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Technology and Nature Collide in 2021’s Outdoor Trends

While outdoor brands and their patrons are known for being in sync with the environment, each passing season sees new innovations influenced by technology as well as the natural world.

Promostyl’s presentation on Fall/Winter 21-22 sport and street trends at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Denver illuminated this trend. Director Maria Teresa Sampedro highlighted the latest innovations and advancements in outdoor apparel.


While direct-to-consumers have taken the retail world by storm in recent seasons, labels like Outerknown and Outdoor Voices are increasingly looking to physical retail spaces to branch out from their digitally native models.

Brands are employing a number of formats in the creation of real-world shopping experiences, going well beyond standard pop-ins and popups.

Instead, they’re looking to create “temporary thrills,” or immersive, virtual-reality-powered experiences, as well as to provide “social media magnets,” or Instagram-worthy settings that encourage shoppers to engage.

Puma and Canada Goose have both employed digitally enhanced reality experiences in stores or showrooms, engaging shoppers through simulations of outdoor weather or sporting events.

Brands are also looking to showcase their sustainable programs and practices by incorporating those efforts into their retail spaces. Patagonia launched its first Worn Wear store in November of last year, giving shoppers insight into the way the brand’s refurbished wares come to market.

A number of companies like The North Face and Kipling are also pushing new business models, like test-before-you-buy and rentals, to keep consumers engaged with their brands while providing increased convenience.

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When it comes to design, outdoor and sporting apparel will take on a decidedly futuristic look and feel. High-tech, reactive materials and smart designs help bring innovation to the forefront, while clean lines are punctuated by bright, graphic patterns.

According to Sampedro, four distinct aesthetics will define the 2021 fall season.

The “Hack Chaospiracy” trend will center around bright, primary colors like red, green and yellow, along with pale pink, deep turquoise and salmon. The retro-inspired color palette will be executed in apparel for running and team sports, like nylon shorts, hooded windbreakers, running sneakers and waist packs.

The Blur Bio-Hackers trend from Promostyl.
The Blur Bio-Hackers trend from Promostyl. Promostyl

Blending performance elements with streetwear, the “Blur Bio-hackers” trend is a minimalist take on every-day athletic apparel. The palette includes soft pastels ranging from whites and creams to pale violet and turquoise, blending a cold, industrial vibe with natural-world influences.

The trend will be executed in large “cocoon” puffer jackets, leggings, knits, and tech-infused streetwear like hoodies and sweats.

The Gentle Craft trend from Promostyl.
The Gentle Craft trend from Promostyl. Promostyl

With a sunset-like palette, the “Gentle Craft” trend derives its color scheme from the natural world, and its performance-driven aesthetic from true outdoor enthusiasts. Earthy, desert-drawn pinks and sun-baked oranges, along with mossy grey-green and deep forest will be the prevailing color ways for mountaineering gear like plush down jackets, fleece mid layers, performance pants and hiking packs.

Rounding out the 2021 outdoor offering with a hint of futurism, the “Adorn Glitter Space” trend features a bright, metallic palette of fuchsia, black, pink, cerulean, teal and kelly green, along with amethyst purple. Apparel silhouettes are influenced by spinning, with tight biker shorts, cropped and structured sports bras, high socks, cycling shoes and duffle bags exhibiting the aesthetic.

Materials and more

Outdoor and sport apparel brands may be digging into technology, but it all comes back to nature. Sustainability remains a focus for many, with advances in eco-friendly materials taking center stage.

Brands are continuing to look to recycled PET, or ocean plastics, as a source for non-virgin polyester. Component manufacturers like Primaloft, Parley for the Oceans, Seaqual and more are looking to create base-layer fabrics and even insulation using plastic waste.

Bio-hacking is also becoming a prevalent trend, with brands looking to new resources like algae and bacteria to enhance product performance.

Skin II’s active fabrics feature a probiotic coating that reduces body odor and encourages cell renewal—and those benefits are activated by sweat. Meanwhile, Stella McCartney’s ultra-lightweight and breathable active apparel features cellulose and microsilk fibers that are completely biodegradable.

While many manufacturers and brands have been harnessing the benefits of upcycling and recycling, circularity is quickly becoming the new frontier. Looking to close the loop on textile recycling, brands like Weekday have prioritized single-material designs that can be brought back to their stores to be recycled.

Eco-labeling is quickly becoming a relevant tool for brands looking to communicate sustainable practices to their consumers. Using QR codes, apps and old-fashioned clothing labels, brands are redefining standard care instructions with directives not to over-wash, or on how to recycle.

Selfridges, for example, is launching a new labeling system that explains the sustainability profile of each garment in its stores.