Finally, Ski Wear Designed By Women For Women — And It’s Good
Hit the slopes.
In the decade that I’ve been snowboarding, I found myself often shopping in the boys or men’s department whenever I needed new ski pants, jacket, or a bib. When it came to ski clothes for women, either things were too tight, too expensive, or they came in child-like colors or patterns that didn’t really mesh with how I dressed off the slope. It was a struggle to find stylish pieces that also kept me warm and dry, and it turns out, I was not alone. “I’m a recreational skier while my co-founder is a former Olympic skier, and we both commiserated over lack of functional, well-designed, and approachably-priced ski wear,” says Ariana Ferwada, co-founder of Halfdays, a direct-to-consumer outdoors and lifestyle brand.
Like many male-dominated sports (as of 2017, only 38% of snowboarders and approximately 44% of skiers were women), nearly everything you’d see in stores often fell into the category of “shrink it and pink it”. The main reason for the lack of options? Usually it wasn’t designed by women for women. But in the last few years, as hitting the slopes became increasingly popular, especially as a pandemic-friendly activity, things are finally changing. Not only are high fashion brands like Jil Sander, Prada, and Balmain coming out with their own capsule collections, there are also female-founded brands like Perfect Moment, Cordova, and Halfdays to name a few, that are creating style-conscious pieces as well.
Revolve was quick to notice the trend, adding a dedicated ski shop featuring many of these brands to its site. “Our customer has a year-round activity schedule, so it was a natural fit for us. The response has been extremely positive and we’ve seen significant growth this year over last,” says Lauren Yerkes, chief merchandising officer.
The trick to making a successful snow sports brand by women for women? Creating designs that satisfy all of the waterproofing and weather-proofing requirements to be functional on the mountain with on-trend designs that mix-and-match seamlessly with non-ski clothes. “What you’re finding now is the cross-pollination between aprés-ski fashion, technical ski wear, and street style. Brands are designing with this in mind so you can wear your Perfect Moment techo flare pants with an Isabel Marant Etoile knit, for example,” says Yerkes.
Read on to learn more about six women-founded ski wear brands that are combining style and function.
Spend any time on Instagram and you’ve seen Perfect Moment’s color-blocked and body-conscious styles on your feed on models and influencers alike. It’s instantly recognizable as the hot girl social media-friendly label and that choice is deliberate. “I always insist that you can tell [one of our] jackets or outfits in a ski queue in an instant,” says Creative Director and Chief Branding Officer Jane Gottschalk. The brand, which was originally founded by Thierry Donard, a skier turned extreme sports filmmaker, was bought by Gottschalk and her husband in 2011 and relaunched in 2013. It really took off in the last few years as big name retailers like Revolve, Net-a-Porter, and MATCHESFASHION began to pick up the brand.
“Historically it’s been much easier for men to dress for the slopes, with women left feeling bulky or cold, and our aim was to change this,” says Gottschalk of her approach to design. The most important piece she focused on were pants and, unsurprisingly, they’re also among the top-sellers. Gottschalk explains, “Most people could name a jacket brand but struggled with pants, which stuck in my mind. What if we were like a denim brand with different shapes, sizes, and lengths?” Perfect Moment’s answer was to create an array of high, low, and mid-waisted flares like their best selling Aurora flares. They also offer low-waisted skinnies, loose cargos, and one-piece suits.
For Jane Seim, co-founder of Cordova, the idea to start a ski wear company came about while working a corporate job post-college. “While the men’s market was vast, I always struggled to find the fit and aesthetic that matched the feeling I experience in the mountains — a sense of connectedness with my body, a confidence in my ability to face fear and overcome challenges, and an unparalleled sense of freedom and presence,” says Seim. By the time she left in 2014, Seim came up with the name for her brand, bought the domain name, and drew up the plans for her first ski suit. And in 2016, Cordova became a reality.
The label is known for its signature Cordova suit, a slinky color-blocked one piece that can be found in shades of pastel, blue, green, as well as the classic ski colors of red, white, and black. The process to design the style took over a year. Seim worked with a pattern maker who made the initial pattern by hand. There were also subsequent multiple fittings with “women of varying shapes and sizes to create a piece that feels tailored and flattering,” she explains. “We focus on creating skiwear for women that promote body positivity and at the end of the day, how a garment holds your body directly correlates to how you feel,” says Seim.
