The functionality and aesthetics of outdoor products have long resonated with the fashion- focused. But the desire to marry the two worlds was reinvigorated last year by a new wave of adventurers. And as more people continue to seek these products, Merrell has a plan to remain in front of them.
“One lesson we learned in 2020 is that more consumers than ever are stepping into the outdoors. These are people who haven’t spent much time there, and they are younger,” said Lindsey Lindemulder, Merrell’s brand marketing director. “They care both that something is going to perform for them and also how they look. It’s the age of Instagram, and they’re documenting their journey, their experience and how they look.”
She continued, “Because of this, how you show up in this space is really important.”
The backbone of its fashion-meets-function effort is the 1TRL collection, which debuted at Paris Fashion Week last year and launched in the U.K. for spring ’20. Its U.S. debut is slated for March.
The 1TRL line marries the best of Merrell’s trail-ready designs with materials and colors that are appealing to those with an eye for style. “We wanted to create a vehicle that celebrated the best of Merrell, and then use that vehicle to reinterpret it for the tastemaker, the style leader, the top of the food chain,” explained Tim Selby, Merrell’s marketing director in the U.K. “It’s not a sub collection or sub brand. We’re taking the best of what we do and reinterpreting it for this consumer because the tech, the performance, everything we do is just as interesting to this consumer as it is to our normal consumer.”
Although Merrell launched 1TRL abroad, fashion-focused customers stateside soon caught on to it. “Digital and e-commerce exploded in 2020, and this 1TRL collection that started in our U.K. market very quickly got the attention of consumers all over the world,” Lindemulder said. “We knew it was only a matter of time before it would come to the U.S., but frankly, it can’t get here soon enough from our perspective.”
Similar to the U.K. launch, Merrell is placing 1TRL with highly influential retailers, such as Notre, Somewhere and Bodega, among others. And aside from a handful of 1TRL exclusives, the product lineup will include new-look iterations of Merrell staples such as the Jungle Moc and the Hydro Moc, with prices ranging from $40 to $160.
Additionally, collaborations will be an integral part of Merrell’s strategy for 2021 and well into 2022.
“One of the most important roles collaborations play is the opportunity to delight consumers with something that is perhaps unexpected,” Lindemulder said. “Two things that they like or maybe one they knew and one they didn’t come together to offer a unique perspective or drive a different conversation.”
She continued, “Our consumers are looking for us, as a modern brand, to have these cross- functional partners in conversations.”
Merrell already has been testing what it can do with the right partners in recent years. For instance, the company teamed up with Outdoor Voices in 2019 and 2020 to deliver several reimagined takes of the iconic Moab 2 Mid. Further pushing the boundaries were a pair of new-look Agility Synthesis trail runners — one with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in 2019 and another with Honey Stinger in 2020.
This year, Merrell plans to build off those successes with a ramped up agenda. One of its first releases for 2021 (in stores now) is the Zion Mid Waterproof, which was reimagined by Unlikely Hikers, an outdoor community that lives on Instagram that was founded to give voice to the underrepresented people who love the outdoors.
Though the company was mum about other specific collab partners, Merrell confirmed it will deliver reimagined takes on both classic silhouettes and new models for 2021.
“It has to be something that’s right for the brands. Our goals have to be aligned, which is the desire to get more people outdoors to experience the benefits of what it has to offer,” Lindemulder said. “And it’s important that it’s going to be mutually beneficial and delights consumers and is a bit of a surprise or unexpected.”