More and more present in the urban landscape, from the Parisian metro to the fashion week shows, it is not uncommon to see pieces and outfits with a “technical” appearance. Techwear is a complex style, difficult to understand and master. In this article, we’ll take a quick look at its origins, diversity, and a look at our selection at Graduate.
Techwear, its origins
During the 1970s, outdoor activities became widely democratized thanks to, among other things, mountaineering, climbing, or trekking. The environment and weather conditions specific to these activities being very specific, the development of new clothing and technologies is quickly felt in the world of outdoor clothing.
The year 1970 also marked the discovery of a company called W.L Gore & Associates, unveiling the first-ever waterproof membrane that allowed water vapor to pass through, Gore-Tex®. This revolution in the outdoor landscape will give rise to all-new clothing and equipment that is far more suited to the demanding conditions of outdoor activities.
The years go by and the offering of techwear brands is growing more and more to finally be the ones we know. Nowadays, it’s almost commonplace to wear a windproof jacket or a pair of shoes with water-repellent treatment without even thinking about the technological advances behind its products.
Defining and understanding techwear
To popularize and define what techwear is, we can say that it is a type of utilitarian garment featuring a reflection on very specific materials or cuts, even including advanced technologies. All the cycles of research & development, creation and production of the garment are moving away from traditional methods, or at least tend to modernize to meet contemporary challenges related to new lifestyles and consumption, in constant evolution.
Nevertheless, a technical garment is not defined solely by its assembly in an unusual fabric or because it has various details. A pair of jeans or a trenchcoat will not have the same functionality as climbing pants or a shell jacket. In the techwear universe, the cut responds above all to specific issues, its practical and utilitarian aspect, the longevity of the garment, are also elements that will greatly condition the creation process.
Technical fabrics and specifics
Researching and developing new materials in the techwear sphere is a complex but paramount task. The fabrics or materials thus developed are subjected to a whole battery of tests. Water repellent, thermal, insulating properties, and in some cases even fire resistance, are rigorously tested until convincing results are obtained.
From this long process of development emerge fabrics that are widely used in industry today. When we think of techwear materials, it’s likely that Gore-Tex® comes directly to mind. Its low cost, ease of application and insulating properties make this membrane one of the stars of outdoor clothing.
Other companies have since ventured into the manufacture and production of technical fabrics, with this market experiencing significant growth in recent decades. The Dutch company Sympatex -and their patented fabric of the same name- is, for example, a premium version of Gore-Tex with improved insulating and thermal properties.
In the second half of the 1980s, Ripstop fabric would see the light of day and become very successful. This synthetic fabric, realized in a mesh of variable size and result of a very particular arrangement of the threads of warp and weft, allows the realization of a fabric as light as resistant. This fabric will moreover be highly prized in the military corps for the realization of combat suits.
Other companies have also become experts in the creation of technical fabrics, we think for example of Pertex, Neoshell and their Polartec® or Schoeller with the C_Change, waterproof and windproof membrane. The list is of course not exhaustive, due to the great proliferation of studies in the field.
Some must-have techwear brands
So, for this end of the year and the arrival of the cold seasons, here are some of the best pieces to stay perfectly dry even during a category 3 hurricane.
Stone Island military design and technology
The Italian label Stone Island founded by Massimo Osti in 1982 offers a wide range of technical clothing inspired by the military world. Today the Italian house is a reference in the techwear world thanks to the use of their Membrana or the addition of Kevlar in some of their fabrics. Two pieces of this winter drop illustrate well the know-how of the label, not only in technical terms, but also in terms of refinement and aesthetics.
The G0123 sleeveless down jacket V0015 mattone is a sleeveless down jacket. Carefully crafted in the LAB of the Italian label, its red / rust shade stands out at first glance. Made of nylon, both light and subtle, it features various exterior pockets, a retractable hood and small snap patches.
On the other side, we’re going to find the 42 223 hooded jacket v0029 in its Nero shade. Also made of a soft and light nylon, this jacket is an excellent windbreaker coupled with a very good protection against the weather. Its ribbed edges, zipper closure and four front pockets and material make it a decidedly technical piece, and moreover so beautiful and easy to wear!
Arc’Teryx, nature honored
Arc’Teryx is a Canadian brand that was born in North-Vancouver in 1989. Its creator being a great lover of mountain and climbing, the brand naturally specializes in the manufacture of clothing and equipment adapted to these practices. Since its creation, the brand with the archaeopteryx has never stopped innovating and developing products with a high degree of technicality, being among the references in their field.
Originally, the label was highly regarded for its expertise in bags and mountain gear. If their range of accessories has become over the years a staple of the label (we particularly appreciate the Mantis pannier and the Granville bag, both present in our catalog), the Canadians have nevertheless not neglected their clothing production.
Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Proton, Koda, shell or insulated jackets, Lite or AR versions, Arc’teryx’s extremely rich and well-supplied catalog offers something for a wide variety of outdoor activities.
Among Norte selection, The Atom lt hoody is halfway between a jacket and a hoodie. This nylon jacket incorporates Coreloft technology in the middle layers, ensuring insulation and waterproofing. It’s space-saving and very lightweight, and is easy to wear as both an underlayer and a jacket.
You can also find other pieces in our stores such as the Gamma mx hoody or the Covert hoody which are also must-haves of the genre.
Goldwin, the Japanese techwear
Japan 1951, the country was then in the midst of post-war reconstruction. It was during this period that Goldwin was born. Before becoming the techwear brand we know today, Goldwin was a sportswear manufacturer specializing in the production of socks. Between 1975 and 1978, the Japanese label obtained successively the distribution rights of Champion and The North Face on the Japanese territory. These distribution rights allowed Goldwin to have a major role in the development of Japanese collections for both brands.
Today, techwear made by the Japanese brand features exemplary finishing quality and a Japanese style all their own, directly inspired by board sports like skiing and snowboarding. Among our selection, we will be able to find Diverse Down jackets that testify to these inspirations.
The Diverse Down Jacket is made from Gore-Tex infinium technology. When it was designed, the focus was clearly on comfort, lighter and more flexible than the classic Gore-Tex, the infinium technology allows a clear improvement in breathability and comfort in dry weather, at the expense of waterproofness. This makes this down jacket an excellent, breathable windbreaker that is fun to wear.
For this FW21 season, the label’s know-how is also expressed through half-zip fleeces in microfleece, water-repellent pants available in several colors, a cardigan… among others.
What about the others?
While some brands have made techwear the central element of their development, it is nonetheless increasingly common to find more technical inspirations within labels that were hardly or never expected to be in this field.
We can think of the brand Edwin, already excellent in the work of denim fabric, which now offers a very good ripstop pants, the Federal Jacket in stretch denim, or the label NN07 and their pants in a polyamide / spandex mix as well as their technical overshirts in nylon.
If you’re already familiar with techwear and want to wear beautiful, utilitarian, vintage-inspired clothing, turning to Battenwear is definitely a good option. This New York based label was founded in 2001 by Japanese designer Shinya Hasegawa. Featured in their collection is a whole series of fleeces with Polartec® technology, or a Bouldering duck canvas Caramel pant that offers a cut studied for climbing and other outdoor activities.
A complete and complex clothing style, techwear places the utility of the garment at the heart of its concerns. More and more democratized and worn by all, we can now see techwear brands collaborating with other more traditional or streetwear labels, Arc’Teryx and Palace, Stone Island and New Balance or even The North Face with Supreme to name a few, in the pantheon of major players in contemporary ready-to-wear.