Almost all of my stored skiwear from the past 15 years is by far the most brightly colored — and unattractive — of my too-cluttered closet. Until recently, it has felt like if you wanted something warm to hike in the snow, then you were going to be wearing neon purple or a loud, colorful design down your sleeve. There’s not a spread of fashion possibilities for women like there is for men and few brands seem to introduce a sophisticated palette for the skier, camper or hiker in us.
Sure, we might own a Barbour jacket, a pair of Hunter boots, and perhaps a few other items designed by Brooks Brothers, but in general, we’ve yet to see many designers leap over the hurdles that outdoorswear can bring to the fashion table — issues like durability, warmth, or functionality under the elements. In other words, there’s been little shape to allowing a space for “the modern outdoorswoman,” the person defined by companies like Woolrich and Westerlind with their recent collaboration.
It was in speaking to Karuna Scheinfeld, VP of Design at Woolrich, that I began to see why the Woolrich x Westerlind collection is truly so special.
Woolrich has a long history as the oldest operating woolen mill in the USA and can safely be termed a “historic” company (their wool was used to produce blankets for Civil War soldiers). Up until now, they have stood tall on what can be termed a very classic Americana branding of knits, woolens, and flannels. Their products, simply put, are made to last a lifetime.
When Scheinfeld came to the design table, she was looking to take what they already did so well in terms of quality and elevate it to a lifestyle brand. One of her interests was in expanding the options for women in this market, and she was ready to collaborate — something a lot of companies are starting to do, but for women in fashion can be explosively powerful. Her meeting with Andrea Westerlind, Swedish designer and owner of her eponymous store chain Westerlind, in 2015 would begin the narrative for a new line of clothes utilizing each woman’s strengths and draw on their mutual passion for female collaboration in the workplace.
When I spent the first part of June walking, hiking, riding and sailing my way around Iceland with Westerlind and a few other ladies (plus one brave male photographer), I was hoping that what had been promised to me over the phone would hold: I would be kept warm and I would be kept fashionable. Fortunately for all of us, it was true.
Everything I wore, from the more signature Woolrich wool sweaters and parkas, to the Woolrich x Westerlind collection poncho, hat and jacket felt sleek, soft, and extremely durable. We really gave these clothes a test run, climbing hills and snowy glaciers and riding horses for 16 hours a day, and they all wore like a dream.
The color scheme of the collection was inspired by a trip Westerlind took to Iceland over a year prior. She came back from a trip with National Geographic and traveled to the Woolrich Mill in Pennsylvania to look at their archives. Between her Swedish eye and Scheinfeld’s designs, the soft grey and cream wools of Woolrich produced a collection that, for me, was something out of a dream.
By far my favorite piece was the poncho; a reversible, open shawl styled piece that I found a reason to drape around myself everywhere we went — from atop Icelandic horses to on deck the Aurore Arktika sailing past the fjords. It was light to hold but incredibly warm, which I only realized when I begrudgingly relinquished it at the close of the trip, and found that the wind had indeed been blowing.
The bottom line is that I’m now convinced that collaborations like Woolrich x Westerlind are the future for all women’s wear — but particularly for outdoorswear. The pieces are everything I want to invest in for my closet, and the good news is the designers, ethics and ethos behind them are also of the highest caliber.
Discover the full collection at: WoolrichxWesterlind and Woolrich.
Images via Daniel Dent