Outdoor Enthusiast Apparel Brands

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Trends in the High End Outerwear Industry

In current high-end clothing trends, the old paradigm of models showing off a particular look and consumers trying to mimic that look six months later is dying. Consequently, it would be a fallacy to attempt to define the most important fashion trends in terms of types of clothing, material, and color (though many continue to do so). Rather, the most important trends are the sweeping changes taking place in the high-end clothing industry.


  • Rather than buying high-end (and high-cost) clothing, an increasing number of people are choosing to rent clothes instead.
  • Quality ranges from fashionable to designer clothes from companies like Diane Von Furstenberg, Proenza Schouler, and Rag & Bone.
  • In addition to companies built around the rental model like Rent the Runway, existing clothing stores like Urban Outfitters are launching their own rental programs. In the case of Urban Outfitters' Nuuly service, the program runs on a subscription model with a base price of $88 per month.
  • Similarly, companies like Renew and Poshmark sell gently-used high-end clothing.


  • Wearable tech is no longer confined to the smartwatch. Bio-tracking and fitness tech is now being woven into garments.
  • "Expect to see more self-regulating materials that adapt to cold, heat, UV rays. Some fabrics can kill bacteria, control air flow, moisturize skin or even broadcast your mood."


  • While fashion is often thought of as "the antithesis to the concept of sustainability," there is a strong movement towards high-end clothing companies with demonstrably sustainable and ethical practices.
  • Some claim that 66% of consumers are willing to pay more to purchase sustainable goods.

Sustainable practices include (quoted verbatim):
High-end clothing designers who have been noted for their sustainable and ethical practices include:


  • As noted in a recent article in Luxe, "Luxury fashion and athletic wear are no longer two distinct worlds," giving rise to a style which is most often referred to as athleisure or activewear.
  • Athleisure includes "yoga pants, jogger pants, tank tops, sports bras, hoodies" and other clothes originally intended for exercise, but increasingly seen as everyday wear.
  • Part of the appeal of this aesthetic is that it presents an image of wellness and fitness.
  • Athleisure is growing at a CAGR of 6.5%, well ahead of the 4.5% growth of the high-end fashion industry.
  • Consequently, high-end clothing brands like Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel have launched their own athleisure lines.
  • Athleisure may be related to a trend towards minimalism, owning "small, selective wardrobes focused only on basics," sometimes called "capsule wardrobes."


  • Fashion journals continue to note style trends, such as the prominence of waist cinchers, patchworks of different materials, fleece, and the color purple in recent fashion shows. However, these observations differ from year to year and even from source to source in the same period.
  • Consequently, many industry watchers have begun to argue that fashion, in the traditional sense of society-wide clothing styles taken from the runway, is dead.
  • Likewise, an article in the New York Post last year quipped that "fashion hasn’t produced a must-have shift in dressing since the skinny jean in 2005. There is nothing we, as consumers, feel compelled to buy."
  • Cameron Silver, founder of Decades, recently stated that "the fashion industry, in general, is in an existential crisis at present. The way younger generations consume in a shared economy is ultimately providing huge challenges and fashion shows no longer engage the same way with customers."
  • Three of the factors driving this trend are sustainability (see above), the rise of e-commerce, more casual dress in the workplace, and brands "losing their place as status symbols."
  • However, this is primarily a feature of Western society; in China, for example, the desire for high-end clothing is accelerating, growing 6% last year compared to the overall industry's 4.5%.
  • This is not to say that high-quality fashion brands are going extinct; the industry is still growing, but brands have to rely on more than their name or the runway to remain successful, as Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, and J. Crew have discovered to their detriment.


This was a project in which the principal problem was not finding the information, but — due to the amount attention media sources pay to fashion — narrowing down the field. Ultimately, our selection came down to trends that were attested to in multiple credible sources, of which our source list is a representative sample. Note that while we nominally use sources published as much as two years ago, in this case, we mostly restricted ourselves to sources from the past year due to the fast-changing nature of fashion and the clothing industry.
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Trend Analysis

Millennials are famously tech-savvy, more interested in having experiences than owning things, and concerned about sustainability, and these preferences carry over into their clothes buying (or renting) habits. In fact, all the dominant trends explored in the previous brief are being directly driven by Millennials. In the case of Millennial outdoor enthusiasts, this translates into not having the same enthusiasm for the latest tech with the best specs that Boomers are noted for, requiring the outdoor enthusiast industry to rethink its strategies to capture this valuable demographic.

