If there’s a single trend that has come to define fashion of late, it is without a doubt the ‘90s. Central to that revival is ‘90s hip-hop style, which popularised a wealth of style back in the day from buckets hats and dungarees to technical wear. This reappropriation resulted in brands that, until then, had been quietly serving niche markets unexpectedly finding themselves being snapped up by a new audience. Such was the case of Norwegian outdoors brand, Helly Hansen, and German sportswear giants, PUMA.
While the two aren’t worlds apart – both were founded in Europe decades ago to produce performance-centric products – their paths had rarely crossed prior to that decade. As Helly Hansen was busy outfitting sailors, skiers, and fishermen for the harshest conditions faced in the mountains and at sea, PUMA was innovating its RS running sneaker technology in the small German town of Herzogenaurach. During the ‘90s, however, PUMA’s nylon windbreakers and heavy-set kicks found themselves layered with Helly Hanson puffers on the backs of hip-hop artists and fans alike. To commemorate this pivotal period and celebrate their shared history, Helly Hansen and PUMA have teamed up for the first time on two collections that – logically – commemorate the ‘90s.
“That's where we found a middle ground," PUMA Select's senior partnership manager, Arjun Mistry, tells Highsnobiety's Chris Danforth on the nineties. "We're both experts, Puma from the sports side is one of the longest-standing brands and Helly Hansen is a real pioneer and specialist in outdoor technical gear. But it's that in-between where we were appropriated by street culture in the nineties. I think that's what initially drew us together and what is obviously the start of this first capsule.”
The collaboration spans two seasons with the first collection releasing today and the second to follow in Spring 2020. Bringing together both brands’ strengths, the drops draw on Helly Hansen’s 140 years of technical prowess and adapts it for a technical lifestyle offering suitable for everyday wear.
“The collection is a no-compromise between function and form, nor looks and functionality," explains Helly Hansen's category managing director, Kristoffer Ulriksen. "Clothing is such an important part of identity, but kids these days don't want to wear anything that doesn't work either. You won't accept to be wet and cold just to look cool anymore. You want both."
The first collection counts apparel, accessories, and three sneakers: the LQD Cell Omega, Trailfox MTS, and Nitefox. "You would think, as this is a nineties thing, we'd go to old school footwear. You think nineties Puma, you think of classics. But actually we were able to kind of give that vibe onto some new silhouettes that we have coming, which was exciting," says Mistry.
With its trail-ready tooling and heritage nylon and suede upper, the Trailfox MTS is the most technical of the three, veering towards hiking boots in its construction. The all-black Nitefox offers a more versatile look, boasting a sleek black upper and sole, and the LQD Cell Omega harks back to the collection’s inspirational decade with its chunky, orange-popped sole. All three are tied together through by the same color palette and bold dual-branding.
Accompanying the sneakers is a range of apparel comprising puffer jackets, hoodies, tracksuits, tees, and a vest. The collection’s standout garment has to be the reversible puffer jacket, which hits the sweet spot between ‘90s nostalgia and the current outdoor trend. Indeed, say ‘90s Helly Hansen to any hop-hop fashion fan and they’ll tell you that the puffer – worn oversized – was the brand’s trademark silhouette of that era.
Mistry lists the puffer, which has been reworked with a modern oversized fit and reversible function, as his favorite piece in the collection, "I'm going to say the reversible jacket [is my favorite], because of the childhood memories it has for me. It was the mid-nineties, I was 16 years old, I had that jacket, the first Hele reversible puffer." Helly Hansen's designer, Dorte Vedal, agrees, "It's one piece that tells so many stories. It's wearable, it's lightweight, it's weatherproof."
When it comes to colors, the palette makes heavy use of black and white with touches of vibrant orange that bring an outdoorsy feel to the range. A co-branded graphic brings a playful touch to the drop and harks back to the ‘90s logomania trend as does the liberal use of the collaboration’s dual-branded logo.
Check out the full collection now at puma.com.