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Q&A February, 19 2014

Selectism Q&A | Abe Burmeister on Outlier

Photography: Theo Constantinou

We’ve been fans of Outlier since their launch here at Selectism, so it only makes sense that we’d interview them to see what’s been happening with the company. We caught up with Outlier’s Abe Burmeister to talk fabric development, people copying the brand and party tricks. Take a leap to read the Q&A.

 

What fabrics have you been able to develop?
We’ve developed three different shirting fabrics:

The first is Blazed Cotton, a cleaner take on cotton shirting. It’s more breathable than most shirt fabrics, but also highly sweat-resistant so you are always looking good.

The second one is the Air Forged Oxford, which really extended the idea of the Blazed Cotton but made it stronger and softer as well by using extremely fine air texturized nylon yarns.

The most recent and honestly our favorite (but also the most expensive) is Merino/Co which combines super 120 merino yarns with organic cotton to create a shirting that has all the natural performance of merino, yet the structure of a cotton shirt.

 

Which is more difficult — design or fabric sourcing?
That’s an impossible question. They are incredibly different things. The design side is more saturated, there is less unexplored territory, so it’s easier to get started but far harder to do something truly innovative. The fabric sourcing is a lot less mapped out, so it’s a bit easier to find unique stuff at the get go, but to really do it well means mastering massive global supply chains and working at very large scale which is incredibly hard for a small brand to do.

 

Have you been able to strike up relationships with fabric suppliers now?
Most definitely, we actually got really lucky early on and built relationships with a couple amazing companies right from the get-go, and we’ve been consistently working to improve and build new ones as we go along. That said there are still some companies that we’d really like to work with that we haven’t been able to yet, so there is a lot more to do.

 

How do you feel about brands that have, shall we say, taken a little too much inspiration from what you do?
In this business, if no one is copying you than you are doing something wrong.

 

Do you feel people understand the brand more now than when you first started?
Honestly I hope not! When we started we very deliberately over-focused, as a way to hone in the scope of the design challenge. We’ve expanded quite a bit since then and while we work hard to bring our customers along with us on that journey. We also really want to be able to surprise ourselves. Creativity is about discovery and if we are creating then we need to be constantly finding the unexpected.

 

Would you ever wholesale?
I doubt it. We dabbled with it for a bit and it wasn’t for us.

 

How do you decide what product to make next?
Everyone in the studio is encouraged to develop new product ideas, but at the same time we try to stay very focused, so what I really look for first is passion. If someone is intensely into an idea, that’s a really good sign. But it’s not enough, so the second key thing is a strong rationality: There needs to be a strong argument why this product doesn’t exist and why we should make it. Finally, I also look for the follow-through — If we are going to make something we need to be able to create an internal team that can take the project to completion at a high level and that takes a huge amount of grit and grind.

 

How long have you been doing the open studio and how does it help the company?
In some form since  2010. We do it for two reasons: One, it’s a great opportunity for us to meet and hang out with our customers; and two, because it’s absolutely the only way you can try our stuff on before buying and that’s important to some people.

 

I still pull out my Outlier chinos and pour water on them as a party trick. Was that an aim when you started Outlier? (We’re assuming not.)
It’s all very Upworthy: “Learn This One Wild Clothing Trick, and You’ll be Astounded What Sort of Company You Can Build Next!”

Highsnobiety