Note: Since marketers speak in terms of "generations" when segmenting the population by age and those in their mid-20s to early-30s are generally termed the Millennial generation or Millennials, we will so refer to them throughout this brief.



  • This is why "a large majority of millennials and Generation Z would rather rent trendy, well-made products than actually buy and own things," thus driving the sharing economy.
  • Rakesh Tondon, CEO of clothing rental company Le Tote, claims, "This is a movement, not a fad. People are tired of owning things."
  • Likewise, Millennials are the ones leading the charge to downsize to "small, selective wardrobes focused only on basics," aka "capsule wardrobes" due to concerns about how large, throwaway wardrobes affect the environment.
  • This, in addition to the desire to appear fit and project an image of wellness, is why so many Millennials have adopted the athleisure aesthetic.
  • While famously tech-savvy, Millennials have not adopted smartwatches as much as once expected. However, some industry experts believe this is a result of most smartwatches being "chunky," and expect that as wearable tech in the form of clothing becomes more common, Millennials will embrace it.
  • Millennials are also keen to develop their personal clothing styles rather than trying to adopt the latest fashion idea shown on a distant runway, a fact that successful clothing brands are reshaping themselves to accommodate.
  • Those clothing styles can sometimes seem self-contradictory: "This basically means that you can see a person wearing an elegant sheer dress one day, and the next day you can see the exact same person wearing an oversized hoodie and yoga pants."



Following from our previous brief, we first reviewed our sources to see whether Millennials or outdoor enthusiasts were directly referenced. Following this, we pulled recent surveys and articles by credible authors to better understand the mindset and priorities of Millennials, the generation which is now in their mid-20s to late-30s.

Note that while outdoor enthusiasts are certainly a category that has been studied and surveyed by marketers, non-enthusiasts are not. Therefore, we first researched the traits of Millennials as a whole and used this to contrast with their more active members.

While it is nominally our practice to use only sources published in the last two years, and in this project we focused on even more recent sources due to the rapidly changing nature of the fashion industry, we have included insights from an extensive report on Millennial outdoor enthusiasts published in 2016. This report contained extensive insights that we could not find elsewhere and is still being quoted as current in articles written this year.
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Competitive Analysis

Patagonia, North Face and Columbia have brand perceptions of being sustainable, stylish, and affordable respectively. Below we have provided a deep dive into the brand perceptions of each company.


  • Patagonia targets high income consumers that lead an active lifestyle such as rock climbers or ruby players.
  • The general demographic of Patagonia consumers includes men and women between the ages of 18-35 with disposable income, high-quality expectations, active lifestyles, and advocate for environmental sustainability.
  • In 2014, 29% of Patagonia consumers had an annual income of $40,000-$69,999 with 24.7% making over $70,000 annually.
  • The company most prominently is known for their focus on environmental sustainability. They position themselves as a company that provides high-performance products while generated the smallest footprint possible.
  • Since it's founding in 1973, the company has grown to have 30 United States stores generating over $800 million in annual revenue with the customer sentiment of having "eco-friendly principles and outdoor-minded pursuits."
  • While the brand released an advert in an early catalog stating that the mountain region which the company is named for brings a view of "romantic visions of glaciers tumbling into fjords, jagged windswept peaks, gauchos, and Condors," the company has also branded their products as being able to withstand the harshest environments.
  • The company has invested in innovative technologies to not only make its final products environmentally friendly, but the entire supply chain. In addition, the company uses recyclable material wherever possible.
  • In 2011, the company raised its revenue by 30% after running an advertisement called "Don't Buy This Jacket!" comparing their sustainability to other companies.
  • In 2015, the company threw profitability out the window in the interest of sustainability when they introduced the Worn Wear Wagon, which is a traveling repair shop that fixes gear and educates consumers on how to care for their items to make them more durable, all for free.
  • In 2017, a study on Patagonia's consumers interests produced the following results:
    • 61% of participants consider themselves to be stylish individuals.
    • 69% of participants check where the products come from.
    • 67% of participants believe we should drive less to protect the environment.
    • 54% of participants try to buy Fairtrade products.


