The Rise of Urban Outdoor Brands
We asked Ali George Hinkins and the guys at 114 Index to give us their take on the rise of Urban Outdoors clothing and what that means for those that want garments that work as well in the city as they do in the wilderness
The outdoors and the clothing typically associated with it has remained a focal point of inspiration for brands all across the clothing spectrum for a number of years now. Traditional outdoor brands like Arc’teryx and Patagonia, alongside more heritage-indebted names like LL Bean and Daiwa, have had their garments referenced by many of the new kids on the block.
Previously, these brands incorporated a nature-oriented vision but, now, the new generation are soaking that up and transforming it into daily life.
Some of the brands we'll be talking about in particular include CAYL, norbit by Hiroshi Nozawa, Goldwin and CMF (Comfy Outdoor Garment); they are really embracing and championing the whole ‘Urban Outdoors’ aesthetic, for want of a better phrasing. With these newly (ish) found brands comes a more refined and streamlined product that strikes a balance between form and function; this is partly the result of advanced manufacturing methods, further fabric and material innovation and a change in consumer mindset. For the vast majority of us living in urban environments, we want the protection and performance synonymous with outdoors clothing but delivered in a more refined way, whether that be a lighter or more breathable garment.
The aforementioned labels take cues from all aspects of outdoor life including climbing, fishing, mountaineering and more; nothing is off the cards when it comes to conjuring up designs. To understand in greater depth about these newcomers, we’ve taken a deeper dive into their backgrounds and looked at some of the garments that make up their offering, as well as speaking to the mind behind 114.index - https://www.instagram.com/114.index/ - to get their perspective.
CAYL - https://thisthingofours.co.uk/collections/cayl
CAYL borrows their name from a succinct abbreviation of ‘Climb As You Love’, a nod to their free-spirited outdoors attitude. Despite no formal training in design, CAYL founder, Euijae Lee, initiated the label out of his passion for outdoor activities - hiking, climbing, biking and such. Like many outdoor brands before, Snow Peak and Patagonia to name a few, CAYL was started due to a personal lack of quality gear in his home country, Korea.
The Light Wind DWR Jacket from CAYL is another one of those pieces that delivers functionality in all the right ways- it’s a lightweight, breathable and waterproof garment. Featured throughout the jacket is a plethora of hidden zip pockets for added storage, elasticated cuffs and a simple toggle on the hood for that locked-in feel (but, in a good way). The most distinctly unique element of this piece is the externally mounted waist toggle which cross-crosses from the armpit to waist and prevents wind penetrating.
Norbit is headed up by the brilliant mind of Hiroshi Nozawa whose design portfolio drops names like Columbia Black Label, Snow Peak and Puma. With decades of experience under his belt, Nozawa draws on the knowledge and wisdom he has curated in that time and channels it into norbit.
The Japanese label, which made a resurgence during the Autumn/Winter ‘18 season after a lengthy hiatus, has a profound way of balancing the two seemingly polar ideas of modern and tradition in terms of method, design and delivery. As a result, each collection is replete with function-forward outerwear like their Field Jacket or Down Parka and bottoms, shirting and, of course, their Bush Hat.
One coveted piece from their late Spring/Summer ‘21 collection is the 3-layer Jacket - available via This Thing of Ours in three colourways: light blue, navy blue and olive green. While there are a fair few jackets out there that utilise 3-layer fabric technology - a composite layering system that comprises a face fabric - often DWR treated -, a breathable membrane and protective interior lining - there aren’t many quite like this. How norbit has crafted such a lightweight yet protective piece of outerwear is beyond our comprehension. Cut to a shorter silhouette, it is packable while maintaining unmatched protection for the wearer and enhanced breathability.
Goldwin’s roots can be traced back to the 1950s where it started its first chapter in a small fabric knit factory in Oyabe City, Japan, as a sports goods and apparel manufacturer. Later, in 1958, they began producing their own items under the name Goldwin.
