The Outdoor Fashion Brands Making Practical Clothing Cool
Fashion has become entwined with outdoors attire in recent years, leading to a surge in popularity of brands who have refined their offering with slick technical garments that look as good as they perform.
Outdoor brands have blown up. Everywhere you look, labels that were once the sole preserve of skiers, climbers and hikers now have swanky flagship stores in every major capital. Luxury fashion houses, too, are getting in on the action, with rugged diffusion lines or brilliantly executed collaborations. Then there’s the new breed of outdoors brands, lacking in heritage but overflowing with fabric innovation and technology.
Even as more and more of the world’s populace flock to cities, it seems that our dual appetite for looking good and adventure is not abating. Certainly, the rise of streetwear has had a massive influence, and it was only natural that tech-savvy outdoors brands would try and move into that space.
Now, we’ve got an embarrassment of stylish riches to pepper our wardrobes with, and it’s not lacking in substance either. We’ve curated some of the best brands producing high-performance style that you can wear on the streets to the slopes via the outback.
Few brands have created more hype and momentum for techwear than German minimalist Acronym, and all without any marketing whatsoever. Founded as a boutique design agency in 1994 with Michaela Sachenbacher, Acronym produced white label garments for other brands before launching its own range.
Thanks to its uncompromising futuristic approach to fabric innovation, designer Errolson Hugh has earned the brand cult status among streetwear fans. The level of detail and functionality is frankly insane, but if you don’t believe us, just check out the product descriptions on its website and you’ll soon understand.
The North Face
The North Face has been a pioneer of the modern outerwear movement, bringing high-performance technical clothing out from the cold and onto the streets with a number of iconic designs like the Nuptse, Denali and Mountain jackets.
Climbing was its genesis, but it’s now a fully-fledged fashion label. That has not taken away from the brand’s technical expertise and innovation however. Its insulated jackets, down parkas and fleece jackets are still as sought-after as they ever were, now made with recycled fabrics or proprietary textiles.
If your wardrobe has a more sartorial leaning than, say, contemporary streetwear, then Italian brand Herno will have the luxury outerwear you’re looking for. Inspired by tailored silhouettes, Herno produces beautifully-made, ultra-lightweight down-filled jackets, gilets and everything in between.
‘La Giacca’ is probably the style it’s best known for: a tailored blazer reimagined as a puffer jacket, ideal for smart city types who want functional outerwear without losing their sophisticated edge.
Headquartered in North Vancouver, Canadian outdoor specialist Arc’teryx has passed through many different owners since it was founded in 1989, but thankfully none of them have diluted the core goal of producing high-performance winter coats and jackets.
Its urban-focused Veilance arm has been a driving force in the streetwear scene since it was introduced in 2009, while its other LEAF division is the trusted supplier of law enforcement and armed forces across the globe.
Expect to find a wealth of fashion-forward outwear silhouettes crafted using the most advanced fabric technology on the market. Whether you’re skiing, rock climbing, hiking or trail running, an Arc’teryx jacket will always have your back, figuratively and literally.
Founded in 1957 by Canadian Sam Tick, Canada Goose has grown into a gargantuan publicly listed company, growing turnover from $3m in 2001 to $200m in 2014. Its success shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has tried on a Canada Goose jacket, most notably the Expedition parkas.
Now modern classics, they were originally developed for scientists working in McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and are currently worn by the members of the National Science Foundation division of Polar Research. So rest assured they can cope with your winter commute.
Puffers, parkas, bombers, gilets… whatever your outerwear predilection, you can’t go wrong here.
These days, many brands are quick to tout their eco and sustainability credentials, but we can’t help but feel a lot of it is a marketing ploy to get a new generation of woke consumers to buy their wares. No so with Patagonia.
The pioneering outdoors brand has been in Mother Nature’s corner since day one. So much so that founder Yvon Chouinard put his money where his mouth is and transferred ownership of the company – worth a reported $3bn – to a specially designed trust and non-profit organisation setup to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe.
But aside from the unquestionable ethics, Patagonia’s apparel is some of the best and most sought-after in the industry. Whether you’re after a rugged flannel shirt that will take a beating, an on-trend fleece to flaunt your fashion credentials or high-performance outerwear to keep you warm on the chilliest of days, each and every garment is crafted from the highest quality sustainable fabrics and designed to last. Should it not, the brand will even repair it for you.
It’s the type of clothing that can (and should) be passed down through generations, benefiting the environment and your bank balance.
Founded in 1932 in Portland, Oregon, Danner is an American bootmaker with real heritage. Founder Charles Danner’s original aim was to make the most durable, capable logging boots in the country. And generations of Pacific Northwest loggers will testify he did just that.
Today, the brand continues to specialise in high-quality work boots and hikers, as well as a few contemporary hybrid styles that straddle both categories, the majority of which are still handmade in the USA.