  • North Face targets all ranges of the consumer market stating that they market to "anyone who is looking for stylish clothing and or jackets."
  • In the last few years, North Face has focused on targeting urban consumers by opening TNF stores in major cities.
  • While the company puts emphasis on sustainability, they focus more on branding products and developing a brand personality.
  • Consumers generally connect the brand to "ruggedness" as they generally provide apparel for climbing, skiing, hiking, camping, and snowboarding as well as cooperating with athletes.
  • The company strives to inspire the world through their core value of "Never Stop Exploring."
  • In addition, the company is viewed as promoting an active lifestyle through outdoor expedition programs like VIPeak Travel, Meru, A Light Dose.
  • The company is viewed as competent as they provide consumers with reliability in their products and services.


  • Columbia markets mainly towards outdoor enthusiasts with they promise to "keep you warm, dry, cool, and protected no matter what."
  • The company focuses on supporting initiatives and innovations that promote positive change.
  • The company stands firm on their position to protect natural resources as an outdoor company. In addition, they focus on innovations in sustainable manufacturing practices.
  • The company is most recognizable as a "quality, no-nonsense brand that offered good value" from it's "One Tough Mother" campaign.
  • The company generates over $2 billion in annual revenue by offering affordable options to consumers that don't shop in the high-end selling more rain coats under $100 than any of their competitors.
  • Over the past 10 years, the company has made moves to diversify their offerings as well as provide higher end, innovative products such as the Heatzone 1000 and OutDry Extreme Diamond raincoat.
  • The company has instated a reputation of being innovative while maintaining a variety of pricing options for each offering. For example, their OutDry rain gear ranges from $120-$400.
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High-End Outdoor Apparel Psychographics 1

Active 'Outdoor Gear' consumers can be divided into 4 segments: The Achiever, The Outdoor Native, The Urban Athlete, and The Aspirational Core, depending on the level of interaction with and choice of purchase of brands. All of them have high to moderate engagement with outdoor gear brands while less engaged ones like The Aspirational Core and The Urban Athlete are more likely to give significance to affordability and style over other aspects.

Buying Behavior of Active 'Outdoor Gear' Consumers —

  • Active 'Outdoor Gear' consumers are those who actively engage in outdoor activities and purchase high-end outdoor gears.
  • According to a 2015 research survey done by Outdoor Industry Association determined, around half of outdoor gear consumers are aged 25 – 44 years of age.

Active 'Outdoor Gear' Consumers can be broadly categorized in following groups —

  • The Achiever: They are performance-driven and highly athletic, and prefer mostly everything outdoors. They have an extreme level of engagement with outdoor gear brands.
  • The Outdoor Native: They are highly motivated and experience-driven towards outdoor activities. They have an established behavior when it comes to outdoor gear brands.
  • The Urban Athlete: They are athletic, as the name suggests, and competitive. They are more involved with non-traditional brands as they are mostly unsatisfied by traditional brands.
  • The Aspiractional Core: They are adventure seeking individuals, engaging in outdoor activities solely for thrill. They have a moderate involvement with outdoor gear brands.

1. Buying behavior and motivations of 'The Achiever' —

  • They comprise 5% of the US outdoor consumer population.
  • They spend around $799 per year on outdoor equipment.
  • They spend around 27 hours per week outside in an outdoor activity.
  • Their purchase drivers are top of the line, highly technical, stylish, performance enhancing, and they are price insensitive.
  • Top brands used by them are Columbia Sportswear, Ray Ban, and Mountain Hard Wear.
  • They shop for outdoor gear and apparel more frequently than other outdoor consumer segments. Reports say that they plan to increase their spending in the future.
  • Although they do not show brand loyalty, a mission of social responsibility will often resonate with them, especially one that is focused on sustainability.
  • They are heavy technology users. 23% of their annual spending on outdoor gear is allocated to electronics.
  • They use technology during their purchase journey very heavily and during the outdoor activity to monitor and enhance their performance.
  • They heavily research the products they are going to buy, especially on Google or online retail channels.
  • They are multichannel shoppers, buying from both online and offline retailers.
  • The social presence of a high-end gear brand is very important to their purchase decision.

