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What's New in Corporate Menswear

High-tech office wear comes in from the cold

Published: Feb 19, 2013 06:18:00 AM IST
Updated: Feb 19, 2013 03:14:58 PM IST

What's New in Corporate Menswear
(From Top to bottom) 1 Jacket: Stone Island T-shirt and sweater: Icebreaker Pants: Outlier
2 Shirt and pants: Arc’teryx Veilance
3 Sweater: Zegna Sport Pants: Stone Island

Stool: Bungalow 5

Eventually, the geeks get to everything: Ham and eggs begat molecular gastronomy; stock-picking hunches gave way to algorithms. Now it’s menswear’s turn. Which is good, because menswear needed a technical fix. Why is it that skiers, trekkers and triathletes get the best of what’s new in clothing? Their apparel is strong and light, resistant to sweat and bacteria, flexible, multi-functional, comfortable. Wouldn’t it be a relief to have those options for the office and business travel? A six-hour layover in Heathrow is not as harrowing as an ascent on an ice face, but it’s a lot more common.

Outlier, a four-year-old startup in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has got you covered, at least from the waist down. Their OG pants ($198) just might be the perfect thing with two legs and a zipper. The OGs are as carefully tailored as a traditional pair of slacks but are made from a synthetic fabric commonly found in skiwear. They’re woven to sit comfortably against the skin, but they’re wind-proof, abrasion-resistant, stretchy, and resistant to water, coffee, wine and dirt. You’d never know you were wearing plastic.

“Our dream is to create a Levi’s 501 or Burberry trench coat,” says Outlier co-founder Abe Burmeister. “Those were originally technical garments built for hell—for working in mines or fighting wars. They’re garments you don’t have to think about.”

Outlier is one of a clutch of small labels such as Arc’teryx Veilance, Nau, Icebreaker and Finisterre that have joined high-fashion brands like Prada, Isaia, Zegna Sport and Stone Island in translating hard-core sportswear to daily wear.

“A segment of buyers are saying, ‘If I’m going to spend a tonne of money on a jacket or suit, I might as well get something out of it,’” notes Lawrence Schlossman, an associate editor at Complex magazine.

Arc’teryx Veilance’s lead designer, Conroy Nachtigall, calls the category “performance menswear”, and his company jumped in back in 2009 after its outdoor clientele started requesting hand pockets and chest pockets in their outerwear, suggesting they wanted to use the gear for more quotidian activities. Sales of the Veilance line have doubled each season based on popular designs like the Insulated Field Jacket, an urban topcoat that weighs only 2 pounds. Like a climber’s shell, pocket seams are taped to block wind and water, and the jacket’s elements are laminated together to eliminate bulk and stiffness. Its Liminal Blazer and Liminal Pants use high-tech cotton from Swiss textile-maker Schoeller AG that has been treated with Schoeller’s proprietary Nanosphere technology to repel water.

What's New in Corporate Menswear
4. Jacket: Arc’teryx Veilance Pants: Outlier; T-shirt: Calvin Klein
5. Jacket: Zegna Sport; Pants: Outlier T-shirt: Calvin Klein
6. Jacket: Arc’teryx Veilance Pants: Outlier; T-shirt: Calvin Klein

Outlier may be the purest manifestation of the tech trend. Its founders were apparel industry outsiders when they met in early 2008. Tyler Clemens, 34, was a Canadian transplant in New York who spent almost a year (unpaid at first) learning the suiting trade at custom men’s shop Seize Sur Vingt in SoHo.

But what he’d always wanted to do was invent a sweatproof dress shirt.

Burmeister, 37, was making his own bike-to-work pants from a Schoeller wonder fabric he’d discovered after he’d worn through the “loud and hot” Prada Sport Gore-Tex pants he’d relied on to get him every morning to his gig as an information designer on Wall Street. A neighborhood barista told them they needed to meet.

They started with $15,000 and 25 pairs of OG Pants, but as word of mouth brought in business they moved into shirts, jackets and accessories. Sales, online only, hit $2.7 million last year. Outlier recently updated the OGs with subtle improvements but they remain a synthetic superversion of office-ready wool or cotton twill trousers. The fabric has elastane along both the warp (up and down) and the weft (across the leg) to offer a rare ‘four-way stretch’. If they get soaked, they’ll dry completely in 15 to 20 minutes. Outlier now makes an OG blazer and winterised OG pants with an extra-fine merino wool inner face.

What's New in Corporate Menswear

Sweater: Icebreaker; Pants: Stone Island

If you still can’t cotton to the idea of wearing plastic against your skin, there’s always Icebreaker of New Zealand. Since 1994 it expanded a category it invented of turning superfine merino wool—used in $2,000 Loro Piana suits—into undies, socks and shirts that are warm, breathable and odour repellent. You can wear its button-down ($120) or polo shirt ($100) on three consecutive trans-Atlantic flights without stinking, because bacteria finds no purchase on the mountain beasts’ scaly fibers. Icebreaker’s founder, Jeremy Moon, was, like the Outlier guys, a total neophyte in the fashion business, but he built a business that will gross $150 million in 2013. His philosophy: “People want clothing that does more, and they want less crap.”

Photographer: Cameron R. Neilson
Style director: Joseph Deacetis
Props: Susan Quinn
Fashion assistant: Chan Wong Kang
Clothing: Outlier
Stone Island:
Calvin Klein Jeans:
Furniture: Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams:

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(This story appears in the 22 February, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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