February 05, 2018

Fetching the future at ISPO 2018

Creative Directors Noud Claassen, Waldo Reijnders and I: Product Designer, headed off to Munich for this year's ISPO. With both Noud and Waldo jumping straight from the Austrian slopes to the halls of the fair. They were in the right mindset for the day ahead. Having had an exciting time at ISPO year ago, it's looking like this is going to become a common theme here at VanBerlo.

This year, ISPO held and presented more than 2,800 exhibitors. Showcasing the latest in Snowsports, Outdoor, Health & Fitness, Urban and Team sports products. It goes without saying. Regardless of your sport or style, you will find the right equipment for your type of fun.

A few of the big brands have stepped down from showcasing their latest developments. Even the historic brands seemed to have cut down the size of their stands within the halls in comparison to previous years. It seems that smaller companies and start-ups are stepping in and taking centre stage, showcasing their new products and ideas.

Market trends expose a lot year to year. Specifically, the knowledge of your visual brand language, leverage, and positioning. Last year brought in the wave of muted colour tones. We heard a lot of "gone are the days of loud neon colours and wild prints." This year was no exception to that. Brands like Peak Performance, North Face, and Descente, etc. have transitioned into singular 'all in one' combinations for their apparel. Yet they bring in neon into the details of the zippers and hemmings.

Yet, we still see brands like Völkl, Head, and Rossignol retaining the entire neon palette. For us, this showcases that these brands 'get it'. They understand their visual brand language, leverage, and positioning. Meaning they don't need to follow the current style trends to stay relevant. They are aware that they don't have the "permission to hedge" there.

We saw a lot of Red and Burgundy, Burgundy and Red. Perhaps, this was due to Atomics statement in 2017 with their rouge portfolio. It caused a wave of CMF designers to opt for the same statement in 2018. As said before the 'all in one' coloured outfits are more predominate this year than before. With the attention shifted onto experimenting with the depth of colour, textures, and balance of materials. This is giving the consumer a more premium feel. Giving an added 'sophistication.' Translating into a look that opens them to a lifestyle, sports combination. For us, the shapes of these garments are reminiscent of Y-3 silhouettes.

On to materials. Wool is more prevalent than ever. Of course, merino wool has been in the market for a few years now. Yet, the marketing and communication have risen. With companies such as The Woolmark Company pushing the envelope. I expect a lot more brands opting for the material. Of course, due to its natural abilities besides the sustainability factor. For example, look at Adidas.In combination with the rise of natural materials. Key innovators, such as HEAD are still experimenting with carbon graphene. According to them, this is making the shoes, and ski's particularly "light and sporty." While retaining the renowned quality and performance. Nice to see that HEAD lab is still pushing the envelope. Even after the debut of the KORE skies last year; great job Piers and the team from Koroyd!

Talking of key innovators, Adidas is pushing their tech-centric agenda this year. With their Futurecraft 4D sneaker taking the lead. Being a sneakerhead myself it was great to get hands on with the coveted pair. Having only seen them online before, the nature of the 3D print wasn't as I expected. As opposed to a matte finish it was glossy and rubber-like. In addition, Adidas allowed for personalising designs in AR and building shoes yourself. The Adidas booth was packed with enthusiastic people. They are nailing the next step in shoe innovation!

Two words: personalised and modifiable. It looks like this is how the brands will differentiate and compete more in the upcoming years.

Japanese based company Descente blended the world of hardware and apparel this year. They showcased their new snow jacket which incorporated the renowned boa system. Allowing for an optimised personalised fit and assisting in keeping that snow out.

Komperdell innovated with their latest ski poles that adjust in height; through operating a button held in the hilt. The adjustability felt good and the operation natural. Great to see someone break away from the 'usual' CMF update.

Waldo called it surfing in the snow. The newest trend of riding. Linking nicely into the variety of board tip shapes and profiles. With more diversification than ever, it's about riding your style. And now that can come in a variety of formats. Bludan's snowshoes are now also downhill gliders. After that long ascent with ski or mountain boots, the shoes become a gliding surface in no time. Incredible. With so much variety in what you can ride with, it can be hard to choose.

It seems customisation is the newest addition to the Original's 'collection.' The brand showcased the new skies in ISPO awards section. Customised for you and your riding style landing on your door ten days after ordering. Fresh from the Austria Alps. Leveraging the E-commerce boom and cutting out the middleman; smart move. Thereby keeping the price at a cool €500 euro point. Being a new boy on the block, they have a lot to prove. Time will tell. Let's call back in a year.

Lastly, a few interesting takeaways were found in the B4 Hall of the ISPO Brand New Sector. For us, it's interesting to see that even within small markets like Electro powered longboards, start-ups still see a lot ground that they can gain. JayKay for example, embedded their motors within the wheels, and the electronics and batteries directly into the trunks. On another note, making them mountable on every type of board! The Founder of POC, Stefan Ytterborn, showed a crisp looking electrical motor/mountain bike which seems a lot of fun to ride. And Microsphere presented a mask for athletes who exercise in polluted areas like Beijing. A few more modifications and it's surely a product to keep an eye on.

It was great catching up with everyone this year. A lot of familiar faces partnered with great discussions. We look forward to next year!

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