The image of women in fashion is changing, which is currently evident in many areas. There are successful curvy models like Paloma Elsesser and Tess Holliday, who are self-confident about their bodies and, as body positivity activists, are calling for women not to be patronized by the beauty industry.
There are unisex collections and brands that completely put an end to the division between male and female - for example Supreme, the new cult brand from VF; there are even specific sports collections for pregnant and breastfeeding women, for example from Nike and Reebok, and thus for a target group that was not even believed to exist a few years ago.
Even the topic of menstruation is no longer taboo and has found its way into the fashion and sports industry, as demonstrated by the Canadian brand Knix with period underwear or the joint campaign by Nike and fashion retailer About You on the topic of training and menstruation.
For a long time, outdoor was a male domain. This was true for the classic outdoor sports as well as for the companies, their products and the trade. There were women's products, but they were not developed specifically for women. The motto was "shrink it and pink it". That is to say, exaggerated: the collections were developed for men, shrunk down and pinked up, and there you had a women's collection.
"Fortunately, today we've come a long way from the shrink it and pink it approach," says Irmgard Beck, creative director of design at Schöffel. She's known the industry for decades, and with it the strides the women's segment has already made. "Women's collections are much more expressive compared to the past. At Schöffel, we even have more women's models than men's in some categories, and thus much more diversity in the products and their design."
With the growing importance of the female target group, the demands on materials have also changed. "It's only since we discovered women," Manfred Hell, the former Jack Wolfskin CEO, said in an interview many years ago, "that we need completely different fabrics that are much lighter, softer and more fashionable." Ultimately, this development has enriched the entire industry and led to more diversity overall - even among men. Beck: "It's no longer the case that it's necessarily only women who get particularly cosy materials. Men like cozy, too."
Better fits and better details are demands that require some perseverance in product development. "To make functional sportswear for women, I have to take the time to really observe how the garment fits on the female body. Where do you sweat, where are there cold zones, where does it need which materials. You also have to ask women directly about their needs," Beck continued. "That often gets lost."
Often, however, the industry is still dominated by male opinions. "I remember a man telling me, 'well, as a woman I would like this and this', but why not ask a woman?" recalls Irmgard Beck. Why not just have women make a collection for women, Ruth Oberrauch of Oberalp Group also thought when she announced last year that she was launching the new women's brand LaMunt with a female team.
"If you can focus fully on the female segment, you have more opportunities than if you always have both user groups in mind," explains Ruth Oberrauch. With women's workshops, she tried to find out what exactly the target group wants, where weaknesses are and what appeals. "It came out clearly that there are certain body zones where women don't feel 'flattered' by the current products," says Oberrauch. That's exactly what LaMunt wants to change.
Who makes women's collections, therefore, does not necessarily have to focus on pink. On the contrary. "We're probably the first women-only brand whose collection doesn't feature any pink at all," Oberrauch laughs. The colours were not deliberately omitted, and it is certainly not some kind of anti-attitude. It just doesn't fit the desired aesthetic. "There is one type of consumer who likes loud designs, but there are also other consumers who like it less loud. There's no right or wrong there, it's where you position yourself," Oberrauch explains.
Many women would also like to see fewer stereotypes in the area of communication. Oberrauch: "There's more than just the girly and the hardcore mountaineer, we need more space for new things." This also includes women leading the way in pictures, and not always following the man.
Numerous brands from the sports industry have taken the occasion of International Women's Day to celebrate new collections and special promotions with and for women. The North Face is launching the „Never Stop“ campaign to mark the occasion, paying tribute to women "who push boundaries, who move mountains big and small, who are proud to be different and lead the way so others can follow their example."
In addition to human rights lawyer and runner Stephanie Case, the spotlight will be on Ashima Shiraishi, one of the best climbers in the world, artist and activist Miramar Muhd and the community She Runs It. Quiksilver Womens also proclaims for International Women's Day, there are more and more confident and strong women in the halfpipes and waves. For Quiksilver, it's clear: "a new era is dawning!" Quiksilver Womens is launching a new surf team for women for the first time this year, creating a community for strong women in surfing.