Heading for the Hills

Clad in a pink and carmine blocked top, navy patterned running shorts on dark grey leggings and Technicolor running sneakers, he stood out like hydrangea in a sea of drab white and grey.
Curious onlookers and those who’d just completed their run did a double take as creative consultant Hideki Akiyoshi crossed the finish line.
Sporting colorful but functional outdoor clothes, individuals like Akiyoshi, PR executive Yashiro Ken and copywriter Li Chan are prime examples of the resurgence of outdoor sportswear.
“Basically people’s lifestyles have become much more active and people are more conscious about nature, says Akiyoshi, who cites Aigle, Keen, Haglofs, Merrell, Lafuma and Millet as some of his favorite outdoor labels. ”Outdoor fashion is the biggest trend in the world now whereas high fashion has not been creating as much news compared to the past decades.”
Seen on the runways of New York and Milan are no longer male models in slim black suits and skinny ties but rather naval pea coats, fisherman-style gilets, argyle sweaters, khakis (loads of them) and alpine boots. Fashion brands are digging through their archives and taking a leaf out of iconic outdoor apparel companies to create looks that are more rough-and-tumble, as opposed to the ubiquitous tailored look favored by the Pradas and Guccis. Some brands are even tapping the expertise of the outdoor labels and injecting a modern and polished take by bringing in new blood.
Take Japanese label Comme des Garçons for example. Its designer Junya Watanabe has collaborated over the past few years with outdoor clothing stalwarts such as Nike, Brooks Brothers and Woolrich Woolen Mills. Other labels roughing it out include Jil Sander, Levi’s, Rag and Bone, and Band of Outsiders.
In Singapore, men (and some women) are bringing the outdoor look onto the streets. Copywriter Li Chan is one hipster who has embraced it. He flips through the pages of GQ as well as Japanese style rags Go Out and Men’s No No for style ideas, and looks up to Japanese stylist Fumihiko Okabe, known for his quirky takes on outdoor style.
“It’s ludicrous to wear down-jackets and fleece here in Singapore, so I pick ‘lighter’ styles like fishing jackets to go with khaki shorts and hiking boots, or just throw on a canvas gilet to complete the look. Simple style pairings like these are versatile enough for the office,” he says.
Akiyoshi agrees: “Outdoor style is all about mixing and matching. It is quite an apt look to consider for a climate such as Singapore. The functions and technologies featured in some of the clothing will be perfect.”
The 30-year fashion industry veteran has gone one step further to promote the outdoor style, through the Nature Athletic Style group he created. Through this initiative, Akiyoshi organizes activities like hikes, runs and sea-sports on top of sharing outdoor fashion tips.
“For me, the outdoor style is more than just fashion. It’s great that it is getting traction on the fashion front but the aim of the group is to let people to think about and spend their time with nature,” he says.
“I also hope to organize big outdoor/nature-themed events such as Glastonbury or Fuji Rock in Singapore in the near future where people will rough it out, camp … and still look good!” 
Look fashionably rough in these labels

Engineered Garments
The brainchild of Japanese designer Daiki Suzuki, Engineered Garments is one of the many labels that helped bring the classic American outdoor sportswear look into high fashion. The designs from Suzuki’s line were inspired by Woolrich Woolen Mills and his collection puts a modern spin on sportswear such as chambray and flannel shirts, safari jackets in technical materials and classic footwear. Engineered Garments won the CFDA/GQ Menswear Designer of the Year Award in 2008.
Available from Know It Nothing, 51 Haji Lane, 6392-5475.

This longstanding French mountaineering outfitter brings its functional streamlined jackets, boots and bags from the slopes of the Swiss Alps to the runways and streets. The brand has roped in designer-of-the-moment Thom Browne to create a diffusion label, Gamme Bleu—injecting a refined, tailored look into the brand’s extreme sport origins (it outfitted the 1954 Italian K2 expedition). The brand will feature in the Club 21 Pop-Up boutique (01-28/29 Forum Shopping Mall, 583 Orchard Rd., 6304-3557) from mid February.
Also available from Club 21, #01-02 / #01-09 Four Seasons Hotel, 190 Orchard Blvd., 6304-3557/6304-3557.

The king of Japanese casuals boasts a fine collection of sportswear that’s as runway ready as it is all set for the hills. Its Fall/Winter offerings feature classic sportswear silhouettes, some designed by labels such as Opening Ceremony, A Gilded Age and Japanese designer Kiminori Morishita, known for his military and outdoor style using vintage-inspired materials in modern shapes and cuts. The latest +J Spring/Summer 2011 collection features classic sportswear silhouettes in cutting edge fabrics. Noteworthy pieces include military-style parkas in cotton twill, down vests and light cotton jackets.
Available at #03-27/34, 313@somerset, 313 Orchard Rd., 6834-4073.

Founded in 2004 and helmed by Hiroki Nakamura, Visvim is a small label out of Japan producing some of the wittiest apparel and shoes in the market. Known for products that are understated yet aesthetically distinctive and displaying fine craftsmanship, Visvim began as a reaction to mass marketed fashion. The label’s nod towards craftsmanship and artisanal skills has won fans the world over. Besides sneakers, Visvim has its hand in womenswear, outerwear, accessories and travel goods, candles and perfumes, clothing and denim, and has collaborated with labels such as Moncler and Comme des Garçons.
Available from Surrender, #02-31, Raffles Hotel Arcade, 328 North Bridge Rd.,