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Military Influences and Material Innovation Set the Tone for Outerwear

Despite the overall slowdown at retail, new outerwear has arrived on the scene with a vengeance this fall. Trend-forward silhouettes and practical, environmentally friendly material innovations feature across brands large and small.

This week, Tennessee’s Alpha Industries, which has outfitted the U.S. military since the late 1950s, announced a collaborative capsule with San Francisco-based premium men’s wear brand Taylor Stitch, bringing a rugged sensibility and true technical protection to fall dressing.

The partnership pays homage to two of Alpha’s iconic silhouettes—the M-51 Field Jacket and the ALS/92—reimagining them for civilian wear. “While the silhouettes will be familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in military gear,” Taylor Stitch wrote in a statement, “we’ve updated the materials with an eye towards responsibility using organic cotton and recycled nylon and polyester in place of virgin materials.”

The M-51, finished in a bold indigo reverse sateen, is made with 100 percent organic cotton, while the ALS/92 is raven black, with a recycled nylon shell, recycled polyester ribbing and insulation, and organic cotton accents.

Rather than setting a specific launch date, the line will be released as a part of Taylor Stitch’s Workshop initiative, giving shoppers the chance to pre-order the yet-unmade goods and the brand an opportunity to gauge interest. The pre-order period, which began on Monday, will run through Nov. 17. The jacket will release for sale during December, when units will also ship.

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“Ultimately the goal of this model is to create products responsibly and avoid over-producing, which is one of the major causes of waste within the fashion industry,” the brand said.

Athletic footwear and apparel titan Nike announced its own trend-forward collaborative outerwear release on Tuesday alongside Japanese luxury brand Sacai, led by designer Chitose Abe. The collection, which includes three unisex offerings, first debuted at Sacai’s runway show in Paris in 2019.

A women’s down jacket with wool melton and faux fur, a complementary MA-1 military jacket-influenced hoodie, and a men’s puffer parka make up the line, each available in multiple neutral-heavy color ways.

Competitor Adidas recently announced the launch of four new pieces for its Cold.Rdy collection, which also pulls influences from military-grade performance gear. However, these pieces are made for working out, as many shoppers have remained focused on fitness during the long months of quarantine.

Vice president of design Josephine Aberg said the German athletic wear firm has seen record levels of interest in its workout content in recent months, with Adidas training app usage up 125 percent year over year.

“But whilst the outdoors has become a health and fitness sanctuary, harsh outdoor conditions act as one of the biggest barriers to training in the winter months, with key cities recording record lows last winter,” she said. “As weather has become a major external factor affecting performance, we set out to create a collection that combats external elements so athletes can train without distractions.”

The line’s styles include a down parka made with high-loft fibers, adjustable hood and removable weather protective face, a mock-neck long-sleeve training tee insulated against wind and water, a waterproof vest built with overlapping down chambers for increased warmth, high-rise compression tights made from Alphaskin insulating fabric, and a full-zip hoodie with a loose, layering-friendly fit.

Recognized in the running community for its sneakers, Swiss athletic wear brand On has created a new jacket made to withstand the elements and honor Alpine tradition. The company’s product development team in Zurich developed the limited-edition Swiss Legacy Jacket with natural and locally produced fabrics and techniques in mind, creating just 500 units.

The unisex piece, made with EtaProof organic cotton which swells when exposed to moisture, sealing the fabric, sports an oversized A-line shape. The jacket is moisture-resistant and insulating, relying on natural oils and an environmentally friendly coating called Ecorepel, rather than toxic chemical compounds, to keep wearers dry.

The company also recently released the Insulator Jacket, a lightweight, breathable layering piece made for urban exploring and outdoor excursions. Developed with a technical wool blend sourced in Switzerland and a light fleece padding stitched from the interior, the jacket’s sleek silhouette betrays none of its warmth-producing features.

Taiwan-based outerwear and ski-wear manufacturer Singtex and its new brand, Coor, debuted a new, outdoor-ready jacket made with an unusual, yet beloved, ingredient this week.

On Tuesday, Coor launched a Kickstarter campaign for a jacket made with Singtex’s coffee yarn technology, which is made with coffee grounds and recycled plastic bottles. The material is used in the jacket’s fabric, insulation and protective membranes, offering breathability, heat retention and odor control.

The piece is also water-resistant, wind-proof and contains protective properties against UV light, making it an ideal option for sport lovers, travelers and city dwellers alike, Coor said. An inner jacket made with woven Stormfleece technology adds another layer of warmth.

Beyond keeping wearers guarded against the elements, the jacket offers safety features like a built-in whistle, an antibacterial face mask made with silver yarn, a phone tether, a detachable hydration pouch, and 13 compartments for storage.

“Fast fashion and garment waste are significant contributors to the climate crisis,” Elaine Chen, Coor CEO and founder, said in a statement. “As industry veterans, we asked ourselves what we could produce to make a real difference. We believe we have created a real product of sustainability at an accessible price.”

Japan-based sustainable outerwear brand Kapok Knot launched for the first time in the U.S. on Wednesday, touting a plant-based down alternative that the industry has never seen. Three unisex styles, each insulated with Kapok Knot’s patent-pending down substitute, are available on the brand’s website. A recycled nylon coat and two long wool options are now shoppable by U.S. consumers.

Made with fiber derived from the seed hairs of kapok trees, along with recycled PET, the material is produced in a sleek, sheeted form. The seed’s short fibers have a similar texture to goose down, the company said, and are harvested by farmers in Indonesia.

Founder Kishow Fukai aims to launch his insulation innovation to the apparel manufacturing industry at large in order to reduce fashion’s dependence on costly and inhumane poultry-based downs.