Its Mountain Light and Danner Light models are certified menswear icons, offering rugged aesthetics combine with unparalleled functionality – the type of footwear you lace up if you’re intending to put in some hard yards outdoors. As the brand itself puts it, “You don’t put on a pair of Danner boots to sit around the house”. Amen to that.
Add another Japanese brand to the roster of outdoors fashion specialists: this one’s called ‘and wander’ and was launched in 2011 by Keita Ikeuchi and Mihoko Mori, two designers who worked together at Issey Miyake.
A love of nature and the practical demands of living in it inform the highly technical collections, which are packed full of ultralight fabrics and minimalist silhouettes.
Established in 1897, Filson is a leading manufacturer of clothing for outdoor enthusiasts and manual labourers. Built upon a reputation for reliability, the Seattle-based brand has become a go to for everyone from loggers, miners and ranchers to those who simply refuse to stay indoors.
The US brand’s apparel is as durable and rugged as it gets. Designed to stand up to the harshest of conditions, it doesn’t matter whether its one of its acclaimed Mackinaw Wool jackets, a heavyweight flannel shirt or a Ripstop Nylon weekender bag, you’re assured quality and longevity as well as an authenticity that’s often missing from contemporary outdoor labels.
French-founded, Italian fashion brand Moncler is recognisable all over the world, but especially in high-end ski resorts where you’ll undoubtedly find a concentration of its iconic puffer jackets, crafted in a multitude of styles and fabrics, including high-shine nylon laqué and recycled ripstop.
Yes, you pay a premium for that little emblem on the chest and sleeve, but in truth the build quality is exceptional and the style cachet undeniable.
This super-minimalist Japanese outfit was launched in 2002 as an outdoors spin-off of the Descente label. Revered in its homeland, and championed by those in the know everywhere else, the brand’s slick aesthetic is clean, pared back and full of technical fabric innovation.
Able to be worn in the city as much as the mountains, its functional knitwear, FusionKnit trousers and iconic Mizusawa down jackets are a worthy addition to any modern wardrobe.
Hailing from the town of Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, Fjällräven is no stranger to the great outdoors. Translating to ‘arctic fox’ in Swedish, the Scandinavian brand has been producing hard-wearing kit designed to cope with its treacherous northern climate, and look good doing so, since 1960.
The label made its name thanks to its reverred Kånken rucksack, which has become a regular sighting on the backs of hikers and hipsters alike. Now offering a complete range of outdoor apparel, running the full gamut from flannel shirts and fleece jackets to shell trousers and base layers, each piece is timeless in appearance and crafted from sustainable materials, to limit the impact on the environment that its spirit animal still inhabits.
Canadians know a thing or two about dealing with extreme winters. So it should come as no surprise that Montreal-based Moose Knuckles produces some of the very best cold-climate coats in the game.
Although the company was only launched in 2009, founders Mark Peros and Will Poho’s families have been producing outdoor attire to protect Canada natives since 1921. Taking this time-tested knowledge of technical fabrics and manufacturing techniques and applying it to fashion-forward designs, Moose Knuckles is synonymous with high-performance outerwear that has a directional edge.
Quality hasn’t been sacrificed for aesthetics, though. The craftsmanship is second to none, with over 90 skilled technicians involved in the process of making each coat. Meanwhile, resilient steel is used for zips and hardware and its down fillings are made with ethically-sourced goose feathers that ensures warmth in temperatures as low as -40ºC.
If you regularly find yourself battling sub-zero conditions, Moose Knuckles is for you.
With the Norwegian flag taking pride of place on all of its garments, and a Scandi-sounding name, you’d be forgiven for thinking Napapijri was a Nordic brand. But it was actually founded in Italy, in 1987, starting life as a manufacturer of hardy travel bags designed for intrepid explorers and those who took the beaten path. Those same bags are now considered modern-day icons, able to withstand even the most demanding conditions, whether it’s backcountry skiing or scaling a mountain.
However, to our mind, the garment which epitomises what the brand is all about is the popover anorak. Every outdoor label worth its salt water now produces a take on this classic technical jacket, but Napapijri was arguably the original purveyor of the style. Its Skidoo, Rainforest and Northfarer silhouettes have stood the test of time, becoming as popular in the countryside as they are in the city such is their wide-ranging appeal.
Available in a wealth of bold colourways, they’re ideal for injecting some vibrancy into a staid wardrobe.
Nike’s ACG line (All Conditions Gear) was launched in 1989 as the US behemoth’s answer to cool functional sportswear for the great outdoors, and who was going to bet against Nike to nail it?
ACG has been a perennial winner, helping to fuel a hiking trend few could have foreseen thanks to products like its Therma-Fit jackets, Dri-Fit base layers and ACG trail running sneakers.
Family owned and operated since its inception in 1908, Fracap continue to produce some of the most exquisitely made leather hiking boots money can buy from its base in the Italy region of Puglia. Foremost among these is the instantly recognisable Magnifico model, a sturdy but beautifully formed hiker available in a variety of leather upper and sole options.
