Après-ski style that goes beyond the slopes

If you happen to find yourself on Bloor Street West in Toronto this winter, wander into the Roots flagship, where a vintage chairlift installation has been suspended from the ceiling. If you look closely at the mannequins seated on the three elevated benches, you’ll notice that they aren’t exactly dressed for a rigorous day on the slopes; rather, they sport cozy leggings and sweatpants, knitwear layered over waffle tops, classic wool socks and shearling-lined boots.

It’s a playful mise en scène that represents one incarnation of après-ski style schussing into stores this season. (Fittingly, the window signage reads “My cabin in Canada,” an evocation of the kind of iconic winter setting that both fires the imagination of city slickers.) The look at Jil Sander and Céline, by comparison, was sleeker, with bold colour-blocked sweaters, turtlenecks and haute-sportif pants that simultaneously drew from mod and modern active-wear influences. Thakoon Panichgul, meanwhile, added detachable panniers to down vests for a variation on the prettified insulated silhouettes already explored by Giambattista Valli, who designs Moncler’s Gamme Rouge collection.

Not to be outdone, both Proenza Schouler and Aritzia seemed to adopt Winter in Santa Fe as their theme, producing oversized car coats and pants boasting native-American blanket prints.

And let’s not forget Fair Isle, the cold-weather knitwear pattern from Scotland. It’s past the point of trend and is now as perennial as plaid.

One way of absorbing such variety is to categorize après-ski style by destination, assuming that people in Zermatt dress differently than those in Aspen or Stowe. But, really, après-ski is much more fun when approached as a sensibility – one that welcomes even those who associate moguls with press baron Rupert Murdoch before bumpy hills.

In other words, you need not ever have set foot on the powder of Courchevel, Cortina or Alberta’s Mount Norquay to pull off chalet chic.

“I think incorporating nuances of this look is indeed the look itself,” says Carly Stojsic, a Toronto-based market editor for WGSN, the online global trend service. Her essentials include fine gauge turtlenecks, crewneck sweaters, slim-fit neoprene pants and anything bearing a Nordic print or “constructivist-inspired graphics.”

From Costume National to HM, a “modernist” interpretation of après-ski can be found across fashion categories, Stojsic says. “The look has been cleaned up and shaped up.”

Lodge-worthy looks are nothing new at Roots. But co-founder Michael Budman says the brand has made a more concerted effort this season to bridge the great outdoors with indoor classics.

“When you’re breathing in that fresh air and you’re out in nature, you feel like you’re on top of the world,” he says, adding that he wanted to capture that optimistic spirit with apparel that “[gives] you a warm, fuzzy feeling.”

But not bulky. Jessica Kaplan, whose title is active editor at Stylesight, a trend forecasting agency, notes that après-ski fashion is no longer as unwieldy as it once was, owing in large part to fabric innovations.

Consider the “down sweater,” a superlight insulated shirt that doubles as an outerwear shell.

Granted, it’s not a sweater in the traditional sense, but the name is certainly catchy – enough so that it has become a best seller for Patagonia.

Uniqlo and Joe Fresh have caught on and are offering their own versions. By next winter, down sweaters should be ubiquitous.

As for the broader picture, urban dwellers are yearning, Kaplan says, for anything that suggests a balanced lifestyle. She points to outdoor apparel brand REI’s recent arrival in New York’s SoHo district and Icebreaker’s forthcoming shop in that city’s Meatpacking District as signs that high-performance brands can coexist alongside high fashion.

Of course, resort regulars who are no strangers to the “mountain casual” dress code may look at these superslick interpretations and scoff. Isn’t a white turtleneck, for instance, the hallmark of a downtown hockey mom? Perhaps, Kaplan says, but it’s how you pull everything together. “It’s not about a head-to-toe look,” she notes.

Moreover, Stosjic insists, most of this season’s après-ski looks are the polar opposites of ski bunny snazzy. There’s no flash, no logoed snowsuits, no Jersey Shore-meets-Jackson Hole vibe.

“It’s grown-up,” she says, “and [takes] cues from past winter wear.”

Perhaps après-ski style resonates so strongly right now because dressing for downtime feels like a well-earned reward, whether you’ve exhausted yourself on the slopes or at the office.

“Think about the mentality behind it,” Kaplan suggests. “You woke up at 7 a.m. and spent the whole day skiing in freezing temperatures. By afternoon, you’re done. You just want to sit, warm up and have a cocktail.”

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