Arc’Teryx launched the Powershield craze with the Gamma MX product line, GoLite lightened Powershield with their Kinetic Jacket, and a new company with an ambitious apparel line has finally made Powershield sexy.
Ground (Ground Wear, Ground Gear, Ground Clothing, or is it just Ground? see GroundWear.com) is a young company with TNF expatriates who clearly know what they are doing: Ground’s designs are well-executed blends of materials and function, with a focus on product development with both premium branded fabrics (eVENT, Powershield, Schoeller, Primaloft) and "proprietary textiles" used in their lower price point product lines.
In a crowded apparel market, however, Ground differentiates themselves with a refreshing focus on supreme styling and fit. Just when we thought Patagonia and Arc’Teryx had set the standard of outdoor technical styling, Ground ramps it up with technical clothing that truly looks and fits astonishingly well.
Our favorite piece is the Ground Zephur, made with Powershield Micro. Excellent styling, fit, and design simplicity are married well to Powershield’s lightest fabric, in a hooded jacket design that is very light (14 ounces, perhaps, although we couldn’t verify it) and functional as an outer shell. Stay tuned for a review of this product at Backpacking Light.
Ground has obstacles to overcome, and time will tell whether or not the company achieves success. Working against it, perhaps, is the company’s branding strategy – "Ground" conveys so little identity uniqueness in a market that thrives on branding that it will be difficult to get the brand name rolling off people’s tongues. In addition, a complex product story that is not obvious unless you spend some serious time investment understanding it will turn off customers who are searching for products having a specific function for a specific activity within their line. Because of this, and the fact that Ground has rolled out with a lot of SKU’s means that they will have to spend great efforts educating retailers in a merchandising strategy in order to effectively compete with more well-known brands.
On the surface, the merits of Ground’s products are not obvious. But dive in, try them out, and understand how well designed the pieces are, and you could tap into a refreshingly new concept in technical apparel.