If you were of the age to embrace ’90s fashion actually in the 1990s, you probably have a keen remembrance of your first fleece—and how under-the-radar cool you felt throwing on that fuzzy pullover made not from wool, but highly engineered polyester. (This writer happened to have a charcoal gray Patagonia Synchilla Snap-T fleece pullover.)
But after years of market saturation, fleece garments eventually decamped into two worlds—one for sport enthusiasts in need of high-performance wear and the other as the outerwear of choice for Silicon Valley tech execs trying hard to look like they’re not trying too hard, with their company logo emblazoned on their fleece.
As fashion lore would have it, all that took a turn when designer Sandy Liang sent models down the runway in leopard fleece for her spring/summer 2017 show. Liang originally designed it as a fun antidote to the hand-me-down fleece garments she was made to wear as a kid. But her playful take on it reignited a trend and a resurgence of interest in brands such as Patagonia—known as the OG brand of high-performance fleece. In fact, the brand collaborated with Malden Mills (now Polartec) to create the first-generation fleece known as Synchilla—as in, you guessed it, synthetic chinchilla.
Now, the glossies have embraced it in fashion editorials as designers release their own luxe versions of the high-tech fabric. LA-based power stylists Meg Chapman and Jordy Lane personally embrace fleece as a fresh alternative to the denim jacket or cargo jacket over dresses. Case in point: Coach 1941’s fleece paired with a floral dress in the fall show.
However, when it comes to styling their high-profile Hollywood clients, fleece hasn’t had quite as warm and fuzzy a reception as a fashion piece as it has with the younger set.
“Our clients have not really been into the fleece trend [as fashion],” says Chapman. “If they do want to try them, they are choosing the Sandy Liang oversized, colorful throwback options or the 3.1 Phillip Lim cropped options that add to a certain style versus looking too sporty. . . . They don’t really want the OG versions with the obvious logos unless they are wearing them to work out or hike.”
Chapman said that clients who eschew logos have been gravitating to fleece from burgeoning startup Outdoor Voices, a woman-owned athleisure brand founded by thirtysomething Tyler Haney with nearly $60 million in venture capital behind it and former J. Crew retail luminary Mickey Drexler sitting as its board chairman.
But even if you’re not into logos, there are myriad ways to wear your fleece fashionably, says Chapman, who also likes to pair it with wide-leg denim and thin knits and flats for more a classic feel. And one of their favorites actually happens to be one of the most affordable as well.
“There is one that we love that is from Everlane [the ReNew Teddy Liner jacket, $68] because it’s so easy to work into our wardrobes and our clients’,” says Chapman. “It’s not high-fashion, but we pair it with more risky or colorful pieces to bring the style!”
No matter which side of the fleece camp you’re on, it’s clear that it is a trend that is here to stay for a while. Who knows, by next fall we may all be sporting a Snuggie.
By Michelle Dalton Tyree
Feature Image: Coach 1941 colorblocked shearling zip fleece from the 2019 fall/winter runway collection, $2,000, coach.com