In recent years this traditional bootmaker has widened its appeal to a fashion-conscious audience, teaming up with some of the hottest streetwear designers in the industry – including the likes of Ronnie Fieg, Maharishi and YMC – to launch collaborative collections that are as practical as they are desirable.
If you’re looking for boots that are just as at home in the mountains as they are pounding the pavements, Fracap should be your first port of call.
As you would expect with a name like ‘RAINS’, this Danish label knows a thing or two about weatherproof outerwear. With a decidedly futuristic minimalist aesthetic, RAINS looks like something from Blade Runner 2049 (2017), fusing performance tech fabrics with super-cool, edgy silhouettes.
From statement-making puffer jackets to gossamer-like rain jackets via heavyweight fleeces, RAINS is dripping with great contemporary designs.
Perhaps the best-known outdoor specialist on the list, Snow Peak, which was founded in 1958, has been growing its global presence recently with an expanding range of apparel to complement its brilliant camping products and outdoor gear.
Fuelled by the desire to inspire restorative experiences in nature, Snow Peak’s menswear collections are full of beautifully conceived knits, Takibi down coats, thermal fleece jackets and much more, all designed with a Japanese heritage aesthetic.
The long-running collaboration between Adidas and Yohji Yamamoto is still proving that it has legs, even after almost a decade.
More tech streetwear than bona-fide outdoors garments, the brand nevertheless deserves a place on this list for the innovative new fabrics and silhouettes it has developed over the years, not least in the sneaker sphere.
This is subversive sportswear meets contemporary fashion, all wrapped up in bold and futuristic design.
Owned by Moncler since 2020, Italian fashion house Stone Island has garnered a cult following since it was launched in 1982 as a complementary sub line to parent brand CP Company.
That compass badge on the left arm is instantly recognisable, but it’s the label’s commitment to fabric innovation that should get all the plaudits. Loved on the terraces since the 90s, Stone Island’s lightweight technical jackets are cut from all manner of futuristic materials, including regenerative nylon, and feature a unique dyeing or finishing process you won’t find anywhere else.
Where it gets really interesting though is Stone Island Shadow Project – a more minimalist and future-oriented take on techwear.
If you’ve ever been to Sweden, you’ll know that it’s prone to a downpour or two, so it’s no surprise that one of the world’s best rainwear brands hails from Stockholm.
Stutterheim’s outerwear, especially its Stockholm jacket, heavily reference the classic fisherman’s raincoat, but reimagined in a slick, pared-back modern silhouette and constructed from a matte rubberised cotton.
Super functional with an urban edge – buy one and beg for rain.
The brainchild of designer Alessandro Pungetti, Ten c is a truly unique proposition in the fashion outerwear industry. The name stands for The Emperor’s New Clothes, which is an ironic prompt to look for deeper meaning in one’s garments – which is at the core of what Ten c do.
At the heart of its collections is a fabric called Original Japanese Jersey, to which Ten c give a unique treatment and dyeing process that results in a truly outstanding cloth.
The Forever collection consists of five timeless jacket silhouettes, all designed to be modular. It’s a fresh sustainable concept that more companies would be wise to copy.
The cult Japanese outdoors brand founded by Yosuke Aizawa in 2006 has quietly gone about its business creating stunning technical collections that bridge the gap between innovative fashion and functional outerwear.
Minimalistic to its core, White Mountaineering leans on heritage outdoorsy silhouettes and workwear classics, redefining them for a streetwear-hungry audience.
From multi-pocket camping vests to Gore-Tex technical anoraks, all predominantly in black, there’s a lot to love for slick urban wardrobes.
Founded and managed by brothers Dennis and Maico Signor, Diemme is inspired by the heritage of hiking boots that have been crafted for centuries in Italy’s spectacular Dolomite mountains. Made by hand in its family-owned factory, located in the Veneto region of Italy, the brand only use the highest quality materials and artisanal processes to produce the most luxurious mountaineering boots you’ll ever come across.
Make no mistake though, these boots are as functional as they are fashion. Its flagship model is the Roccia Vet, a stunning hiker that comes in a range of striking colourways, but also check out its Anatra and Balbi duck boots if you like your outdoor footwear with a twist.
One of the OGs of outerwear, Mackintosh’s importance to menswear is written into its name. Another brilliant British heritage brand, now under the creative direction of Kiko Kostadinov, Mackintosh is to wet weather what Hoover is to vacuums, only Mackintosh doesn’t suck (sorry).
In fact, in recent years, the brand has really stepped up its game. The ‘Icon’ rain coats such as the Cambridge and Manchester come constructed in the brand’s signature RAINTEC cotton, which is built with a technical membrane that makes it waterproof, windproof and breathable at the same time.
The nylon options offer a more contemporary technical finish, but keep an eye out for the collaborations, which are always outstanding (previous partners include A COLD WALL*, Maison Margiela, This Thing of Ours and Save The Duck, to name but a few).