Survival of the Fittest
Male vs. Female
Though most outerwear sales go to seemingly male-dominated industries like agriculture, female fits are still important. "As women comprise nearly half of the workforce, gender-specific specs have become the expectation," said Parker. Separate male and female styles may seem like more trouble and expense than the unisex styles of the past, but Wong argues end-users appreciate gender-specific styles. "Women and men alike do not want the garment to compromise on performance abilities while achieving style, so it is important for both genders to have modern and fashionable outerwear they can depend on," she said.
Companion styles are still available just with slight alterations for each gender. "Another consideration when designing for both men and women is styling that can be differentiated with subtleties like top stitching, seam widths, branding and trims," said Parker. These subtleties can be length, waist cinching and other form-flattering aspects as well. Wong noted that the most popular style for women is longer length. She gave two reasons. "Number one, it keeps them covered up when reaching for items or for playing sports, and number two, a longer length elongates the torso and is simply more flattering," she explained.
Cold Weather Trends
Wong and Parker named a few trends for the late 2011 and early 2012 outerwear season. "I predict that 'less is more' for this upcoming season," Wong stated. She mentioned a trend of piping over the usually popular color blocking. "Piping is safer and can satisfy a variety of end-users. Color blocking is still favored, but nothing too flashy or geometrical (too reminiscent of the 80's and 90's)," she explained. As for what that color blocking and piping will go on, Parker says soft shells. "Soft shells will continue to be the forerunner for the upcoming cold weather season," she said. "Soft shells are now available with varying degrees of performance for every kind of user." Parker added that soft shells are preferred because they have the look of a performance jacket without the higher price point.