Gore-Tex Me This, Gore-Tex Me That: When Technical Sportswear Meets Luxury Menswear
After debuting her AW20 collection at London Fashion Week Men’s this past January, Paria Farzaneh stood gleaming as she spoke to the fashion press. Yes she was happy the show went to plan, and yes she was obviously pleased that her legion of devotees gazed all starry-eyed at their future purchases. But the real reason the designer had a big, cheesy grin on her face was that this collection was her first opportunity to collaborate with Gore-Tex. “Being granted the Gore-Tex licence and getting to use their fabrics in a way that they do themselves has been amazing,” she boasted; her frame swallowed in a terrific paisley-printed waterproof made from a Gore-Tex Infinium fabric.
So what’s all the fuss about, you ask? Well, when it comes to high-performance outerwear, Gore-Tex is the holy grail. Founded in 1969 by father-son duo Wilbert L. Gore and Robert W. Gore, Gore-Tex is a totally breathable fabric that both repels liquid and wind, whilst also allowing water vapour to pass through. This ensures that the fabric is lightweight, yet fully-waterproof. Ideal for all sorts of weather conditions. For rock-climbers, forest hikers and overall outdoor goers, jackets made out of Gore-Tex fabric have become somewhat of a necessity for expeditions. High-performance specialists such as The North Face and Arc’teryx have used Gore-Tex to shell their most technical pieces, such as the latter’s Beta LT Gore-tex Pro Jacket, pricing in at nearly £400.
Yet in recent years Gore-Tex has found a new audience demographic, and an unlikely one at that. The premium world of sportswear has found itself integrated into the constantly evolving streetwear market. Hypebeasts, who once swore by Supreme and Bape, are now sporting C.P. Company and Arc’teryx jackets with their Evisu denim and Palace combats. Speaking of Palace, the London skatewear brand has been one of the lucky few who have been granted access to use Gore-Tex fabrics within its collections. As part of the brand’s AW19 season, a series of trippy, zebra print jackets and bucket hats came in a Gore-Tex shell. Each sold out within hours. The likes of Burberry, Carhartt WIP and Supreme have also each produced special addition outwear that incorporates Gore-Tex specialist fabrics.
Paria Farzaneh was able to continue the exploration of her Iranian heritage by perforating Gore-Tex anoraks, windbreakers and trench coats with flashes of traditional prints dyed from saffron and turmeric. From London to Paris, Virgil Abloh practically dedicated his Off-White womenswear AW20 collection as a love letter to Arc’teryx, as he sent the Hadid sisters down the catwalk in Frankenstein ballgowns that morphed into cropped Arc’teryx jackets, similar to the one Abloh wore when taking his bow at the Louis Vuitton men’s show a month prior.
This pivot towards the streetwear world has garnered Gore-Tex an entirely new fanbase, whilst the appeal to outdoor enthusiasts remains undinted. Is a 21-year-old going to sport his latest Gore-Tex anorak to trek up Snowdonia? Or is it more likely he’ll wear it with pride as he queues in Soho for the latest big streetwear drop? Who knows. Though one thing’s for certain: technical sportswear’s dominance on the modern menswear world is on a steep incline, heading north.
Top image: Paria Farzaneh AW20. Photographs by Jason Lloyd-Evans.