Arc'teryx Veilance designer Conroy Nachtigall explores the key elements of the brand's fourth fall collection, guiding us through the various components that form its foundation, and discussing the technical challenges encountered in bringing these garments to life.
Focussed on protection, and in particular waterproof insulation, the collection is made up of 15 transitional pieces, each one built to negotiate the complex demands of a modern urban environment, offering the wearer all the benefits of Arc'teryx's outdoor experience in a series of stripped-down silhouettes.
We've been producing the Veilance line for a few years now, but it's still relatively new. It continues to be driven by principles about what the brand should represent. These include cleanliness, unobtrusiveness, technical performance, and uniqueness without ostentation. It's about finding a balance between all of these elements – finding solutions that are not necessarily about being clever, and are not just taken from the same shelf as our outdoor products. Veilance is about rethinking every element. We have a lot of the capabilities, but the idea of starting this project was not simply to take advantage of our history. The way we achieved everything with Arc'teryx was to think about all the details. With Veilance we wanted to do the same, always improving on it. For Fall '12 what we really focussed on was the 'insulated–waterproof–breathable' category. This is quite unique to Arc'teryx, and therefore Veilance, in that we are one of the few brands that can do it, and one of even fewer that can do it really well.
Architecture continues to play a vital role in the design of these pieces. I'm drawn to the idea that architecture is essentially about building environments and spaces, and in many ways making this product is about the same thing. These pieces become your own personal environment – that's the connection I make. It's never really a case of a particular building detail or photo becoming a particular piece or detail. Sculpting space and sculpting a response to an object are different things. Architecture is very different from industrial design where you can handle the objects. You can't really handle buildings. You can only interact with them on your own scale; your own human scale. And the only way you interact with clothing is on your own human scale, so I find a direct connection there even though they are very different fields of work. This relates to materials as well. Architecture has a strong connection to materials and expanding what you can achieve with them. Making these products each season is filled with the same kind of challenges.
All the insulated jackets use Coreloft which is our proprietary synthetic insulation. When it came to this we were looking for two things. One was pure CLO value – the degree to which heat is retained in the little air spaces between all the fibres. But we believe that part of what also gives you warmth is loft – how thick the fabric is. We found that some brands push the CLO value by using really fine fibres to trap more molecules of air between them, but because they're so soft they collapse easily. Essentially you've got one or the other, so what we did was try to develop a hybrid that was a little bit of both, and what we came up with was our Coreloft insulation. It's not based on magic formulas. We simply realised the benefits of loft – adding durable loft to keep the two layers apart as much as possible. We then found that if we added some of those soft fibres in between, we could create different weights of insulation and get the benefits of CLO values and loft.
When people see insulated pieces they often want to know how warm are they. We're always asked, "Is this the warmest jacket I'm ever going get?" And they aren't really. They don't offer static warmth. If you're just standing there, they're not going to be the warmest jackets on the market, but what they do offer which a lot of insulated pieces don't is dynamic warmth. If you're actually moving, and through different environments, because it protects you from the weather rather than just the cold, it will be warmer. This is because you're also dry and are keeping the water outside of the whole jacket where the other ones will pull in a bit of moisture and then reduce how warm it can be. So yes, standing around, the thicker the jacket, the warmer it is, but if you're moving and it's cold and rainy or cold and windy then these will really come into their own.
Beyond Gore-Tex, we also use some other interesting fabrics in the line. Mapp Wool is a New Zealand based supplier whose wool fibre comes from the region's Merino sheep. This is still considered to be the best because of the high altitude. We've been working with them for a really long time and though we've seen a lot of other Merino, Mapp has consistently been our provider. We've also been using some of Schoeller's fabrics for a while. This season's blazer is made from a really dense cotton with a Nanosphere finish which is oil and water repellant. We then used another technical Schoeller fabric for the lapel. This adds something extra when you put the collar up because you've got that nylon stretch piece there. There's also some other stretch nylons throughout the collection. This is not a signature because it's not a core value, but we do use it a lot because it's really resilient and it takes colour very well. The thing with a lot of our constructions is that because there's so much gluing and heating involved, it's really difficult to just swap in another textile. Because of the high heat for the gluing and how it sticks, every fabric has to be tested for every single construction. So, when we find a good one that does a lot of things, we like to work with it for a little while because it takes such a long time to get there in the first place. We're always moving forwards, but we like to use things we know we can rely on. Ultimately, we would rather invest in something that works than keep sourcing slightly different things for the sake of it.
