Baby Its Cold Outside

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Published On: May 9, 2023

Here’s a little factoid that might take you by surprise: one of the hottest categories in the clothing industry these days is outerwear. In fact, the winter wear market was valued at $268.3 billion globally in 2018 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.3% from 2019 to 2025. That’s a lot of puffer jackets, raincoats and windbreakers!

Coats and jackets account for the largest market share of 52.5%. The segment is driven by a rise in the use of jackets for different purposes such as trekking, bike riding, tours and travels, thereby uplifting sales in the outerwear market.

So, Let’s Bundle Up

The trend towards more casual dressing – spurred on in part by the pandemic – has people looking at outerwear in new ways. People are loving the “tough, but fashionable” look of vintage workwear, the high-end glam of puffer jackets with rich and elegant zippers and snaps, and the tried-and-true style of classic rainwear (think Burberry trench coats).

Also, people have changed how they dress for chilly temps. One large, bulky layer has given way to several thin layers. The good news here is that the sheer volume sales of winter clothes is steadily increasing.

All these changes offer the enterprising emerging designer (maybe you?) ample opportunity to create a well-merchandised collection in varying weights and textures. Case in point…consider a vest layered over a shirt or hoodie, with a coat over top as just one easy option. The design possibilities are endless!

Outerwear Design and Development 

No matter if you are just launching your collection or if your brand has been around for a while, you want to be known for something specific and distinct; something that isn’t already out there. How are you going to make sure you stand out, and that people will buy your garments  instead of going somewhere else?

The answer is simple, know your competition. One great way to do so is to attend an industry  trade show. Your competition will be there, showing their new products coming to market. It’s the best research you’ll ever do! Depending on the niche of your brand (performance? ready-to-wear? high fashion?) there’s an appropriate show for you.

That said, if you are living in the United States, there’s no excuse not to go to Texworld USA or Premiere Vision New York. Likewise, designers in Europe should attend Premiere Vision France at least once every few years to stay on top of the latest trends.

Fabric First

When developing outerwear, fabric should be first and foremost in your mind. In fact, we can’t think of a single category where fabric selection is more important.

The high performance and cost-effective benefits of smart fabrics and interactive textiles have allowed them to replace traditional materials in certain applications. Of course, depending on your personal aesthetic as a designer, natural fabrics such as cotton and wool might be more appropriate. Don’t despair…advances in the sustainability and “eco-friendliness” of natural fabrics keep them in the mix as well.

Natural Fibers 

  • Cotton – Nothing reduces that post-workout stench like cotton. The downside is cotton absorbs moisture; no one wants sweat-logged clothing during a high intensity workout. Still, for yoga, weight training, or other low-sweat activities, cotton blends are great.
  • Wool – is popular among hikers and lovers of the great outdoors. The material creates pockets that trap air, so it’s fantastic at regulating heat and keeping the body warm. It’s also breathable and wicks moisture.

Synthetic Fabrics 

  • Bamboo – While bamboo starts out as a “natural” fabric from the bamboo plant, it is considered synthetic due to the processing. Bamboo is light, breathable, and moisture-wicking—it also protects skin from ultraviolet rays.
  • Nylon – This synthetic fabric has come a long way. It’s as soft as silk, mildew resistant, and dries quickly. It’s also breathable and wicks sweat from the skin to the fabric’s surface, where it can evaporate.
  • Polyester – This fabric is durable, wrinkle-resistant, breathable, and non-absorbent; moisture from skin evaporates instead of being drawn into the material. The main drawback to polyester is odor retention, definitely something to keep in mind when designing garments for high-intensity activities.
  • Polypropylene – is made from plastic and is completely water-resistant. Polypropylene forces moisture to pass through its fibers, expelling it to the fabric’s surface where it can evaporate.
  • Spandex – (aka “Lycra”) can expand to nearly 600 percent of its size, offers an unrestricted range of motion, and then snaps back in place. Spandex is also breathable, wicks moisture, and dries quickly.

Company-Patented Fabrics

  • PolarTec – Malden Mills first developed Polar Fleece, now called PolartecTM, in the 1970’s. It has many of the advantages of wool (warmth, even when wet, and breathability) without the disadvantages (weight, bulk, care, and discomfort).
  • Coolmax – is a series of moisture-wicking technical fabrics developed in 1986 by DuPont Textiles and Interiors. These ‘wickaway’ fabrics draw moisture away from the skin to maintain the appropriate air space between the skin and the outer garment shell.
  • Supplex  – was created to offer consumers the feels and benefits of cotton without its downfalls (creasing, shrinkage, and fading). It feels like cotton but is breathable, holds its shape, dries fast, and retains color.
  • Cordura – is a collection of fabrics usually made from nylon. Created from ‘high-bulk’ yarn, the filaments are looped and tangled within the yarn bundle creating high abrasion resistance.  It’s as thick as cotton duck fabric but weighs half as much, with three times the tear strength and abrasion resistance.

One, two, three…testing, testing…

Once you’ve finalized your samples, it’s always good to test your designs. Wear the garments yourself, offer them to friends and family, get as much feedback as possible (and keep an open mind). When you test your idea, you’ll gather lots of valuable information you can use to tweak your product offering. Only then will you know that your outerwear collection is ready for market!

Outerwear is a challenging and fulfilling market. We’re happy to discuss your plans or answer any questions. Feel free to reach out to us at or give us a call at 800-916-0910.



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