Photographed by Craig McDean, Vogue, June 2011
There is a certain point on the thermometer when the idea of looking cute gets put on ice quite literally. The polar vortex was enough to freeze out the most stylish regions of our wardrobes, and although I did spot someone trotting through the snow in high heels and sheer, 40 denier tights just days before the cyclone hit, it has certainly been a week of droopy long johns and amorphous puffer coats as far as my own look is concerned.
Now that Mother Nature has had a few days to thaw here in New York, I’ve been thinking about the chicer aspects of extreme weather and performance clothing. An outdoorsy influence has been showing up in the most unexpected places all week; on the runway at Balenciaga for pre-fall with snowboard-inspired jacket and pants for example, and in the form of fantastic fur-trimmed hiking boots at Louis Vuitton.
It’s the mountaineering look of the sixties and seventies, pioneered by the likes of rock climber, environmentalist, and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard that I find most appealing. As the story goes, Chouinard and three of his climber friends piled into a secondhand van and drove 5,000 miles from California to Patagonia to conquer the infamous Fitz Roy mountain back in 1968, the most dramatic peak in South America, and it's from this death-defying excursion that the brand gets its name. Mountains of Storm, the documentary about their epic journey, is a useful point of reference, full of rugged, primary-colored looks that are probably only half as effective as the high-tech specialized fabrics we now have today but which are doubly good-looking. I will always have a soft spot for a vintage deep pile fleece jacket, and thankfully they still make the retro vest which, styled right, can look great peeking from under a blazer.
As far as newer discoveries go, Westerlind, an e-shop dedicated to mining the sweet spot between the great outdoors and all things fashion, is my latest obsession. I have my eye on the Woolpower base layers (did you know wool insulates just as well as any of the manmade stuff?), Eskimo-inspired mittens by Frost River and their awesome, chunky hand-knit hats, not to mention the all-natural Juniper Ridge trail soap (just because you’re trekking doesn’t mean you can’t smell good). So if polar vortex number two decides to show up, I’ll be sitting pretty.
A selection of stylish outdoorsy goodies from Westerlind.