The outdoor apparel industry has rapidly grown in the last few years and is now worth $170 billion globally. The pandemic inspired people to re-establish their connection to the outdoors and nature, which has been described as somewhat of a renaissance in outdoor apparel by Kathmandu general manager of product, Robert Fry.

“The difference is, now more brands are ‘doing’ or trying to do outdoor gear,” he told Retailbiz in a recent interview.

“Activewear brands in particular are trying to extend into our space, but these brands don’t have the technical aspects or innovation history of companies like Kathmandu. We’ve been in this industry for over 30 years, so in terms of credibility and authenticity, that’s something we have done the hard yards on.

“What’s exciting for us is seeing a new customer come into our fold – Millennials who love the outdoors. They want the technicality of an outdoor brand with a balance of style and function. They also shop their values more than most, so we’re ahead of the game on that front too.”

Kathmandu was recently recertified as a B Corp with sustainability sitting at the heart of everything the company does, including sourcing materials in a responsible way.

“Some of the initiatives and commitments that contributed to our recertification, commended by B Lab included the launch of the world’s first biodegradable down jacket, the NXT-Level BioDown in April 2022; using 100% sustainable cotton – a mix of organic, recycled cotton and cotton sourced through Better Cotton; 100% Responsible Down Standard (RDS) ensuring that down and feathers come from animals that have not been subjected to any unnecessary harm; and our commitment to all polyester recycled or recyclable by 2030,” Fry said.

“These bold ESG goals drive our product innovation. We’re also looking at introducing our customers to circularity and have a few initiatives in the pipeline that will be trialed in a few stores before being rolled out across Australia and New Zealand.”

Another trend being explored by Kathmandu on the apparel front is its UPF-specific range designed to protect the wearer from UVB and UVA rays, using fabrics with built-in UPF 50+.

“It was well received by our customers, who want to be more proactive around how they protect themselves outdoors when they are hiking for an extended period of time,” Fry said.

“It’s a trend that we expect to see grow and be adopted by others brands over the coming 12 months, which is important especially given the incidence of skin cancer both here and in New Zealand. UPF clothing is also growing in its appeal in the Northern Hemisphere, which Kathmandu recently launched into.”