Not into bodycon ski wear but still looking for something that doesn’t look like you raided the men’s section? That’s where Halfdays comes in. After co-founder Ariana Ferwada met co-founder Kiley Mckinnon through mutual friends, they both realized that they shared a common frustration. “The light bulb moment was when [McKinnon], who literally competed at the Olympics, and me, on the very opposite end of that spectrum as a recreational skier, both commiserated on ski wear,” said Ferwada, adding, “There’s a gap in the market for something in between what The North Face and Moncler offered that felt approachable for women.” The two connected with Karelle Golda, who came from a marketing background, and the brand was born.
With prices that range from $95 for base layers to $495 for a puffer and sizing that goes up to 3X on certain pieces, as well as multiple inseam options, Halfdays is making it a point to be accessible to as many women as possible. “Next season we're aiming to go up to 4X for some styles and then expand up to 3X for all of the styles,” explains Ferwada. Cut to skim the body but still offer ample stretch and room for movement, it’s ideal for newbies and experienced skiers alike.
As an Asian female-founded brand, Fera is a rarity in the ski industry — and especially commendable since it was established in 1978, a time when you didn’t exactly see diversity in the industry. Founded by Betty Tung, it’s now in the hands of her children Patty and Eric. Patty heads up product development, placing an emphasis on comfort and functionality. “You can feel it the moment you put on our outerwear — it’s light and easy to move in. We also carefully select colors that work on a variety of skin tones and look clear and bright on the slopes,” she says.
After trying the company’s Dakota anorak in neon pink, I can attest it’s both super lightweight and also eye-catching enough for friends to spot me from a distance. But should you want something more substantial, the vegan, down Kate puffer is also a huge hit. As for pants, Patty’s a fan of the High Heaven stretch insulated pants and the Brooke stretch insulated bib. “Both have a leg lengthening shape and offer incredible comfort,” she says.
Finding sustainable, circular, and ethical stylish ski wear sounds like it would be impossible. But those qualities are actually what sets Erin Snow apart. Founded by Erin Isakov in 2003, the brand uses recycled fabrics in its waterproof jackets and pants as well as its insulated jackets, with the goal of minimizing waste where possible. And the results don’t skimp on aesthetics either, with a line of sleek pants, bibs, and jackets that look equally as appropriate on the mountain as they would in the city.
“Skiing used to be stylish and glamorous but lost its way. The market became saturated with athletic brands that lost the feminine touch of skiing’s roots,” explains Isakov. That led her to forgo the overly slouchy silhouettes in favor of slim or flared retro cuts that call to mind her parents’ generation on the slopes. “I’ve been wearing the same pair of skinny Jes pants for almost 12 years. I designed them for longevity and that’s truly how they’ve performed. Initially, ski shops across the country and even some publications thought this was a trend that should have stayed dead but women want and love them not just for skiing, but in any cold weather conditions,” she says. But should you prefer a little more wiggle room, the flared Phia pants are also another top-selling style.
If subtlety isn’t a word that defines your sense of style — on or off the slopes — then Goldbergh’s the brand for you. The Amsterdam-based label founded by sportswear designer Lieke van den Berg and entrepreneurial retailer Sandra Peet features plenty of maximalist designs. Whether it’s a houndstooth printed ski suit trimmed in faux fur or a metallic purple jacket, the two believe that “there should always be a certain amount of fun and craziness in a collection,” they said via email.
While it may offer everything from metallics to leopard print to Western-inspired designs at the moment, Goldbergh’s genesis was fitted ski pants... or, at least, a lack there of. “We would be directed to shop in the men’s section but their pants were always too wide and unflattering in the waist,” they said. So it’s no surprise that Goldbergh’s key piece is their Pippa style, a flared cut ski pant that comes in five different colors and features a belt to keep them in place. Resembling a pair of pants that could have been plucked from any designer runway, the choice was deliberate: “We wanted to incorporate fashion into sportswear design to make women feel special but still comfortable,” they explain.
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