2. Buying behavior and motivations of 'The Outdoor Native' —

  • They comprise 6% of the US outdoor consumer population.
  • They spend around $637 per year on outdoor equipment.
  • They spend around 22 hours per week outside in an outdoor activity.
  • Their purchase drivers are being sensible, versatile, functional and affordable. This is basically due to their experience with outdoor gear shopping.
  • Top brands used by them are The North Face, Coleman, and Dick's Sporting Goods.
  • They have a similar participation level to that of The Achiever. However, they prefer making memories over competition.
  • They allocate around one third of their outdoor gear budget to apparel.
  • They want the best in the market with respect to function and versatility, and they are willing to pay for it.
  • They are always more open to new ideas while purchasing gears and create an upsell opportunity for brands and retailers.
  • They are mostly aware and familiar with both traditional and non-tradition outdoor brands, than any other type of outdoor consumers.
  • They are less likely to use technology outdoors, as they prefer to make memories. They do use technology for researching brands to make an informed purchase decision.
  • Nearly half of them engage in both online and offline purchase.
  • They give emphasis to the variety of brands and products and hence are more likely to visit a brick-and-mortar multibrand retail store.

3. Buying behavior and motivation of 'The Urban Athlete' —

  • They comprise 10% of the US outdoor consumer population.
  • They spend around $781 per year on outdoor equipment.
  • They spend around 24 hours per week outside for outdoor activities.
  • Their purchase drivers are being stylish, highly technical, athletic, and they are performance oriented.
  • Top brands used by them are Nike, Adidas, GAP, and Salomon.
  • They represent around 17% of total spent on outdoor gear.
  • They don't consider themselves as very outdoorsy or rugged, but are intense and competitive.
  • They are willing to pay more for stylish and technical gear.
  • They are more likely to buy on impulse.
  • They are as likely to buy traditional brands as other outdoor consumers, but like to associate more closely with sporting brands. They feel that traditional brands do not speak to them.
  • They are also heavy users of technology in their purchase journey and to enhance performance as well socialize with others while outdoors.
  • They are more likely than other outdoor consumers to shop online. This is mostly driven by the fact that they want stores that provide products for all ages and entire family.
  • Location convenience while purchasing outdoor gears is also a factor for preference to online shopping.
  • They generally look for low and affordable prices and look for stores that offer mobile shopping apps, classes for beginners, and gears on rent.
  • Unless a brand has a strong online presence, they are less likely to resonate with The Urban Athlete.
  • They have a very strong social media presence and are viable to being influenced by it during their purchase journey.

4. Buying behavior and motivation of 'The Aspirational Core' —

  • They comprise 7% of US outdoor consumer population.
  • Consumers spend around $476 per year on outdoor equipment.
  • They spend around 20 hours per week outside for an outdoor activity.
  • Their purchase drivers are activity-specific, athletic styling, and products that are available for rent.
  • Top brands used by them are Nike, Oakley, and GoPro.
  • They tend to shop frequently, but are more style-conscious and lean towards athletic brands rather than traditional outdoor brands.
  • They take less interest in technical gears, and mostly take middle-of-the-road approach to buying, balancing all aspects equally.
  • They desire to fit in at entry level, and this reflects in their shopping behavior. They chose quality products at a good price.
  • They mostly research online and then purchase from a brick-and-mortar store.
  • They prefer stores that are conveniently located and those that provide low price on high name outdoor gears. This is one of the reason they shop at specialty retail outlets.
  • They are more likely that any other consumers to prefer demo/rental programs.
  • They use smartphones everyday. More than one third of consumers use smartphones to stay in contact with others during outdoor activities.
  • They use Facebook, Google, and YouTube on regular basis, and are more likely than other consumers to use Instagram. These platforms play a significant role in the customers' brand understanding, and their purchase decision.
  • They are swayed easily by brands with strong social media presence.

