Hunter Boots’ foray into ready-to-wear continues to bring the biggest audiences and some of the most interesting sets seen in London Fashion Week. This season, the mirrored runway butted against a giant LED cube that played with nautical themes as models walked around it. The effect was interesting, if not a little overwhelming at times. Yet, for a collection that majors on sporty outwear perhaps a little flash and pizzazz is what’s needed.

Let’s face it, Hunter is taking on a rather challenging task in attempting to make outwear more attractive. Unlike other labels, there is a need and expectation to actually make the clothes functional. Lightweight fabrics that might snag, contrast too brightly with nature, or too difficult to get clean are not going to be terribly welcome here. Instead, we see materials such as nylon, canvas, and a tremendous amount of rubber brought into place. A bit of mohair in the sweaters provides some break from the heavier materials, but ultimately this is bound to be a collection required to be more rugged than it is pretty.

What’s telling, though, is that the whole outdoor look has become popular enough that the khaki shorts and skirts and bulky rubber jackets with large cargo pockets don’t seem terribly out of place. Hunter does its best to give these a bit of ready-to-wear treatment with a color range that extends beyond earth tones to light blue, purple and yellow. Fortunately for them, olive drab seems to be a trending color this season so they didn’t even have to make any changes from their normal routine.

There’s nothing here that fails to make sense. Given this is a spring/summer collection, shorts are common along with a few carefully considered skirts, most of both coming in just at the knee. Looks are necessarily layered, most topped with Hunter’s trademarked rubber coats. Necklines still fasten all the way up under the chin. Zippers, buttons, and other fasteners are practically placed and heavy duty.

Toward the end of the collection, the label experiments with abstract prints under clear plastic coats, and with the same prints on the coats themselves. This is really a step out of the norm and one can be sure the company will pay careful attention to whether these pieces sell well. If not, we won’t see anything like them next year at this time. Some of the reds in this pattern are extremely bright, which reduces their functionality a bit. Yet, the pattern is attractive and different enough that outdoor sports enthusiast just might give it a try, especially for spectator-oriented activities.

Hunter Boots is making a very large investment and taking on an equally large risk with this collection. While their core products will almost certainly continue to sell well, the newer designs and prints require their buying market to expand a bit from the outdoor participant into the spectator class as well. Bringing fashion sense to a group that normally gives it no consideration at all  is daunting, but if anyone can make it work Hunter seems to be the right label at the right time.

Photo credit: Guillame Roujas

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