Having entered the year’s final chapter, this is often considered a time to reflect on the months and perhaps years gone by. However, society’s current obsession with nostalgia is a constant reminder of yesteryear, with the prevalence of retro-inspired designs not only in the world of fashion but pop culture in general.
Although previous decades have gifted menswear numerous timeless wardrobe staples, the dizzying barrage of heritage designs, Polaroid image filters, 1980s synthesizers and festive Fair Isle knitwear can at times be more than a little nauseating.
With a New Year approaching, we can instead choose to look ahead and attempt to predict the future trends and developments that may soon become reality. Technology is often the key to any industry advancement and in its cold and clinical resolve lies the perfect antidote to nostalgia’s warm, fuzzy reassurance.
More so than before, the past twelve months have seen the amalgamation of performance technology and cutting edge design in men’s fashion. The new generation of innovative and technical clothing is not the cumbersome and bulky outdoors wear worn by ramblers and hikers alike but is instead constructed using modern, lightweight fabrics and cutting edge techniques.
At the forefront of technical performance menswear are labels such as Arc’teryx Veilance, ACRONYM and Stone Island’s Shadow Project range. The most recent collections from these designers offer items that provide a stylish yet utilitarian interface between the modern man and the most demanding of urban environments.
Making use of state-of-the-art fabrics and materials built to withstand extreme weather, the general aesthetic is minimal, with clean lines concealing an assortment of pockets, fastenings and subsystems.
The Berlin based label ACRONYM is the brainchild of functional menswear visionary Errolson Hugh, who also composed the excellent Gore-Tex capsule collection for Italian brand Herno Laminar and the AW12 Shadow Project collection for Stone Island.
ACRONYM is a label that focuses on using the latest in technical textiles and manufacturing techniques to conceive innovative, almost industrial designs. It is therefore no surprise that Hugh’s parents have a background in architecture and interior design – something that has clearly inspired the working methods of the ACRONYM brand:
Errolson Hugh is not the only designer bridging the gap between technical performance and fashion. Buenos Aires born Aitor Throup combines art and design to produce precisely calculated, sculptural pieces that come as a result of in-depth research and analysis.
Throup, who does not conform to the six monthly cycle of the commercial fashion industry, has recently presented his ‘New Object Research’ project, a manifesto demonstrating his concept-based business model and one central design piece: the Shiva Skull Bag.
Throup’s work with Umbro’s Active Research Project, in particular, gives a glimpse into the future of menswear – delving into the brand’s eighty-seven year old archives to revolutionise key pieces with modern materials and forward thinking methodologies:
Arc’teryx Veilance is another brand that makes use of groundbreaking materials and technology to construct adaptable and elegant garments, suitable for everyday use. For example, the Insulated Field Jacket, from their latest collection, forms a clean and crisp silhouette from a completely weather proof combination of water-resistant Gore-Tex and insulating Coreloft.
Additional technical specifications include: concealed hood, webbing zipper pulls, internal stretch-knit cuffs and an internal document pocket with zip, designed to hold an A4/legal-sized document:
The DS-J5 by ACRONYM is a smartly tailored ‘Softshell’ blazer that appears to have had “all blazer-type baggage surgically removed and replaced with the best that art and science can offer”. Constructed from Schoeller 3XDRY and DRYSKIN fabric technology, the jacket is wind/water repellent, breathable and highly durable while remaining lightweight and comfortable.
In addition to the DS-J5′s modern, fitted cut and space age fabrics, it also comes packed with a myriad of the brand’s patented systems and subsystems. The ACRONYM SOUND system and LINE I/O subsystem feature in many of the label’s products and offer all the inbuilt connectivity required to easily incorporate your MP3 player or mobile phone while on the move:
The autumn/winter 2012 collection by Stone Island’s Shadow Project is based upon “comfort, ease and elegance”; expanding the colour palette and introducing knitted items and engineered knit details. It also has an emphasis on customisation and augmentation – their Modular Scarf being a great example of this.
However, it’s not all ‘tech-ninja’ outerwear, the Skin category of the Shadow Project’s PARSEQ Grid system (Proof, Augment, Resist, Skin, EQuipment) are non-shell items that prioritise comfort and mobility and feature the ingenious ‘Catch Pocket’, designed to prevent our precious mobile phones from experiencing the dreaded top-pocket-toilet-fail.
Japanese high steet brand Uniqlo have also embraced the world of textile technology, especially evident in their HEATTECH collection. After years of research working alongside fabric manufacturer Toray, the unique HEATTECH technology was created to provide warmth without the need to heavily layer.
This is achieved by the clever use of air pockets, which store the heat produced by moisture evaporating from the body. This is not, however, its only feature; the multifaceted material also includes a special anti-bacterial agent to control odour, anti-static quick dry fibres and is stretchable for premium comfort.
Uniqlo have also recently introduced a range of windproof jeans, chinos and warm-up trousers, which are coated with a wind resistant layer for protection against the cold. This is a perfect example of incorporating the latest weatherproof materials in a transparent way, adding functionality and practicality to seasoned designs without altering their appearance.
Other high street labels are now beginning to take notice of cutting-edge performance brands and textile manufacturers. As the relentless world of technology forges on this will only increase, with the latest advancements becoming more affordable, tactile and manageable.
It goes without saying that the modernistic style of technical performance apparel would work best with contemporary fitting, unfussy pieces featuring minimal patterns and branding. Clean and subtle detailing could be easily incorporated, and the discrete frame that these pieces provide allows for experimentation with textures and contrasting bold/bright colours.
In terms of specific labels, there is a clear congruence with the current design ethos of brands such as Jil Sander, J. Lindeberg, COS and Uniqlo.
The below outfits demonstrate how performance-tech items could be combined with wardrobe staples to create a modern and contemporary look:
In addition, the recent Stone Island Shadow Project AW12 lookbook in particular leans a little more toward mainstream styling – the campaign’s contemporary fitting shirts and bomber jackets, for instance, would not look out of place on any number of high-end fashion house catwalks.
Under their subdued and streamlined chassis, each model has been carefully tuned for peak performance, protection and carefree daily use, striking a delicate balance between appearance and functionality:
The automotive industry is based upon the fusion of beautiful aesthetics with cutting-edge technology and in more recent years Apple has transferred this ideal into the world of computing and communication with great success. Why not fashion?
In the words of Errolson Hugh: technical performance and fashion will keep moving towards each other. It’s mutual attraction.