Hillary Day is a skier, but she didn’t feel like advertising it every time she walked around her hometown of Portland, Oregon. Back in 2008, when she founded her namesake line of women’s outerwear, there were just two main types of raincoats: waterproof shells designed for hiking and skiing, and gorgeous all-cotton Burberry trenches that shunted the job of weather protection to umbrellas.
The technical hard shells were functional, but garish and and monostylistic. "Everybody wore exactly the same jacket, whether it was from Patagonia or The North Face or REI," says Day. That bothered her. As an apparel designer who had worked for the likes of Vera Wang and Ralph Lauren before becoming a senior designer at Adidas, she wanted a nice coat that was also waterproof.
So Day determined to bridge the gap. Her urbane Origami Coat has a structured wrap collar and an empire waist. It looks and feels like a high-end wool topper, but it uses Schoeller’s C_change fabric, which pairs wool with a waterproof laminate that adapts to the wearer’s body temperature. The coat feels toasty when you’re chilly, and becomes more breathable and heat-dumping when you’re warm. "There is a performance element to the fabric, but it’s invisible," says Day.
Her collarless Opera Coat uses a lighter-weight fabric that’s not technically waterproof (though it’s kept me perfectly dry in practice), and it’s packable enough for air travel. "I aim for femininity, which is different than making something female," she says. "Most companies make men’s clothing and adjust it for a female buyer. That’s totally different from designing for a woman’s body from the start."
Day isn't alone. Recently, more designers have entered the technical-urban outerwear space. Witness Aether’s new women's Precip Trench, made of a cotton blend that's waterproof (and even seam-sealed, like rain shells). The North Sails Jill Jacket is also waterproof down to the zippers. That's fitting, as the company’s stronghold is sailmaking. (Its apparel line came to the U.S. in spring 2016.) Even though the Jill looks worthy of Paris sidewalks, this hooded, lightly insulated coat can handle gale-force storms.
And Baro Drywear, a Vancouver-based startup that launched in September 2016, makes a whole range of city-ready rain jackets for women. My personal favorite is the Charlie, a moto jacket with wide lapels and fat metal zippers—except it swaps out the traditional leather, which can get ruined by rain, with a waterproof/breathable fabric. It’s hoodless, so you should still carry an umbrella. But it sheds rain and snow and it’s at home on city sidewalks, whether they're in Steamboat or New York.