WHAT IS OUTDOOR RETAILER?
Twice a year hundreds of outdoor industry brands, hundreds of retailers, and thousands of people participate in a four-to-five day trade show called Outdoor Retailer. It's a crazy amount of business and socializing to happen under one roof. What is everyone doing? We definitely get asked a lot, what is an ecommerce brand doing at the year's biggest retail buying event?
Well, there are many different spheres of the outdoor industry participating in the OR show. Brands exhibiting their products to attract retailer buyers and media editors is certainly the most popular aspect of the show. But in the less-traveled exhibit halls of the convention center you can find the global sourcing network that makes all of this product happen.
Here's a video of Brittany and I traveling those halls to visit with a few suppliers...
WHAT GOES DOWN IN THE SUPPLIER SECTION?
In the same way that brands launch new products to sell to buyers, suppliers launch their new technologies to sell to the brands. Fabric mills from Japan, Taiwan, Korea, China, Europe, and North America all attend and exhibit at OR. Hardware and components companies like YKK, Duraflex, Fidlock, RECCO, unveil their latest technologies.
We've been coming to this show for 10 years! It's the best opportunity for a brand to quickly survey the trends on the supply-side, as well as meet with all of our partners to talk about different technologies and improvements that we'd like to see. Developing fabrics is a process that at a basic level I think is like cooking. You need to be aware of the different capabilities available at every ingredient; from the fiber-level, to the lamination, the coating and finishing. The combination of each ingredient is designed for a specific intent and the final result can either confirm your intent or surprise in good and bad ways.
This season we were very excited with what's happening right now with textiles. We continue to see softer/stretchier woven fabrics as 3-layer laminates. Fine gauge and circular knits are being used as the backing for some of these fabrics, making the final package incredibly soft and comfortable. The lines between "hard" shell and "soft" shell are basically nonexistent now. Something I'm particular excited about is some of the high-tenacity fibers being incorporated in apparel fabrics. Names like Kevlar, Dyneema, and Spectra that are familiar to rock climbers, sailors, and the construction industry, are now being seen in some really interesting woven and knit fabrics. I think the excited prospect is marrying the really soft/stretchy fabrics and the high-tenacity yarns, so the resulting garment is "mapped" both for comfort and durability.
This is the haul we took from this year's OR show (with some rolls of fabric we send directly to the mills). Some new lightweight knits from our friends at NuYarn Merino of New Zealand, incredible stretch-woven nylon fabrics from Apex of Taiwan (we use these in our powder skirt and Powfish liner), new collections from Toyota of Japan, and new collections from Toray of Japan. Up top is some new hardware from Duraflex and some new capabilities from YKK. The rolled fabric is 100% Spectra woven, ballistics level-durability, that I'm really excited to experiment with!
We'll bring in these new collections into our super-organized library in the back of the office and start to push out the outdated stuff. But collecting fabric headers really brings out the worst in my pack-rat tendencies, so we'll see how much we actually get rid of...