Fans of programmes about the countryside are flocking to the shopping channels to kit themselves out with North Face's latest range of 'high performance' clothing. Charcoal-impregnated to cope with foul wind and double-seamed to keep out pie gravy, the new range is better at breathing than most of their customers.
Consumers of 'lifestyle' clothing have seen a period of such rapid growth that North Face's elastic gussetry engineers are being stretched to the limit. "Advances in extreme clothing move at quite a pace", explained Martin Hamill, head of research and development. "Certainly faster than our typical demographic."
Hamill is proud of his new range of clothes, which are perfectly suited to watching TV and eating crisps. "Our new Venture Pro Extreme trousers can withstand the rigorous demands of peak viewing, but they're just as at home in the claustrophobic valleys of a sweating backside. They adapt to you like a second skin, although it's a skin without blotches or cellulite."
But even in today's sanitized world, some hardy souls are out there braving the elements. "We were amazed at how well clothes designed for the North Face of the Eiger can adapt to the East wing of the Trafford Centre", said Hamill. "In some ways, it's a more hostile environment."
While the journey from the disabled parking bays to the side entrance of John Lewis can sometimes be a little windy, Hamill's team have deliberately shifted their focus from thermal efficiency towards more prominent logos. "You've got to get the basics right", said Hamill. "We learned a lot from our work with the BBC, where our rugged, no-nonsense label helped convince the public that the likes of Nicholas Witchell take being outside very seriously."
That impression has been carefully cultivated by producing clothes that perform faultlessly in tough situations. "When you're standing alone in Monsoon while your girlfriend's busy choosing hair bands, you need a jacket that can shrug off any hint of wetness", confirmed Hamill. "Our brand tells others 'I'm a rugged Alpha male', no matter how many times you need to stop for a rest between the food hall and Claire's Accessories."