Zai and Loro Piana
The Swiss ski makers join Italian garment maker for a technically driven set of understated wool outerwear
On a recent trip to Gstaad with Bentley (more on that next week), I had the pleasure of meeting the team from Zai, the high end, handmade Swiss ski manufacturer. Patrick, Daniela and Thomas (pictured here) all happened to be wearing incredible ski suits. As it turns out, Zai has recently branched into outerwear with the Cassacca, an aesthetically subdued, technically advanced outfit for the slopes. In teaming up with exclusive Italian garment and fabric manufacturer Loro Piana, Zai is able to select from the world's finest wools and cashmeres for the Cassacca. This complimentary alliance is founded in Zai's commitment to innovation and design and Loro Piana's uncompromising dedication to material standards and craftsmanship.
For the main upper Zai uses a combination of 94% wool, 5% cashmere and 1% elastane to give the wearer proper freedom of motion while skiing. The fabric blend is treated by Loro Piana's Storm System, laminating a pliable membrane and sub-layer of microfiber for additional insulation. Once completed the fabric is treated with Rain System, a unique waterproofing process effective at both keeping moisture out and allowing the material to dry surprisingly fast.
As a garment first and foremost it's engineered to enhance one's skiing experience, however the Cassacca caters quite well to the Swiss tradition of après activities. The understated aesthetic is sleek, while avoiding being too sporty—a mark that's not easily hit in the outerwear world. This "essential" design is limited to just four earth-tone colorways to keep in line with Zai's traditions in wooden ski making.
Zai's limited production skis expertly blend natural and man made materials for a superior ski. While the weekend warrior can appreciate the beautiful crafstmanship, these skis will be most appreciated by those working towards a triple digit day season. Standouts from the winter '12 ski collection include the classic Testa with a walnut vaneer and the revolutionary Nezza, made almost entirely of an innovative compound called Zaira.The two hand built skis represent Zai's superlative use of material on opposite sides of the design spectrum.
As with all superior things in life, quality comes at a price. Zai's Cassacca sells online for $4225 while their handmade skis are officially sold through retailers in over 19 countries. Use Zai's national directory for a list of dealers in your region.