Veilance pieces are designed to be an interface between you and a complex urban lifestyle rather than purely performance pieces. We do plenty of the latter in the outdoor category, but these are really honed towards very specific activities. The Veilance pieces are meant to be an intermediary between you and the life that you lead so we try to anticipate what the wearer might need. The pockets, for instance, and how they work are very definitely considered, but we're also non-specific about what they're for. There's a place for a phone, a place for a note book, a place for all these kinds of things, but it's not mandated what they are there for or how they're supposed to be used. The wearer should be able to conclude that on their own.
The role of colour in Veilance collections has become increasingly important, and the inspiration behind these colours often comes from looking at books and images. I look at a lot of different things like everyone in this industry, but those things don't tend to inform the product because that is generally built off of the previous season, technical ideas, or concepts that are generated from doing things rather than looking at pictures. Where that does come into play though is in developing the collection's colour palette.
This season I was particularly inspired by Japanese photographer Naoya Hatakeyama and his book about drainage tunnels in Tokyo, Underground. We don't like to just open a drawer of colour chips and spread them out, so we used his images to generate ideas and referred back to them throughout the design process. In the past we've used a lot of photographs by the artist Doug Aitken. They have such an intensity, a really rich tone, and a story in terms of colour. They're essentially empty in themselves, but there's so much emotion in the colours. A lot of our product becomes very technical, a little cold perhaps, so it's about trying to find an emotional component and that's easier to do with colour than a lot of other things. As we go on our colour story expands. As much as there's a slow evolution of the pieces themselves, there's a slow evolution of the colour story as well. It doesn't always follow that every single colour will work with every other colour, but for the most part there's an attempt to not be too radical, ensuring as much as possible that they interact well with previous seasons. They might be quite dynamic or unexpected at times, but they are meant to be soft, and a lot of them are there to tell a story.
In keeping with the brand's clean aesthetic, a lot of these jackets now have non-adjustable, gasket cuffs. They just seal up. They're not intense seals, but they keep the wind out. If you're a cycling enthusiast it's nicer to have something that you can seal tight, but for everyday use these work because they're simple and don't require any adjustment. You put your jacket on and if you're wearing a watch, it just pops right over without you having to undo anything which is really nice.
All our seams are still taped. People often see garments and think they're waterproof because the outside surface has a really nice water repellent finish. What tends to happen, however, is that you get water beading but then it just goes to the seams and seeps in that way. Taping helps to keep a garment water resistant for longer, and also takes out the seam bulk. A lot of time those seams get surged with tons and tons of threads and those threads become wicking points. As soon as they get wet, they draw water in so getting rid of that really helps to keep the water at bay. Taping doesn't necessarily make things waterproof, but all of these little things add up and help incrementally. In addition, it also makes the garments more comfortable to wear as, in keeping the stripped-down aesthetic of the brand, we tend not to put linings in anything, other than the insulated pieces.
Piece-by-piece the collection is quite varied, especially in terms of outerwear. The Field Jacket was what we originally started the whole program with. In many ways it encompasses everything we're doing, even when we're exploring other dimensions, it remains a constant. This season's version is an insulated piece that does everything we set out to achieve with the collection. Another 'insulated–waterproof–breathable' piece, is the Galvanic IS Coat. Because it's longer and the insulation isn't really needed all the way to the bottom, the last quarter of the jacket is exposed and laminated. It has a lighter insulation than the other insulated pieces because it will likely be layered over other things. The Insulator Jacket has the appearance of a liner, but acts as a stand-alone or layering piece. Combining a stretch nylon shell with DWR and a Coreloft interior, the aim with this was to produce a jacket that worked in tandem with other Veilance pieces, no matter which season they were from. Then there's the Anion Vest. Its architecture reflects that of a patch pocket fisherman's vest, but we wanted to add another dynamic to it as a garment in general. It's really clean, but if you're using it for layering then it becomes a utility item because it's so fully featured with pockets.
The Survey Jacket combines a Windstopper membrane with a cotton/polyester twill face and a cotton/polyester jersey interior. Taking visual cues from other pieces in the collection, most notably the Field Jacket and Blazer, it can be worn on its own or beneath other pieces, offering complete wind resistance in either instance. For fall we move into protection mode, but there are still some lighter, sportier pieces like the Align Jacket. This season it comes in 3-Layer Pro Shell – a direct link to the roots of Arc'teryx. The previous version of this jacket was softer and lighter, but this textile has really added another element to the jacket. Even though it's a trim fit and lightweight, when you put it on it floats about you which is what a structured fabric brings to the equation. The Node IS Jacket has all the intensity of an action sport piece and does what all the other jackets in the collection do, but in a more compact way. And with its extra length and hood, the Monitor SFT Coat offers full coverage. It's a more relaxed piece in many ways, but it's also all encompassing. Once you put it on you're in your own element. It has all the features but they're subdued – hidden for your benefit rather than everyone else's.