We are said to live in an information society and with an approaching Internet of Things, but our clothes aren’t so smart yet, and styles of dress often seem to have become less smart than they ever used to be.
And there, clothes have a major influence on how we feel, physically and psychologically, as well as on what we can do, in style and/or in comfort. The life at home in this world is also the enclothed life…
So, something I wanted to look for at this year’s ISPO – which also has its own section dedicated to “sport style”, anyways – was clothing that suited the technical / performance men’s wear category. (And the Suunto Kailash I have been wearing for reviewing ;) )
That is, clothing that pays at least as much attention to an urban aesthetic and a sense of style (or different ones…) as it does to materials, manufacturing, and function. Preferably without going overboard with a desire to be perceived as something for only the rich…
On that note, already being in Munich, I paid a visit to O1O6 (formerly onoo).
They just recently released their first collection, consisting of the Sendling jacket, the Lehel short coat, and the Westend bomber jacket, for which they had received the ISPO Brandnew Award (as Overall Winner) 2015.
The marketing has been very hipster-focused in its imagery, but the Sendling and Lehel – and the beards on their ‘models’ – could have suited old imperial Germany and Austria just as well.
In material and details, made for the modern man who moves through the city of his own power, they also span the old and the new in perfect manner. Loden material from Salzburg treated with a Teflon coating for water resistance, sewn after their German design by Italian craftsmen, with not just style but also many technical details that look to be very well thought-out…
Veilance blazers all well and good, in their materials/performance as well as their looks/style, but this is a whole other kind of good. Review to follow…
One of the most interesting brands to have made an appearance at the ISPO, last year just with a little declaration of intent, this year with their inaugural collection for Europe for fall 2016, has been Black Yak.
Hailing from South Korea, they are well established on East Asia’s outdoor market (I already knew the brand from my time in Beijing), but looking to expand to Europe.
That in and of itself is quite interesting, all the more so as their manufacturer is the Chinese firm KTC, which is looking to establish itself and its Made in China-products as a sign of premium quality.
(They – KTC – also produce for Mammut, Rapha, UVU, and many others of premium quality, and it shows.)
In Black Yak’s collection, this orientation on premium design and quality shows particularly well as their products are very much made for the outdoors, be they on mountains or at the ápres-ski, employ a distinct design (often inspired by the company logo’s yak head), and look well-made and with not too little a sense of technical style.
Here, for example, the “simple” Gore C-Knit Jacket:
(Background left: Basecamp Hoody and Active Flex Pants; background right: Hybrid Jacket)
Or take the “Combat Shirt”:
Black Yak received a number of the ISPO awards this year, and not without reason, methinks.
As always, though, it remains to be seen how the products hold up to actual use – and in a case like theirs, where and at what price they will even be available…
Wherever that will be, I feel like I should mention that it will be not only the line for men from which I showed some pictures above (“Sibu” and “Pali” line), but also a line for women, that they will be offering.
Frankly, to me, that seems like a good thing, for their insulated pieces show great technical acumen, but an orientation on rather too much insulation for most times and situations in all but Scandinavia – or for women rather than men.
Still, some definite lookers among those pieces…
Already at last summer’s OutDoor fair in Friedrichshafen, Peak Performance presented itself as an urban-inspired brand, and their collection showed another push in that direction at the ISPO.
The touch of gold at the zippers is a bit much, but the otherwise muted colors and minimalist designs are, in my opinion, pretty appealing – all the more so as it’s still a collection made and meant for use on the slopes, not just in the city.
The one brand among the small performance wear companies that has been most present at the German sports products fairs, I have now come across Alchemy Equipment for the third time at least – and they finally need mentioning.
Like Outlier or Arc’teryx Veilance, Alchemy Equipment has a pretty great sense of technical style, and they use the high-performance fabrics to go with it…
They are “only” made in China – a knock-out criterion for some people with such brands – but on that point, see the discussion of Black Yak above…
The ‘Ordinary Premium’
Technical men’s wear has, where it has become anything of a thing, become a peculiar sub-section of the fashion world, typically addressed by either big brands employing some ‘different’ designs from their usual, aiming for luxury, or as the purview of specialized brands and companies, aiming to present themselves as start-up like and fashion-forward.
What easily goes missing in all that orientation on the high end and new are the non-luxury and non-technical companies simply making good and ‘fitting’ products.
One company good at that, and not only that, is the Swedish sportswear maker Houdini.
They are the only company I know – and I have searched far and wide – who has long used a silk-merino textile for some of their clothing, especially in their “Airborn” products. These are all too often made with thumb loops, which aren’t exactly the best for higher-class style, but they look pretty sharp, wear comfortably, and are useful for everything from use as undershirts to sports base layers to the ápres-ski.
