Menswear's best bi-annual tradeshow Capsule starts Monday, a warehouse-sized survey of the year's coolest men's clothing, and this year, they've dedicated a little corner of their space exclusively to outdoors apparel brands. Called Above Tree Line, they'll be showcasing performance gear, apothecaries, tent-makers, boot companies—anything to help us city dwellers not look like amateur fools on our next hiking trip. We caught up with three of the designers that will be featured at Above Tree Line.
Poler Stuff is a one-stop shop, making everything from tents and T-shirts to those weird sleeping bags that you can wear and walk around in. We spoke with Benji Wagner, Creative Director over at Poler.
How does it feel to be part of this new outdoors-focused section at Capsule? Is it fun for you to be among other outdoors brands? Great! We were really excited to be involved in Above The Tree Line from the beginning. I think it's perfect timing and the brands selected are curated in a way that makes sense for everyone.
Why do you think people have gravitated towards outdoor brands over the past few years? I think the more time people spend working in cubicles, looking at their phones and immersed in technology, the more they long for an escape from it. The natural world is the best refuge from technology.
Do you have a hard time reconciling performance and style? I don't feel that I do, no.
What sets your brand apart from other performance brands? We are not a high end performance brand. We are a brand making very pragmatic, useful stuff at very accessible price points. Our feeling is that much of the high tech performance stuff out there is overly technical for what people actually use it for, and a lot of it is not aesthetically attractive.
What's the piece from your line that you're most proud of? I would say our Napsack. It's a sleeping bag that you can stick your arms and legs out of and walk around in. It looks like a classic puffy jacket and is just really practical and goofy. It's great around the campfire or around the house. I think of it as a multi-tool sleeping bag.
What is your favorite outdoor activity or getaway? There are too many to mention. Motorcycle camping, bicycling, snowboarding, sleeping on a beach. Pretty much anything that you do outside can be awesome in it's own way.
Jungmaven is a brilliant hippie-dippie company that makes every single product out of hemp. We caught up with Rob, the owner.
How does it feel to be part of this new outdoors-focused section at Capsule? Is it fun for you to be among other outdoors brands? Above Tree Line is good news for us outdoor folk.
Why do you think people have gravitated towards outdoor brands over the past few years? Keep it simple with quality products that hold up. I like what I have and love that it lasts, I feel others are thinking the same way.
Do you have a hard time reconciling performance and style? I grew up in Seattle hiking, camping, mountain biking, surfing, skiing and when performance is all you wear, you try to make it look as good as possible. That's why I founded Manastash and Jungmaven. I'm just stoked function and durability is something that gets talked about more and more.
What sets your brand apart from other performance brands? We've been building outdoor products made in the USA out of hemp since 1993, fusing lifestyle and technical fashion with green living.
What's the piece from your line that you're most proud of? The basic hemp t-shirt is our signature piece.
What is your favorite outdoor activity/getaway? My first company is named after my favorite mountain bike ridge ride, Manastash. Surfing and running mountains is what I love to do these days. This past summer, I ran to the top of Snowbird, Squaw, Aspen and Vail. In Santa Barbara last year I'd run a 6 mile loop in the mountains with my two dogs Skipper and Lito. These days, I run to Brooklyn and back to move my car across the street in an effort to not get a ticket. The world is your jungle.
Owner Operator makes all of their super-classy gear right here in the United States. We chatted with Steven Kimura.
How does it feel to be part of this new outdoors-focused section at Capsule? Is it fun for you to be among other outdoors brands? It’ll be fun to meet some like-minded people, and see all the new ideas out there. We’ve kept Owner Operator, in designing and testing, mostly to a small circle of friends at this point. Even though we’ve been around for a couple of years, Capsule is going to be the first time we’ve presented our line to the public.
Why do you think people have gravitated towards outdoor brands over the past few years? I hope that people’s interest in outdoor brands is really a revival of interest in being outdoors. Getting outside, whether you’re snowboarding, biking, hiking, camping, or even just walking around the city always gives you a fresh perspective, and I think it is really important to be a part of the elements, get out in the environment that you live in, see what’s happening.
The new enthusiasm for outdoor brands, and the revival of some great older companies is really exciting. I think people are responding to a sense of authenticity, a new kind of conscience about how we live in the world. Outdoor gear has to be tough, honest and practical, and who doesn’t benefit from reflecting on these kinds of values. We’re also psyched to see some interest in domestic production returning to the conversation, and we hope it continues. More companies like ours working on domestic manufacturing is good for everyone.
Do you have a hard time reconciling performance and aesthetic? Not at all. For us, performance drives the aesthetic. For instance, our Operator 111 Parka has higher and slimmer armholes than a lot of people expect from a technical jacket, which gives it a nice, trim modern fit. However, the real purpose of this design feature is to give you full freedom of movement: a high armpit is one of the best ways to make a jacket that won’t hike up when your arms go up over your head. This is how we concept the gear we want to make: the form follows the function, and the function dictates elegant form.
What sets your brand apart from other performance brands? Our gear is inspired by tradition, not trying to break from it. We don’t make anything that won’t look just as good in ten years as it does now. We’re definitely inspired by the care and quality of vintage gear, brands like Gerry, CB, North Face, when they were scrappy outsiders that were doing something original. We hope to walk in the footsteps of heritage brands while avoiding their missteps. We make everything domestically, sewing all our outerwear right in NYC’s Garment District. Our acrylic knits are made in Wisconsin, and wool hats in Vermont. We’re truly committed to our domestic economy.
What's the piece from your line that you're most proud of? Though I’m really excited about the new gear we’re working on, I have to say it’s my Operator 111 parka. It’s the first thing we made that I expect to wear forever.
What is your favorite outdoor activity/getaway? It’s hard to beat a powder day out West with friends, but I’m probably happiest camping up in the Adirondacks. We’ve been canoe camping at the same lake nearly every year since I was a kid, and now I get to bring my daughter with me. She’s not yet two years old, and she’s all ready spent over three weeks up there!