Projecting a premium outdoor sports brand with 156 years of heritage into the digital sphere is no easy task, one many traditional labels would struggle to pull off. But Mammut chief creative officer Adrian Margelist couldn't be more enthusiastic about traversing the new path ahead. At the launch of Mammut's new urban Delta X collection in Berlin, Highsnobiety linked up with Margelist to discuss the brand’s future and how it’s working to reshape the way we interact with performancewear now and in future.
With a background in luxury apparel, having lived in fashion capitals such as Milan, London, Seoul, and Berlin, designing products for Liebeskind and MCM and dabbling with a career in semi-pro snowboarding, Margelist’s story is perfectly in tune with Mammut. With activewear and streetwear finding their footing on the fashion circuit via moments such as Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton debut or The North Face x HYKE collaboration, you'd be forgiven for assuming that he's gearing up to reposition Mammut’s brand in a similar vein. But that's not the whole story.
“When I started working for Mammut, I said, ‘Let's look at it from the other side. What do we know best? We know how to do high-end, top-notch mountaineering clothing, all performance-oriented and highly functional,'” Margelist explains.
He has looked at how the brand can translate its outdoor heritage into a contemporary, metropolitan setting. He asked how it could start a conversation about what is meant by performance attire, what an “activity” actually is (commuting was considered, for example), and how it’s accomplished. From these questions, the term “urbaneering” — a collision of mountaineering and the urban environment — was born.
That approach now defines the brand’s vibe as a whole. Mammut has never been about, in Margelist’s words, “‘Oh shit, what if we missed a trend, missed the lifestyle, or, ooh, what if the fashion is over?’ No. We really turned the whole story around and said, ‘Let's take it from what we do best and let's extend our activities. Let’s evolve.’
“Mammut stands for Swiss 1862, premium, quality, performance — we will continue to strengthen this position on a global level. It is the oldest outdoor brand out there on the market. We go back to the roots to be inspired and then invest in innovation. Our new urbaneering collection Delta X is a perfect example of this evolution.”
So you won’t find any seasonal gimmicks in these collections. Rather, any potential collaborations (and there are some in the pipeline, but they're being kept under wraps for the moment) must respect the brand’s heritage and its dedication to performance while simultaneously translating it to city living. "For Mammut, the urban environment is far more than simply a new playground,” explains Margelist. “Delta X marks an evolution of our brand DNA and design language from the mountains to the city. The styles are packed with technology and functionality, this is the key requirement for the collection."
Margelist continues, “We want to fulfill the needs of people living and commuting in the city. Urbaneers, as we call them — today's modern city explorers — face various challenges on their everyday journey. They’re constantly exposed to changing outer conditions such as temperature, humidity, or wind and are looking for the best gear for adaptation, protection, and comfort.”
Using a jacket as a theoretical example, Margelist tells us, “From its look and feel, this definitely fits into the urban environment. But from a technical standpoint, you could literally go to a 6,000-meter peak. Every piece we created [for Delta X] has a functionality, either highly water repellent in a 32,000-millimeter water column, or with tech lights, or a hard shell jacket that can be tucked in a little package. Every piece we've designed, we designed from a use-case perspective.”
This outlook extends to more than just Mammut’s performance and aesthetics. With a new design direction comes a fresh digital perspective, one that Mammut hopes will satisfy its ambition to become the industry’s digital leader in outdoor wear.
An important step in this direction is Mammut Connect, a near-field communications (NFC) chip like the one used for contactless card payments, integrated into a garment. The chip links to an app, in which you can check, for example, a piece’s specifications and its authenticity. It will, Margelist enthuses, provide “a key to enter into a huge Mammut-experience world within the next years.” Additionally, it will aid the company’s goal to eliminate hangtags and the resulting paper waste wherever possible.
On Instagram, people are now championing the outdoors as a covetable aesthetic, with countless users throwing out stunning wilderness-inspired content on the daily, so this move into digitalization makes sense. Amping up Mammut’s digital presence aligns the brand with a growing movement of people embracing the freedom of the wild. That means a lot of new customers — and they’re already on their way. According to Margelist, Mammut has seen 18 percent sales growth in the first quarter of this year alone, which is down in part to older, loyal customers but also to a newer, younger wave of consumers.
“Some people go hiking on the weekends when three years ago they didn't even know how to put a backpack on,” Margelist laughs when asked what's driving these new customers. “They live in this vast environment. Maybe all day they have a crazy job, so they're looking for freedom, an escape.”
Of course, it’ll be interesting to see whether Mammut’s use of NFC tech becomes incorporated across the industry, but for now, Margelist is riding the hype of guiding a heritage label into a bold new phase. It won't be an overnight process, but, as Margelist explains, “We are 156 years old. We really have to treat that treasure with respect as we bring it to the next level.”
The Delta X collection will hit the market in January 2019.
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