Take a hike: Designers head to the great outdoors

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Fashion followers have been supplanted into the wilds this season, as a host of designers head outward bound, says Rebecca Gonsalves

For many people, a couple of nights of booze-addled sleep at a festival is the closest they get to the great outdoors, while others may throw themselves into hiking with reckless abandon – figuratively only, hopefully. Regardless of your levels of physical fitness, there’s plenty of styling nous to be picked up from the sort of chap who is familiar with the business end of a crampon.

At Topman Design, Gordon Richardson’s design team put a fashion spin on traditionally function-led items. Parkas were oversized or cropped and saturated with juicy shades of orange and red, inspired by an odyssey to Tibet. The technical met the sublime as  waxed fabrics, proofed cotton and gilded leather compass-holders embellished the narrative of the journey, as did the influence of Tibetan printed boiled wool and abstract intarsia Ohm symbols.

At Louis Vuitton, Kim Jones took inspiration from the mountains. The men’s studio and style director succinctly analysed the creation of a collection for the luxury house: “A collection is often an actual journey for us; it comprises what you take with you and what you bring back, both physically and mentally, from the experience.

Literally speaking, the journey to autumn/winter 13’s quilted parkas, hiking boots and Sherpa-inspired accessories involved: “Travelling to the Himalayas for research. It was the mountain kingdom of Bhutan that still had that mystery surrounding it... it feels so exotic, almost from another time.”

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Another brand taking a trip back in time is Bally, which throughout the year has been celebrating the 60th anniversary of the historic first ascent of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay – the latter shod in Bally. To mark the occasion, the Swiss brand recreated the duo’s base camp in a gated garden in central London, to showcase replica artefacts such as Tenzing’s reindeer boots.

While the daily commute is often challenging, it hardly rivals climbing the highest mountain in the world. Bally’s Everest collection is much more functional than just fashion, then, with three styles of boots based on traditional trekking and alpine styles.

Christopher Raeburn is a designer whose whole aesthetic germinated from his outward bound youth. Since he first launched his brand in 2008, Raeburn has consistently produced the sort of technically led designs that get fashion-loving adventurers in a spin. Throughout outerwear, woollens and accessories, function continuously informs Raeburn’s work, which has built a loyal following.

This season may have had a naval theme – with a bold use of red by the designer, alongside stripes and map-print silks teamed with indigo jeans – but these garments are intended to be multi-functional.

At Hermès, menswear artistic director Véronique Nichanian proposed a suitably luxurious take on the trail. Accents of yellow, orange and claret shot through the finest wool and cashmere pieces as slim trousers, fine-gauge intarsia striped knits and, perhaps most charmingly, high-visibility laces woven through the hook-and-eye fastenings of hiking boots. The usual clumpiness of such footwear had been refined by long-time collaborator Pierre Hardy, making them not only highly covetable, but no doubt ridiculously comfortable, too, as is the Hermès way.

Where the catwalks lead, the high street soon follows and the practicality of this trend fits in with a recent re-emergence of more traditional, outdoorsy dress that sees men everywhere from Dalston to the Dales wearing fisherman jumpers and flannel, not to mention the now obligatory Chris Bonington beard.

Chunky sweaters will soon be coming into season and natural fibres such as wool – or cashmere if you can stretch to it – are the best way to avoid feeling frazzled and sweaty as you go about your day. Down-filled parkas are proving popular with more than just Mods, while cords and similar soft-textured trousers are generally better at keeping out the chill than denim. They’re more flexible, too, should you be planning to enjoy the local land in all its autumnal glory.

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