And, as in their “TreeMerino” line combining merino wool with Tencel fibers, should the clothes ever get used up beyond repair, their disposal advice is one of the best I’ve ever seen in clothing: “Put it on the compost.”
Houdini is also worth mentioning here, even though not defining themselves as an outright premium brand, for products that are durable, well-made – and with a consideration for sustainability from production to purchase and use. (For example, for children’s clothing, they even run a clothes rental where one can exchange products as one’s child grows and needs a new size.)
I am sure I have mentioned it before, but I’ll gladly mention the motto with which they introduce their fair booth again:
New in the 2016 fall season is a great update, combining something of the DNA of their long-standing staple, the (Polartec Powerstretch) Power Houdi with their penchant for natural fibres: The forthcoming Wooler Houdi.
Looks a lot like a fleece in its textile’s waffle-knit like structure, but it’s all made from wool.
The focus on style and function over mere fashion is also easily visible in their color range, which is far-ranging, noticeable if you so want it, and pretty timeless as well:
Falke may be best known for their left-right-different socks, and I probably shouldn’t quite include them in a discussion of men’s wear, focused as they are on either the underthings or sports (base)layers.
In those, however, they are the next – and a big – brand that is going to move into textiles made from silk-wool fabric, and that material plus their quality should be good.
Dale of Norway
One quick mention for wool: Khunu with their yak wool, for example, is great; the inventiveness of Icebreaker around merino has been fascinating to see; but there are also companies we’d forget because they’ve been around forever.
Dale of Norway is one such example.
They’ve been around since 1879, still produce in Norway, partly use Norwegian wool (depending on the desired qualities).
There is a new “Woolshell” knitted wool jacket coming from them which would be water-repellent (let alone windproof and yet breathable – and non-stinking) enough to ski in it. And there’s a sweater in their lineup which is basically the same as it’s been since 1956.
Talking of Norway and older brands: Odlo, which was founded in Norway, will have its 70-year anniversary this year – and a collection come out to celebrate that.
Again, it’s more athleisure than either street or style, but when it’s from a brand that’s been around since 1946, complaints about that modern trend/bandwagon don’t quite stick – and the anniversary collection with its muted colors and retro logo, and again with an eye towards detail for functionality, does look good.
(The color at the zipper looks somewhat pink from this angle, but it’s actually a Norwegian-flag-inspired red, white and dark blue.)
Performance going Premium?
Like Odlo, deserving a mention because their anniversary design fits my sense of performance and style, if in more of an “athleisure” direction should it be worn as street style (which: No!), there was one real outlier brand to mention at this intersection of a technical/performance orientation with men’s wear:
Even as a fan of CW-X’s compression wear with “targeted support” for my endurance activities, I haven’t been too sure what to make of X-Bionic’s offering. Or maybe it was just their marketing and design language, which always seems unduly aggressive…
X-Bionic mainly does performance underwear with structures that are made to compress and support certain muscle groups and, above all, provide cooling fin-like air chambers above the skin so that sweat can evaporate and cool on the skin in heat, and/or be wicked away and move to the outside of the textile while leaving a layer of air to trap heat at the skin in cooler conditions.
Laboratory tests were apparently great, and it does sound interesting already for that technical nature.
Now, though, things get a bit more interesting.
For one, they have a technical shirt made of carbon fibers – carbon and “cooling fins” also explaining how their collaboration with Lamborghini came about – which should provide additional functions, not least in being anti-static.
So, no static field can (should it indeed be capable of doing so – and apparently, there are also studies which point to that) interfere with muscle functioning or comfort.
That is also an issue in certain work conditions, so definitely an idea for specialized areas, anyways.
Wool also makes an appearance in the new/coming collection, in the technical as well as in more formal wear. In their Apani line, X-Bionic (or, to be exact, X-Technology Swiss R&D) is planning not only to bring out new wool shirts of the compression kind, but even dress shirts and jackets integrating their cooling/wicking structure.
Looks interesting, pretty sharp and technical…
After another closer look at their offerings here at the ISPO, thus, color me interested. For one, as they are moving into merino and more formal wear, and as they explain the technical side quite well – even if I’d still like to see if any of that could work quite as well as they say.
But, you’ve probably noticed that chorus line from me by now…
Ending at the Soles
Not only have they been making running shoes they are well-known for, they also make quite the number of styles of casual footwear, all still with their usual qualities.
Most noticeable – and an award winner – at the ISPO 2016 was their “Now” collection of sneakers.
For one, there is function: With their great rubber soles, traction on wet ground is guaranteed. Fear ice, add the BugWeb and you have spikes that will make very sure you keep your grip on the road.
But, there’s also style: The BugWeb attaches in such a way that it’s barely noticeable at all that anything has been added – and the shoes are just pretty great looking sneakers, with contrasting colors (if you count black and white or brown and white as such) and a nicely asymmetric lacing.
With that, let’s leave off. Have fun!