof materials. Huckberry, an outdoor gear startup company, is also betting on down alternatives, and is selling “Scandinavian” outerwear made of waterproof and windproof polyester.

Canada Goose has developed its own warmth scale, the Thermal Experience Index, which has five levels. Canada Goose

Even the North Face, a VF Corporation-owned giant in the winter apparel space that makes $12 billion a year, seems to be stepping up its portfolio to compete with Canada Goose and Moncler. It’s spent the past two years developing a new material, FutureLight, which it unveiled at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The new fabric is light, waterproof, and, most importantly, unprecedentedly warm. The North Face promises it “will redefine the future of technical outerwear” when it debuts the material this fall in pants, coats, and gloves.

Then, of course, there’s Heattech, the best-selling warming material from the Japanese company Uniqlo. Since Uniqlo debuted its rayon heat retention textile fabric in 2003, Heattech has developed a cult-like status — no down or feathers necessary, and certainly no price tag like Moncler or Canada Goose. Uniqlo makes Heattech underwear, sweaters, leggings, hats, and jeans and has sold more than 1 billion Heattech items, which shoppers flock to because most products are under $15.

Some of the technological innovation isn’t fabric-based: This past November, the clothing startup Ministry of Supply debuted the Mercury intelligent coat, which it claims is the “first intelligent heated jacket,” for $495. The winter coat has a battery that powers a smart thermostat, which reacts to the wearer’s body and environment, giving up to 10 watts of heat.

Ministry of Supply believes its smart coat is necessary for when “you’re commuting, walking the dog, or taking that vacation to the North Pole.”

Why we’re all in quilted cheap Moncler jackets

Fashion blogger Lisa Hahnbück wearing a black quilted jacket by Moncler, one of the brands most responsible for popularising the trend.

They used to be reserved for ski slopes and the school playground but now the quilted coats originally known as Puffa jackets have been embraced by the masses. In 2018 the search engine Lyst, which features 12,000 brands and retailers, reported a 59% year-on-year rise in searches for them, declaring them a global bestseller.

Their popularity chimes with the rise in sportswear and “normcore” – the trend that sees designers mining everyday items to drench high fashion in irony. Where once hiking boots were functional footwear and anoraks were most commonly associated with trainspotting, thanks to big-name brands such as Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton, they are now two of the trendiest items to own.

With quilted coats, the reason for increased sales lies largely at the door of Italian brand Moncler, which has redoubled its efforts at making the aesthetic relevant to a new generation through a series of high-profile collaborations.

Last February, Moncler launched its Genius project, for which a group of the world’s most influential designers – including Simone Rocha, Craig Green and Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli – created capsule collections blending their style with the technical expertise of the brand.

Aimed at targeting a growing appetite for newness from global consumers who increasingly – and impatiently – absorb trends through social media, each collection became available in highly publicised monthly “drops”, rather than being traditional seasonal offerings.

Fashion blogger Vanessa Hong in another Moncler jacket.

Last week, the brand announced that, for its third season, returning designers would be joined by two of fashion’s most talked-about creators: the Kanye West protege and Dior Menswear collaborator Matthew Williams of Alyx, and Richard Quinn, who last year was presented with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth award for design at his London Fashion Week show by the monarch herself.

“When talking to customers in a digital world, brands need something unique and strong, and you need to talk to them every day. This monthly strategy is a strong opportunity to change the model of luxury companies like Moncler outlet online,” says chief executive and chairman Remo Ruffini who joined the company in 2003. “These days the mood, the attitude and the energy are more important than the product for me, and perception is much more important than everything … If you are able to mix product and energy, I think that’s a modern company today.”

Ruffini’s strategy of raising the profile of the quilted jacket brand has proven successful so far.

Last year, Moncler’s UK online traffic rose more than 50% each month following the Genius launch, while in the first nine months of the year total sales were up 23%, reaching €872.7m (£674.2m).In turn, one of its largest retailers, Matchesfashion.com, says that it has “seen strong client engagement with the designer collaborations, which has had a positive halo effect across the rest of the Moncler collection,” according to head of womenswear buying Liane Wiggins.

