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High Fashion: Yama Girls Bring Style to the Mountains


December 6, 2010

An ensemble from Yuri Yosumi's Love Trek line for Aigle.

Down mountain skirts from Marmot and Columbia. Tweed parkas. Designer gaiters. Teva stilettos.

Today we take a brief detour from function to look at the form and fashion of outdoor apparel.

First stop, Japan's trendy Yama Girls. Increasing numbers of yama (mountain) girls trek peaks like Mount Fuji in colorful technical skirts made from fleece, down, or nylon, with leggings and designer trekking boots. And outdoor brands are meeting the demand.

Personally, I love running in a skirt. It's more comfortable than shorts, and the bonus is that it looks better. So hiking in one seems natural, provided it's functional and appropriate for the conditions (meaning, you won't find me skiing or climbing in a down skirt, no matter how cute).

But, while the hiking and running skirt trend continues to grow in the States, you need to head to Japan for true yama girl fashion. There, companies like The North Face, Columbia, and Marmot offer bright, trendy pieces you won't find elsewhere. 

Designer Yuri Yosumi is a pioneer of the outdoor chic trend. Her Love Trek line for Aigle includes mini skirts, dresses, and gaiters. According to Bloomberg.com, she also works with Berghaus and now Marmot.

There's even a magazine for yama girls, Randonnée. (Alas, I cannot read Japanese.)

Yama guys should not feel left out. In Japan, you can buy Down Shorts, Harris Tweed parkas and vests, and bright Klettersack packs from The North Face. And back in North America, more rugged menswear is back in fashion, perhaps thanks to the mountainsexual.


The Teva Stiletto. Don't try this on (or off) the trail.

Love it or hate it, yama girl gear keeps an eye on function and has a purpose. The Teva Stilletto is something else.

If you've seen them and are still wondering, yes, they're for real. The four-inch heels (with grip-sole construction) are a collaboration between Teva and NY-based Grey Ant.

The fashion designer approached Teva with the concept in 2008. Teva thought it would be fun and provided the necessary materials based off their Hurricane sandal, Teva PR rep Ian Anderson told me.

"I don't think anyone thought they would sell a lot (or any) of these, but there's been a bunch of buzz about them," said Anderson.

For $330, you can buy a pair from New High (M)art in either Worlds Unite (black and white with a velcro closure) or Natural (tan with a buckle closure). I suggest the classic velcro.

“This is a stiletto for spring or fall, just wear socks,” said Grey Ant designer and owner Grant Krajecki in a press release. Be forewarned, they're "not recommended for actual hiking, gardening, mountain climbing, or Phish concerts," according to the product description.

Now, since the shoes came out in 2009, does that make them so last year?

Stiletto Tevas aside, wear what you like as long as it works, whether that's a Goodwill fleece or a fashionable mountain skirt. Whatever gets you up (and back down) the mountain, you can call "high fashion."

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