In the wide field of ski outerwear available on the market today, it’s not easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. There’s gear that looks great but underperforms on the mountain, and also gear that works well, but which might not win any awards in the style department. On the fashion vs. function spectrum, a lot of gear swings towards the extremes in either direction. Only a few producers are capable of managing the delicate balancing act required to do both well, and making gear that both looks good and works great.
Peak Performance's gear has to meet the demands of athletes like Kristofer Turdell.
The Vertical Pro jacket and bib pant from Peak Performance.
Peak Performance is one of these producers. With the help of their talented freeride team, the company has worked hard to design products that meet the demands of some of the world’s most high-performance athletes. At the same time, they haven’t left their Swedish design sensibility by the wayside, with gear that doesn’t sacrifice either fashion or function, but strives to hit that elusive, harmonious point where they meet.
To learn more about managing this balance while creating highly functional gear for today’s top freeriders, we sat down with Steffan Thomasson, a design manager at Peak Performance.
In Interview: Staffan Thomasson
Downdays: Hi Staffan! What is your job title and what do your responsibilities include?
Staffan Thomasson: Hi there! I am working as a Design Manager for Ski & Golf. My area of responsibility is the development of the commercial and progressive ski collection within Peak Performance guidelines. Together with my Design team and our Sourcing & Development team, we handle everything from product design, colors, new developments in terms of product constructions as well as new fabrics, materials and trims.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? What inspired you to pursue the field you are in?
My biggest passion is skiing. Therefore, I chose a profession where I am able to combine work and passion. I have been skiing all my life. But since I am busy with work and my family with three kids, unfortunately I don’t get the chance as often as I would like. Now I’m more of a “desktop” skier… but hopefully I will be able to change that when my kids get older.
When designing gear like freeride-oriented outerwear, there is a balance to be found between function and fashion. How do you approach this balance?
First of all, we always concentrate on function! But of course, the aesthetic is important as well. We have a lot of talented and experienced designers at Peak Performance, so it’s a team effort to create a product with both function and fashion. The ones that are experienced in function bring in their expertise, and the ones that have the fashion touch care about the look… and resulting from this team cooperation we build something that has the Peak Performance spirit.
How have new materials or techniques changed your field in recent years?
We have always been working a lot with recent materials and innovations. Our focus is the continuous development of new materials or techniques which improve the product in terms of function, durability or comfort. But in the last years we have changed focus: we are of course still looking for innovations that make our products even better, but what’s most important right now is developing products in a more sustainable way. Using fabrics and materials that are friendlier for the environment, but also trying to be as smart as possible in terms of development to extend the longevity of our products (e.g. higher quality and the possibility to repair old or damaged clothes).
In fashion as well as function, the devil is in the details.
The integrated storm flap on the Vertical Pro jacket.
How involved are the team athletes in the design process?
Our athletes are involved with some of our products quite a lot! Especially when it comes to their needs in terms of fit, function and detailing. This season for example, we created a new type of ventilation system or a hood construction on a ski jacket in cooperation with them. Furthermore, a very important thing is getting their feedback while using a product over an entire season. What worked well, what was broken or if something was totally unnecessary. And of course, they share their ideas regarding colors and look as well.
Is there a piece or a design element in the new winter collection that you are particularly proud of?
We are very proud of how we executed the Vertical Pro jacket & pants. Especially the jacket: it has a new hood with an integrated storm flap, which you can take out to get even more protection in bad weather. These products also show the results of the close work together with our athletes; they are designed to help them reach an even greater level of already high performance.