Under the Goldwin brand are a number of lines that offer products that are specially engineered for various areas of our lives: Outdoor, Athletic, Ski and Lifestyle. Inspired by Goldwin’s history as a ski-wear manufacturer, functionality is in their DNA and this is integrated into each collection - providing a uniform that bridges the urban and rural environment, the ‘Urban Outdoors’ mantra. Each Goldwin collection is designed to be accessible for everyone by providing essential products that are connected with everyday life - from outdoor activities to your commune to the shops.
Has Goldwin designed the most Spring/Summer appropriate pair of trousers? Maybe. We’re specifically talking about their Cordura Wide Easy Pants which, in a few short words, speaks volumes - they’re wide and made from a Cordura ripstop fabric. Combining the best features of a sweatpant and trouser, they have an elasticated waistband but with a sleek, clean-cut appearance. Thanks to its Cordura ripstop construction, they are a hardy pair of pants.
Conceived by Makoto from the renowned Tokyo-based Lost Hills store, Comfy Outdoor Garment - succinctly abbreviated to CMF - does what it says on the tin: they produce Comfy Outdoor Garments. With comfort at the root of the brand, they are concerned with testing the extent to which they can combine comfort and functionality, without compromising one or the other.
Tapping into a whole host of outdoors-oriented influences from mountaineering to climbing, they still possess the ability to mesh technical materials and functionality but delivered through a lifestyle filtered lens; what better brand can sum up the whole Urban Outdoors direction?
We’re such big fans of CMF here at This Thing of Ours that we already dedicated a prior blog post to their Slash Shell Jacket which can be read in full here, but there’s harm in tooting its horn a little more. Again, boasting a three-layer construction, its protection against the elements is unrivalled and, coupled with a unique asymmetric zip design, there isn’t anything else like it on the market - it’s a truly unique piece of kit.
Now that we’ve introduced some of the brands championing this movement, we reached out to 114.index to get a deeper insight into the ‘Urban Outdoors’ realm.
TTOO: What's your definition of the Urban Outdoors' aesthetic/trend?
114.index: ‘The "Urban Outdoor" aesthetic you mention seems to be an extension/amalgamation of two things - the older "techwear" trend from a few years ago and the current "outdoor wear" trend. It seems to be more focussed on form over function, or more so that there is a lesser need for literal functionality in an urban setting, so the more form following clothes still do the trick.’
TTOO: In the given context, what do you think of brands like CMF, norbit and GoopiMade? As well as the likes of Salomon?
114.index: ‘These brands that you mention here are a new wave of brands who are dipping into a new form of functionality. I really like CMF and their obtuse silhouettes, some of the accessories they are coming out with recently are superb. Norbit is really interesting, Hiroshi Nazawa has some real heritage in terms of design and you can see his vision really clearly in the pieces that he produces. Salomon is just Salomon to me. First and foremost, the broad selection of footwear covers every base possible from urban to icy summits and everything in between. They really have nailed it with versatility too, they seem to go with everything and all styles. It's refreshing for shoes that are traditionally outdoor only.’
TTOO: Where does the future lie for the 'Urban Outdoors' sect? What do you think we can expect going forward from such brands?
114.index: ‘ I think the future of the Urban Outdoors sect has to be function focussed as it seems the "lack" of effort to focus on aesthetics tends to work in the opposite way where people take the items at face value and appreciate what they offer them in their own unique circumstances. I say this as I sit and watch near torrential rain bounce off my window; it makes me think about how wet you can get in a city and for some reason it always feels way worse than being soaked to the skin in a rural setting. Going forward it seems like these brands should be expecting the unexpected. Modular items, emergency weatherproof clothing and packability seems to be the perfect trifecta for commuting or mooching around town for a day, especially in the UK where the weather can change hourly.’
Thank you 114.index for the insight!This Article was written by Ali George Hinkins with support from 114.Index