Fashion’s new heights by Lucinda Baring
The days of making a biannual pilgrimage to C&A for socks and salopettes are long gone. Skiwear has gone designer, darling, and everyone’s getting in on the act. These days you can buy skiwear just about anywhere and it doesn’t all come with a designer price tag. A jacket costs £40 at Tesco, even less at Asda. In the middle are Topshop, which launched its hugely popular SNO range in 2002, and M&S, brilliant for goggles and gloves. And at the top end there are designer collections from Chanel, Prada, Pucci, Fendi and Dior, to name just a few. And they don’t just do clothes, either. Last winter you couldn’t open a weekend newspaper supplement without being confronted by a pair of Chanel skis, the interlocking ‘Cs’ emblazoned on the tips. At more than £2,000 a pair, most mortals shuddered in horror.
Designer skiwear is in fact nothing new. In the 1920s, Coco Chanel took up the baton when she decided she wanted to dress the ladies on the slopes of St Moritz. Chanel has included a few ski pieces in its collections ever since and Karl Lagerfeld designed the first complete skiwear collection for the label in 2000.
Italian designer Emilio Pucci has skiwear to thank for his entire career. Pucci was a member of the Italian Olympic ski team and decided he wanted to design some functional yet fashionable ski clothes for himself and his teammates. While out skiing in St Moritz – where else? – he was spotted by a journalist for Harper’s Bazaar who showed the pictures to her editor. She asked Pucci to design some clothes for a winter fashion shoot to be featured in a 1948 issue of the magazine – and the rest is history. What started as a simple desire to provide stylish skiwear for his pals became the foundation of a fashion empire. Pucci, now better known for its lurid silk scarves and dresses in signature swirly patterns, has been designing skiwear ever since.
Many designers have expanded their skiwear offerings since the Pucci days, with more and more big labels getting in on the act. But why the sudden mainstream interest? Kate Moss, of course. In 2006 she was pictured skiing with her then boyfriend in top to toe Prada – and where Miss Moss goes, the rest of us can but follow.
Designers embracing skiwear is a natural progression, I’m told. ‘It is completely unsurprising,’ says Clare Coulson, fashion features editor at Harper’s Bazaar. ‘The people who shop at Chanel or Dior are the same people that go to Courchevel every Easter. If they wear designer clothes at home, why wouldn’t they want the same for the slopes? If you wear a Chanel dress, you want a Chanel ski suit. As long as people continue to ski, there will continue to be a market for designer skiwear.’
If the very idea of designer skiwear makes your toes curl, you might be surprised to hear it is more discreet than you imagine. The clothes tend not to have flashy logos monogrammed on the sleeves or sparkly zips and buttons – though there are, of course, exceptions (there have even been rumours of a Dior ski miniskirt). Black is de rigueur and as far as men’s skiwear goes, it is mostly sporty and masculine-looking, much like the more traditional brands such as North Face or Schöffel. Pricewise, the news is also fairly surprising (for men at least) with designer ski jackets costing less than those by established ski brands like Spyder. Never expect C&A prices though, and of course there are exceptions. Last year Prada had a leather ski jacket for £2,620. I’ll say no more.
The women’s collections are more of a minefield – and much more prohibitively priced. The Pucci swirls definitely work better on long, flowing maxidresses than on a beige and yellow puffa jacket, which nevertheless costs somewhere around £1,300. The fashion is mostly for super-tight salopettes with matching belted jackets, often with a fur (real, of the spectator a guide to luxury and style | Autumn 2010 | www.spectator.co.uk course) trim around the collar or hood. Every designer seems to offer the same basic style – it is their way of introducing a touch of elegance and femininity to the slopes. But if androgynous, sporty separates are more your style, head to Prada Sport or Ralph Lauren’s RLX, where the skiwear appeals to even the most hardy, sceptical snowboarder.
Best, and perhaps most surprising of all, is that with the boom in designer skiwear came the rebirth of the all-in-one – not the 1980s kind, but the black and fur-lined kind. nobody would be seen dead in one for decades and then along comes Miss Moss in her all-in-one black Prada and suddenly it’s back in vogue. Much like the current fashions for playsuits and swimming costumes, it’s all about the one-piece. They have distinct advantages too: they keep you dry and – most important of all – they are very slimming.
you may think that designer skiwear is not as practical as traditional skiwear, that it is more about making a fashion statement with outfits more suited to long lunches in big sunglasses than a white out on a black run. Don’t be so cynical. ‘Designers don’t suddenly say, “Let’s make a ski jacket and we’ll do it in chiffon”,’ says Coulson. ‘If they decide to enter a new market, they don’t do it lightly. They do lots of research and the result is highly technical, beautifully made skiwear that looks good.’ So there.
But when it comes to designer skiwear, remember a golden rule: if you can’t ski, stay clear of the expensive gear. There is nothing worse than someone with all the gear but none of the moves. you will look foolish if you’re dressed head to toe in Chanel but spend most of your time snowploughing across the nursery slopes. And no one actually buys the skis. Borrow the basic gear until you can at least master a red run – it’s all about that natural progression.
www.spectator.co.uk the spectator a guide to luxury and style | autumn 2010 | www.spectator.co.uk