Outlier NYC are the go-to guys for the Big Apple’s style conscious urban cyclists in the know. Since we first spoke with Tyler and Abe, a few years back, the company has been creating some amazing pieces that unite aesthetics with function. And seeing as it was December that we ran a feature on their latest collaboration, we thought it was high time for another catch up. Abe Burmeister discusses growth, expansion and the virtues of linen.
Ok, well last time we chatted you were talking of “experimental stuff” and products “in development”. So, straight off the bat, what’s new right now?
Next up for us is the Pivotal Bomber jacket: a great lightweight spring piece that we built around our 4Season fabric and a great New Zealand merino rib.
Then comes the Three Way Shorts, built to work for running, swimming and relaxing in style. We’re sort of on a mission to make clothing that lets you run off on a vacation without bothering to pack a bag and these shorts will really help. Later in the spring we’ll be dropping a new version of the Ultralight Pants, which weigh less than our shorts do, amazing for looking sharp in the summer heat. More merino stuff and, of course, some surprises in the works as well.
And fabrics? Since we last spoke have there been any new ones – technical or otherwise – that you’ve discovered and are just itching to make something with?
Most definitely – we’re huge fabric nerds. We’ve been digging around a lot with performance fabrics made from natural fibres.
The Supermarine Cotton we recently launched is an updated version of WWII fabric, Ventile, that’s the absolute pinnacle of cotton technology. It’s an absolutely amazing fabric and we’ll be using it a tonne.
We’re doing a lot with what we call “60/30 Cloth” – a blend of cotton with micro denier nylon and elastane. It feels like great cotton but is far more durable and a lot more comfortable – a best of both worlds sort of thing, really.
And we’re also looking at linen a lot now. Before nylon was invented linen was used in all sorts of technical blends and we’ve been playing a lot with some.
It’s amazing stuff, far more durable than cotton and it can absorb water while still staying dry to the touch, a bit like merino. We’re using it as pants pocketing right now, and intending to do a lot more.
That’s not everything, of course, as there’re a handful of things we’re not quite ready to talk about yet…
With regards to development, you also mentioned how your loyal customers get to test-run works-in-progress. Clearly, interaction with your nearest and dearest is crucial to Outlier, so do you find it makes for a better, truer, measure of what works and what doesn’t than more ‘formal’ in-house testing?
For sure. We’ve built our company in a way that we can communicate a lot more with our customers than most brands do.
We’re up on twitter, on email and at our public showroom all the time and we’ve found our customers tend to be smarter than us, so we listen to them carefully.
We do test and iterate a lot internally before doing experimental drops but the more people testing stuff out the better it gets. We never want to stop improving, so we keep on talking to the people wearing the garments.
Is this approach something that’s born out of arriving as relative novices in the fashion world?
We definitely started as novices, but our approach has a lot more to do with my background as an interaction designer.
I was working in a highly iterative design style where user feedback was highly valued and it was only natural that we took that approach into clothing as well.
In a way we have real industrial design envy over here, we want to make clothing the way ID studios design technology.
Any recent innovations from beyond your core group of daily urban cyclist, ones that made you guys stop and think: “Of course! That’s the answer – why didn’t we think of that?!”?
We never really thought of ourselves as a cycling clothing company in the first place. The first problems we tackled revolved around daily riding but we’re always looking at a lot more than that.
Our clothing is always going to be designed to move really well, handle the elements and be really comfortable while looking good.
Being that bit further down the fashion line now, do you feel more comfortable in the collaboration arena and, after the success of the Chari and Co team-up, are there more in the pipeline?
Well, we’ve turned down a lot more collaborations than we’ve done. As a general rule we don’t want to do something unless we think we can learn from the experience and produce a better product than what’s already on the market.
A lot of companies seem to think collaborating means swapping the colors and fabrics around on an existing product but that’s just boring.
Sometimes we’ll bring our core fabrics to the mix and immediately create an exciting product, like we did with Feit. But for the most part, we’re only looking to work with companies that are down to put some thinking and elbow grease into the collaboration.
Now, from growth to expansion: You’ve been exploring having production closer to where fabrics are sourced. Taking that to its logical conclusion, might we then see some Outlier stores over here in Europe?
We’d love to go big in Europe. We source a lot of fabric from Switzerland – and a few EU countries – so sewing stuff over there makes a lot of sense and it’d be amazing to have our own shops too. But we take things one step at a time and it’ll be a while before we’re ready to even think about that sort of stuff.
Right now we’re focused on making the best possible product in our hometown and building out the small little retail space we have here.
So finally, what issues are shaping what’s on the Outlier horizon?
As we alluded to in question one, we’re thinking a lot about what we call “half-bag travel,” where you can fill up half a weekend bag and head off on a two-week trip.
With our clothes you can get pretty close to that already, so what we’re really after is “no bag travel” and being able to head to the airport and fly anywhere with just the clothes on your back.
Basically, we’re trying to make clothes that allow you to have fewer clothes. When everyone is naked, our work will be done.
Words: Alex Jackson