Minimalissimo Meets Arc’teryx Veilance

Jana Ahrens of Minimalissimo meets head of design Taka Kasuga to find out about Arc’teryx Veilance’s background, objective and the designers vision of the future. Arc’teryx Veilance is a Vancouver-based avant-garde outdoor brand and is known for its immaculate designs and highly functional fabrics. We also highlight the brand’s beautifully minimalist Spring/Summer 2017 collection.

We try to create a more resolved design solution that blends seamlessly into how people dress in an urban environment.

The idea of evolution through adaptation is deeply routed in your brand name Arc’teryx and in your designs. Would you say the direction of adaptation necessary for your customers has changed in the recent past?

The short answer is yes. The way people live is evolving quite fast. Not just in terms of apparel. But I think that evolution, whether we like it or not, it just keeps happening. And I think that the adaptation to performance of gear and things that you wear, it always gets adapted eventually. If you look at the evolution of what people wear, it definitely starts with performance, with a need for functionality and gets adapted into everyday life.

And what do you associate with the term Veilance?

Veilance is a play of three different words. The first word is valance: to cover, to react. The second one is valence, which describes the capacity to react with others. And lastly there is vail: to be secret. Additionally, the V looks like a flipped A, the first letter of Arc’teryx. All this represents the character of what we are, why we exist in the first place.

Where does the longing to be protected from a hostile atmosphere in an urban environment actually come from? Both in terms of weather and social behaviour?

It goes back to what Arc’teryx is about. It’s about inspiring and enabling people to be more active, to go further. To help people find out that they can do things they never thought they could do. Arc’teryx provides the right tools, the right gear to do so. Once you are outside of a building, it is outdoor, no matter where you are. And especially in the big cities the weather patterns can be very severe, too. So Veilance, as part of Arc’teryx, can provide a great system that advances how people can navigate, how people can live in the urban outdoor environment. The other is the social, the cultural aspect. It doesn’t always feel appropriate to wear bright yellow GoreTex jackets. Often there is an implied dress code. We want to capture that in the most elegant way. But all the construction and benefits are coming from the knowledge we own as an outdoor brand.

Sometimes it seems like your work can be better associated with architecture than with fashion. Functionally as well as aesthetically.

It’s probably something to do with our systems. One is called climate control. It controls how you can be comfortable and stay dry in very cold and very wet environments. Think about it like circles. A big circle, within that, there is a medium sized circle and then a little circle in the middle. The outer circle, we call it outer layer or shell, covers the mid layer and then the one in the centre, the little one, is the base layer. So once you are outside, these three layers help you to make sense of the environment you are in. Which is kind of similar to what architecture does. There is the façade, the shell material, then there is insulation, which would be something like the GoreTex membrane for us, and then there is a base layer for comfort. So I think that might be where there is a similarity.

Speaking of architecture: Can you tell us a bit about your collaboration with Snarkitecture for your New York flagship store?

We reached out to Snarkitecture because their approach to design is not confined by what architecture or retail stores should be in a traditional sense. By working with them we learned a lot about how we could express ourselves in a physical environment. The team of Snarkitecture came to Vancouver and I showed them around and showed them how we do things. We went hiking. Which was kind of strenuous. But it was important to communicate where we are coming from. Which is the Canadian coast mountain wilderness. So they came up with this carving technique that they are very good at. And we picked a material that would be great for us. The most interesting aspect for me was: they build three walls that look V-shaped from a bird’s eye view. And inside of the V they put mirrors. It was inspired by their experience visiting our showroom and trying things on. They said: “Wouldn’t it be great if people could just try something on without going into the fitting room?” So inside the V you can try the collection and you can see your back. So it was a design that performed as free standing walls, expressed where we are coming from, as well as function as a fitting room in a sense.

Which is also somewhere you are coming from, the functionality.

Exactly. So that was a really fun project and we learned a lot.

You protect and you give your wearers a certain feeling of safety. But it’s not about fighting. It’s more about dressing an approachable urban guy. Why do you choose that minimalist, clean and somehow more subtle aesthetic?

Our idea towards design is: it needs to be timeless. The survivor streetwear style might be big today, but our design references are classic menswear icons, trench coats or blazers. It’s about how to construct our technology in a way that works with these references. It’s not about how many pockets are visible. We try to create a more resolved design solution that blends seamlessly into how people dress in an urban environment. So some people might view that as businesslike. That is not necessarily our intention.

Where do you personally find your inspiration for your designs?

Well, I’ve been asked similar questions in the past. And sometimes I feel like “Oh, when I went to Paris…” or “When I went to Milan…” — everything you do has an influence. But ultimately I think the technological advancement and figuring out better systems, is most inspiring. A lot of that comes from where we work. We sit right next to the outdoor team. The innovations they are working on are quite advanced, quite amazing. I think that could be the biggest inspiration for us. Because that’s the way we evolve our approach towards design and how we want to construct our clothes.

The research and development of materials is immediately part of the design process at Arc’teryx Veilance. How do you handle the development and the challenging schedule of the fashion industry?

Our material development takes time, but it works for us because we are not chasing the fast trends. Our focus is timeless design. So its development is more about figuring out what worked before and what’s not working at the current stage, and thinking about how we can translate that into material and its performance improvement and enhancement. It’s quite rare that we just buy fabric off the shelf.

But you still do work in this typical cycle, don’t you?

Yes we do. And that enables us to think about what people need throughout the year. Spring needs a different approach than summer, so do fall and winter. The climate changes very drastically and with that we want to provide the right solution at the right time.

Everything you design is created in Vancouver, right?

That’s correct. I think in the future, and I’m talking of the whole industry, the place of manufacturing may mean less in terms of quality. Automation and manufacturing will evolve and be automated more and more. But what’s important for us is that we are prototyping, designing and developing everything in-house. We don’t give anything out of our hands before it’s perfect and we work with our factory locally in terms of production. We do a lot of prototyping and testing. We want to make sure our things work well. That’s simply our process. If it doesn’t work we don’t put it out or we might come up with some other solution. We build things here.

It has been stated that you will be growing 90% until 2020. Are you going to keep up this very local, tight-knit concept of production?

The partners we work with have a great standard in production, but there are still many people who don’t know about Veilance. I think it would be a great thing if more people would know about us and adapt the system we do provide. But in terms of the capacity of manufacturing? It’s a local factory. So I think we will continue to produce the way that we have been. Which means perfecting in-house and working with our trusted partners to produce our goods. I think that will never change. If we will produce more we will maintain or improve our quality at the same time. Longevity is something we stand for. Our products are made to last. When we are looking at materials the durability is one of the primary aspects that we test and implement. That’s the brand premise that we have.

What is important to you personally concerning the future of Arc’teryx Veilance?

I guess, what I’d like to say is that we as Arc’teryx Veilance believe in creating a system that advances personal freedom in the urban environment. So that’s what we are all about and that’s what we will keep striving for.