Trend Alert: Puffer Jackets

Puffer jackets and vests are in again for those bitterly cold winter days. While the garments are best known for their bulky look (stemming from their Gore-Tex origins all the way through their rise to massive popularity with The North Face), they continue to evolve with thinner materials and more robust performance properties. Retail names both low and high, from Eddie Bauer to Burberry, continue to feature puffer jackets as a staple of their outerwear selections.

Industry suppliers too have tapped into the puffer trend. "We recently introduced the Apex, a new highly-thermal jacket compressible enough to pack into its own pocket," says Lauren Cocco, senior merchandiser at Vantage Apparel. "This puffer jacket is available in men's (7320) and women's styles (7321), in either bright navy or black onyx."

Although puffer jackets and vests have been making appearances for a while (think of Marty McFly's rust-colored vest from Back to the Future), the fabrications and enhanced technologies are advancing. "For example, the Apex Compressible jacket is wind-resistant, water-repellent, breathable, ultra-soft, lightweight, highly compressible and thermally efficient," Cocco says. "It's been temperature rated from 5° to 50°F, which represents a guideline comfort range when worn as part of a clothing ensemble."

These technologically advanced jackets and vests aren't just for kids; in fact, they're most popular with men and women between 25 and 40 years old, according to Cocco. She adds that clients should keep an eye on fabrications that are becoming even softer, more lightweight and more breathable. "Fabrics with ease of movement that complement active lifestyles are key," she says. "Look for more blocked silhouettes that use an additional fabric like fleece or contrasting zipper details."