“Moncler is ahead of the game with its motto of ‘one house, different voices’,” says Quinn. “It’s the opposite of one person dictating how things should be done – the modern world is different and there’s a need to work with and support each other.”

Now the trend is trickling down to the high street, where prices are considerably more accessible than Moncler’s £500-plus. Zara, for example, has no fewer than 100 new-season styles across its men’s and womenswear collections from £29.99. It informs customers that they are “ideal for a sporty look and provide extra warmth, while lightweight pieces take up almost no space”. It also points out that that they are “ideal for travelling” – whether on the slopes, or, as is now normal, on a mild daily commute.

Chinese Tourists Flock to Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Prada store in the Fashion Outlets of Chicago.

Affluent Chinese shoppers are well-known for their ability to sniff out good bargains. When they travel to foreign countries, some of their favorite destinations include outlet malls in suburban areas that offer discounted luxury goods.

In recent years, the global outlet mall industry has aggressively sought to grab a slice of this lucrative Chinese shopping segment. Macerich’s Fashion Outlets of Chicago is home to a group of world-class luxury brands like Prada, Gucci, Tory Burch, Moncler, and Michael Kors—all of which are sought-after brands for Chinese luxury consumers.

With a mix of strategies involving social media outreach and experiential marketing through customer service, the Fashion Outlets of Chicago showcases many certifiable methods malls should use to court Chinese luxury shoppers during their visits to the States. So what exactly can other malls learn?

Get on Chinese travelers’ itinerary first

The planning for Chinese shopping junkets begins long before consumers leave China. That’s why, for outlet malls, it’s an absolute must to build a reputation within China and get on the radar of Chinese consumers while they’re planning their itineraries. Because of this reality, Fashion Outlets of Chicago chose to develop a comprehensive digital and social media outreach strategy. The company maintains active Weibo and WeChat accounts so it can regularly release sales and product information while driving awareness to digital-savvy Chinese consumers. It uses WeChat, specifically, to reach the local Chinese communities, keeping them continually informed about what’s available at the shopping center.

ollaborate with key players

Fashion Outlets of Chicago also makes sure to work with their large, local tourism publications and tourism boards to further promote themselves on those social media channels. For example, the Chicago Tourism Bureau’s official account on Weibo—with over 546,000 followers—posts about the Fashion Outlet and their sales offerings regularly.

Meanwhile, the outlet has worked closely with a marketing agency specifically to target Chinese visitors by connecting to local colleges, tour guides, and various other stakeholders. A great example of this is the Fashion Outlets of Chicago’s strategic partnership with Chicago-area universities, which welcomes new Chinese students by offering them welcome packets and access to shopping shuttles between their universities and the shopping center.

Offer a unique and culturally-engaging shopping experience

The mall provides Chinese travelers with an especially artful shopping environment—one that differentiates itself from rival outlet stores. Since 2013, the Fashion Outlets of Chicago has unveiled a collection of curated, site-specific artworks throughout the shopping center to create a memorable shopping environment for tourists. Some featured art pieces include Daniel Arsham’s falling figure relief situated within the car park and Jen Stark’s psychedelic mural which delights visitors as they enter and exit the space.

In 2016, Fashion Outlets of Chicago decided to further its art initiatives by launching an art program that allows visitors to access and enjoy contemporary artworks on display by both established emerging artists. The suitable theme of this program is: “Where art meets fashion.”

Targeting the Chinese luxury traveler demographic with contemporary art is smart because those consumers have become much more attuned to the art of living artists recently, and they’re generally excited by retailers that offer them unique and immersive experiences.

Make Chinese travelers feel at home

The last step is to provide world-class service to Chinese travelers and make their shopping experience as comfortable as possible. Fashion Outlets of Chicago achieves this by offering in-store signage in Mandarin and by providing in-store Mandarin translation services. At the center’s Concierge Services, Chinese consumers with valid passports can receive a free seven-day trial of the mall’s savings pass (which offers up to $800 in savings). On some Chinese holidays, such as the Chinese Lunar New Year, the mall hosts performances, activities, and games for Chinese travelers and gives away red envelopes—a New Year’s tradition that spreads good luck.

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