With its contemporary urban vibe, this year's ISPO Athleisure finalist, Van Loon Sport is a breath of stylish air for the skiwear market.
The fiercely stylish yet functional Van Loon Sport is one of the new generation of brands that's challenging the perception of traditional skiwear. We ask our 10 + 1 Brand Watch questions to Founder and Creative Director, Greg Stidolph...
'Van Loon Sport is an independent studio committed to designing the future of skiwear. With design HQ in London and offices in the Swiss Alps we combine the best of urban and mountain cultures to create a contemporary skiwear brand. It is our mission to re-evaluate priorities in high value skiwear. We will not sell you a logo or a history, simply an unparalleled depth of garment quality.'
1) When and why did you decide to set up your brand?
There's been huge cultural, social and design progression in the world in the last decade but skiing missed it, too busy looking back on former glory days. Van Loon Sport is a creative outlet to inspire the changes I'd like to see in skiing, forward focused and paving the way for an exciting future.
2) Where do you manufacture and what fabrics do you use?
Right now we manufacture in the UK. For short production runs of high quality the UK is a great place to be. As we scale up certain designs we've started talking to manufacturers in Portugal. I don't mind too much where we manufacture geographically as long as they can responsibly produce the quality we demand, and we have our own code of conduct for our suppliers that hold them to that.
Fabric is a huge thing for me, I'm so fussy. I will touch literally thousands of fabrics every year and select maybe two or three. When we were developing our base layers I couldn't find the right fabric anywhere so we ended up developing something totally new with a knitting mill in Leicester. It's called Modaluxe® and it's amazing. Honestly. Finalist at the ISPO Brand New Awards and should have won. My inner Kanye almost ran up on stage.
3) What's your price range and target market?
The official name for our segment is 'affordable luxury' but that's real stuffy and I hate the connotations of the word luxury. You'll pay £110 for a Modaluxe® base layer top and around £200 for an extra-fine Merino knit mid-layer.
I'm designing for individuals who yearn for some distinctive, exciting ski wear that won't just make them look 'chic'. There's more space for individual style, not just what you wear but how you wear it. Our garments have a clear contemporary image that will develop with the brand over time.
The base layers have a much broader appeal though, they're a special product for anyone.
4) Where does your inspiration come from?
Our design studio is in London so I get to interact with so many cultures on a daily basis, you see so many styles and that always sets off sparks. One of the most exciting areas in fashion right now is streetwear, I like the self-awareness of those brands. I'm also a huge fan of Japanese design culture and that clearly finds it's way into Van Loon's design language.
5) Why do you think we should wear your brand?
You want it because of how it looks, but you'll buy it for the depth of consideration that goes into any one of our products. Fit, fabric, finish, packaging, after-care.
My professional training is in performance tech, working with world leading researchers. I know how to make a garment perform. Eventually I want to build a trust with our customers that they can buy something on looks alone with the knowledge everything has been thought through.
6) What part do the mountains and skiing/snowboarding play in your life - and the creation of your brand?
There's nowhere I feel more at home. The landscape, the people, the freedom. Unique.
7) Best moment so far for you and your brand?
Outselling the major brands at our Verbier pop-up shop with Mountain Air. It was so much fun working with the team there and they now have the whole collection on stock which is brilliant. I hope we can do a few more special projects together.
8) Where can we buy it?
Mountain Air - Verbier
Bayard Sports & Fashion - Zermatt
Overlap Sport & Gas - Gstaad
Nicky Dobree Collection - Les Gets
Snowsport International - Thredbo & Perisher, Australia (from July)
Van Loon Sport
9) What mountain brand (other than yours) do you admire the most?
I can't help but admire how Moncler have transcended the mountains and grown themselves into a global mega-brand. The North Face are also killing it on their collaborative work.
10) What is your favourite piece and why?
Rather than individual designs it's usually the fabrics I fall in love with. Ours are the best in the industry hands down and I'm very proud of that. That said, our new mid layers for next season are very special and will be my favourite for sure.
And one final question on behalf of anyone who's ever fantasised about finding the Holy Grail of a business that combines work with skiing or snowboarding:
Has creating a winter sports brand enabled you to have a better lifestyle with more time to ride in the mountains? If so, how?
I'm in the mountains more than ever and skiing less than ever, but I'm embedded in the resort culture daily and even a bad day here is better than anywhere else. My ambition was never to ski every day though, it's to make everyone else's skiing experience that much better, and that's what I do. Except on powder days.