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Woolrich Woolen Mills takes a hike -- to Yosemite

June 22, 2010 | 11:55 am

For his final collection with Woolrich Woolen Mills, designer Daiki Suzuki took a hike -- metaphorically speaking -- into the mountains of California's Yosemite National Park.

"I used to do mountain climbing when I was younger back in Japan," Suzuki told me. "When I was a kid, Gore-Tex fabric had just come out and that's what I really wanted, but I wasn't allowed to have it."

Instead, he explained, instead of technical fabrics and multi-zip pockets, he made do with climbing gear that now seems quaint by comparison -- heavy woolen climbing knickers and canvas rucksacks.

While Suzuki says he hasn't done any mountain climbing in Yosemite, he did visit the park on a trip across

the western US about 15 years ago, and the impressive memories have been rumbling around in the rucksack of his mind ever since. "That's serious mountain climbing," he said.

The clothes, though, are less serious -- an homage really -- one that speaks from the mid-1950s to the early '70s; a trail parka based on one found in the Woolrich archives and T-shirts with the word Yosemite on the front and trail notes written in longhand on the back, a lightweight anorak shirt in pink and Rage_vest gray, and another in an exploded version of the instantly recognizable red-and-white paisley pattern that's probably been printed on a billion bandannas around the globe by now. Other pops of color accenting the khakis and grays included kelly green and a rust red. 

Hiking-inspired shorts and button-front vests with generous cargo pockets keyed in one of the week''s most prevalent trends -- utilitarian pockets -- which appeared on everything from military-inspired skinny-legged trousers at Alexander McQueen to safari-style jackets at Gucci.

And it wasn't limited to the catwalk, either. Racing back and forth between shows on Milan, Italy's, subway (abbreviated as ATM, if you can believe it) and streets, I noticed that just about every fifth  fellow -- and maybe half of all men over the age of 50 -- seemed to be sporting some version of a multi-pocketed utility vest. If the utility vest catches on stateside, by next spring we could all be looking like refugees from fly fishing school or wandering war correspondents.

Suzuki who created the menswear label with Woolrich licensee WP Lavori in Corso in Bologna, Italy, is at the end of a five-year contract that ends with the Spring/Summer 2011 collection, and helped recruit his replacement, Mark McNairy (whose design CV includes stints at J. Press and Southwick and collaborations with Bass Weejuns and Pro Keds as well as his own line Mark McNairy New Amsterdam). McNairy's first collection with Woolrich Woolen Mills will be for Fall/Winter 2010-2011.

-- Adam Tschorn in Milan, Italy

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Photos, from top: Looks from the Spring/Summer 2011 Woolrich Woolen Mills collection, which is full of references to mountain climbing in Yosemite National Park. (Credit: Woolrich Woolen Mills); passengers in the subway wear examples of the ubiquitous utility vests favored by many of the menfolk in Milan. (Credit: Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times)