A highly unscientific survey conducted last week at the launch of Snow+Rock's winter catalogue revealed that 85 per cent of skiers once owned skiwear made by C&A. In many cases respondents had to think back quite a long way, because the C&A outfit was commonly their first. In those days - from the early Seventies - wearing C&A was de rigueur for British youngsters heading for the nursery slopes. One of my interviewees, the producer of the www.cheapflights.com website, recalled that British racer Graham Bell once almost missed a World Cup event at St Anton through tending a young British skier knocked out in a fall: Bell figured from the C&A "Rodeo" brand skiwear that the child must be British.
Nowadays, the first words of such a child on regaining consciousness would more likely be "Wo bin ich?" than "Where am I?" - C&A now has 215 stores in Germany and none in the UK. But although the retailer pulled out of the UK in January 2001, its Rodeo clothing range is available in this country for the coming season. Argos has included the skiwear in its Argos Additions mail-order range, and will present it at the Ski & Snowboard Show, which opens next Friday at Olympia (until 2 November).
Argos trading manager Stuart Ailion is bullish about Rodeo. "It's mass-market fashion wear, a good product at a good price," he says. "But the top-of-the-range jackets have almost everything you'd expect from a premium ski garment." He reckons that C&A and Argos make a good team (both C&A's main skiwear buyers are British, "and we are the experts at selling off a page"), and has already made a commitment to selling the Rodeo range in future seasons.
Before I became a fashion victim (see left), I had an extended skiwear initiation with C&A; my light-blue "puffer" jacket lasted forever. How much does the modern equivalent cost? That top-of-the-range men's jacket costs £69; and a child's suit is £29.
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