Innovating City-to-Mountain Apparel
The Director of Design at Arc’Teryx Veilance Talks Inspiration, Future Projects and His Favorite Shoe Brand
City-to-mountain apparel — or, garments that blend performance fabrics and tasteful design — is growing into a full-blown movement. Perhaps the greatest champion of this category is Arc’Teryx Veilance, a sub-brand of the popular outdoor company, that produces sleek minimalist clothing fit for everyday wear.
The first Veilance collection was released 2009 with little fanfare. Understated outerwear was offered in a range of muted colors, featured the top technical fabrics and came with a luxury price tag, too. Before city-to-mountain became a buzzword, Veilance had all but perfected the category.
Today, the brand’s sleek jackets are now complemented with a range of pants and merino base-layers. In recent seasons, Veilance has expanded into accessories and now offers understated weatherproof bags and slim laminated-leather wallets.
We recently caught up with Arc’Teryx Veilance Director of Design Taka Kasuga to discuss the brand’s new spring collection, the growing city-to-mountain movement and how Veilance affects his everyday life.
Q: How do you stay true to the brand’s identity and aesthetic as you expand?
A: As long as the design is based on the user experience we want to provide, I think it’s good. But, aesthetically, I think we can stretch on both the material side and the lifestyle side. What I mean by that is that there are some very new technologies coming out and I feel like we are a little bit behind in adapting them. I want to bring the more progressive edge into the line. Right now, I think Veilance’s material palette, color palette and design palette are a foundation, but I want to expand a little bit.
Also, we don’t necessarily want to be an outerwear supplier. We want to be a progressive design brand. So we are looking into the product categories we are not in such as new packs and footwear. For our audience, Veilance being technical is a given — there’s a trust in that — but they want to see more excitement around design itself.
Q: Why have so many brands gravitated towards city-to-mountain garments in recent years?
A: I think people are looking at the business success of Moncler and other brands. I think Canada Goose is even trying to mimic Moncler, and that market is now very crowded. There are two influences: one is people repurposing the athletic gear from Nike or Adidas or Outdoor Voices, and then there are people who are trying to repurpose from outdoor gear from Arc’teryx or the North Face. These are the people who appreciate the performance but are not quite finding the true solution. If you wear this stuff it’s too athletic. If you wear this stuff it’s too outdoorsy. Finding that right aesthetic and cultural context is our goal, but we’re using the pinnacle performance from not just the outdoor side, but both ends. In the spring season, we’re going to have this new capsule called ‘Fast and Light’ that features some of the running-inspired apparel solutions.
Q: We’ll be looking for a Veilance shoe in the future, but what footwear do you like to pair with Veilance apparel now?
A: I like Hokas and I like what Salomon is doing. I feel weird wearing all athletic shoes — Nike, Adidas — because they are comfortable shoes and I can run, but I don’t feel like I am associated to these particular brands. But then stuff like Balenciaga or Raf Simons feels too fashiony. It doesn’t have the authenticity. Yes, they are inspired by athletics, but the shoes are so heavy. You’ll never run in them.
What I want is the perfect marriage of performance and design. Hokas are more outdoorsy. So are Salomons; Salomon is trying to stretch out to lifestyle as well. But people are not good at integrating so I think there’s an opportunity — there’s the athletic side, there’s the fashion side, there’s a lot of heritage construction like Common Projects — but we want to be more on the progressive side.
Q: Does Veilance’s minimalist aesthetic influence how you pack for travel?
A: I’ve started to do just carry-ons, even if it’s a month-long trip. I’ve tried to have only one pair of shoes, so there’s nothing in my bag. That’s why Hokas work well: you can run in the morning then come to work. I tend to have a bunch of t-shirts and underwear — merino-based — because again, you can wear merino on the plane to the destination and run in the morning. Right now, I have a separate outfit for work outs, and a Dopp kit.
Q: What about electronics?
A: Recently, I started to do everything on my iPhone, including audiobooks. I tried to go back to real hardcover books but I’m too lazy now. I can’t go back. But it’s very good because there’s so much downtime when you’re going to the airport or on the plane.
Q: Everyone is so focused on versatility. Are people’s needs changing?
A: I think people are traveling more and people are buying less. There’s definitely an influence we have to consider from the micro-cultural trend that’s happening. We don’t want to create something that’s not desirable or not needed.