Other points of interest —

  • 9.5% of outdoor gear consumers go to an offline store to do pre-purchase research, while 13.5% do it online.
  • Of the entire outdoor gear consumer population, around 57% find innovation to be critical while purchasing a gear.
  • Of the entire outdoor gear consumer population, around 61% find the customization of products to be more favorable.
  • Of the entire outdoor gear consumer population, around 55% share a non-required piece of personal information for a recommendation.
  • Of the entire outdoor gear consumer population, around 71% purchase products that have positive online reviews.
  • US outdoor consumers consult on an average 12 sources of information, and spend 12 – 15 hours researching before making a purchase.

Research Strategy:

By looking at the Outdoor Industry reports, we found that the segmentation of the consumer population remained the same in both reports. Based on this fact, we assumed that the percentage of population comprised of those aged 25 – 44 remained same. Based on this assumption, we divided the statistics for the general consumer population by 50% to find the percentage applicable to those aged 25 – 44. For example, the percentage of The Achiever in US outdoor consumer population is 10%; however, according to our triangulation, the percentage of the same population is 10%X50% = 5%. Therefore, the percentage of The Achiever, aged 25 – 44 in US outdoor consumer population is 5%. Similarly, all the rest of population percentages are divided by 2. The rest of data has been taken as it is.
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High-End Outdoor Apparel Psychographics 2

Casual 'Outdoor Gear' consumers can be divided into three segments: The Athleisurist, The Sideliner, and The Complacent. The Complacent don't take an interest in buying high-end outdoor gears at all. The Sideliner take interest but are not swayed by any influential factor and would instead go lowkey on products. The only actively purchasing segment is The Athleisurist, who is also the largest segment of the US outdoor gear consumer population.

Buying Behavior of Casual 'Outdoor Gear' Consumers

  • Casual Outdoor Gear consumers are those who purchase typical high-end gears and engage in Outdoor Activities sparingly, as they are not avid enthusiasts of Outdoor activities.
  • According to a 2015 study research survey study done by Outdoor Industry Association, it determined that around half of outdoor gear consumers are aged 25 – 44 years of age.

Casual 'Outdoor Gear' Consumers can be broadly categorized in the following groups

  • The Athleisurist: They engage in low-intensity outdoor activity, and it is simply for the sake of enjoyment. They are emotionally driven while purchasing outdoor gears.
  • The Sideliner: They have a lessened involvement in outdoor activities, and they are mostly inhibited.
  • They are mostly interested in buying outdoor gears but rarely purchase them.
  • The Complacent: They are excluded from outdoor activities and are unmotivated when outside.
  • They do not have an interest in high-end outdoor gears and only engage with basic brands; and hence, are unfit for a psychographic profile.

Buying behavior and motivations of 'The Athleisurist'

Buying behavior and motivations of 'The Sideliner'

Buying behavior and motivation of 'The Complacent'

Research Strategy

Outdoor Industry provided us with information that around half of US outdoor consumers are aged 25 – 44, i.e., the mid-20s to mid-40s.

Furthermore, the research from Outdoor Industry is only two years apart, with research from 2017 being most recent. Also, by looking at the reports, we found that segmentation of the consumer population remained the same in both reports. Based on this fact, we assumed that the percentage of population comprised of those aged 25 – 44 had also remained the same. Based on this assumption, we divided every percentage of the general consumer population, with 50% to find the percentage applicable to those aged 25 – 44. For example, the percentage of The Athleisurist in US outdoor consumer population is 20%; however, according to our triangulation, the percentage of the same population which is both The Athleisurist and aged 25 – 44 is 20%X50% = 10%. Therefore, the percentage of The Athleisurist, aged 25 – 44 in the US outdoor consumer population is 10%. Similarly, all the rest of the population percentages are triangulated to half. The rest of the data has been taken as it is.