We're Carl Moriarty, the Director for Apparel, and John Atkinson, the Director of Hardgoods Design for Arc’teryx, AMA
"UPDATE: Hey everyone, that was great! We're stepping away from the keyboard now. Thanks so much for dropping in! And sorry that we couldn't answer all of your questions. Shoutout to Carryology and MFA for helping us make this happen." 'till next time - seeya!
Hey Carl & John here, we're Designers at Arc'teryx. And we're up for chatting about a bunch of stuff: including men's outdoor apparel & pack design, fit, ergonomics, fabric selection and process.
You can read a little more about us here
Here's out proof on twitter
We'll start answering questions in 1 hours time: 6pm EST. So feel free to start firing in your questions.
Carl will answer with (C)
Areas of expertise:Pack design, ergonomics and load carry. Apparel design, materials, fit and layering.
And John,of course, with (J)
Areas of Expertise: Pack design, Load carriage biomechanics Custom component design, Process engineering
*And our lovely colleague Jo, is on the keyboard dictating our answers so we can get them to you quickly - and because we kinda suck at touch typing.
(c) Social climbing? (j) Indoors (if caving can be classed as indoors)!
Thanks for taking the questions. I have a closet full of Arc stuff and all of the pieces have served me exceptionally well.
Arc'teryx's garment design and execution are undoubtedly high quality, but I believe there's emergent feeling that your hardshell product performance is hamstrung by GoreTex's increasingly aging ePTFE membrane tech (even with the newer Active flavours). So - with the advent and commercial success of air permeable fabrics such as NeoShell and eVent variations, how do your designers intend to keep apace with these significant technological advances?
What drives the design of your Veilance line? I'm primarily a user of your technical pieces, and the lineup strikes me as a little too hipster urbanite targeted. Is there any intention to produce more conventionally styled Veilance pieces?
(C) We are constantly evaluating new technologies as they emerge. in relation to waterproof/ breathables it's our belief that performance is driven through the synergies of many different components of the textile, rather than simply by membrane technology. Face fabric, membrane, backer, DWR, lamination integrity, hydrophobicity, hand (feel) and resistance to chemical contamination are all critically important. Right now we believe that Gore-Tex provides the best combination of these factors.
(C) Veilance gives us an opportunity to apply our years of learning on garment construction, patterning and fit to a completely different environment and end user. It also allows us to utilize and support our local Canadian manufacturing.
"It also allows us to utilize and support our local Canadian manufacturing."
I just looked at the labels of four Arc'teryx items I own. I can't complain about the quality, but three were made in China and one in Bangledash. It seems that very little Arc'teryx gear is made in Canada these days. There's nothing wrong with the Apple model of designing here and building in China, but perhaps it's time to stop touting the use of "local Canadian manufacturing" so prominently? Also, shouldn't prices have been brought down as a result of moving so much of your manufacturing to asia?
(C) Building product on a global scale is a very complicated exercise. We are committed to continuing to build and manufacture a portion of our product line in Canada. We 're currently in the process of expanding our Canadian manufacturing. currently our Veilance line, harness line, mountain professional work wear and several of our technical gore shells are made here in Vancouver.
I am not sure if this question that Carl or John can answer, but it has been on my mind for long while and I am hopeful to get an answer.
Has Arc'teryx ever considered in making a product line for search and rescue volunteers? this would mean it would have to be very affordable, very durable and relatively lightweight.
I finally got certified just yesterday. Most of the volunteer SAR members have spent an up word of over $1000 on all their gear (yes, even the bargain hunters like myself). Everything is out of our own pocket, many of us have to replace several pieces of gear just going through training. Gear failing, used on a subject never to be seen again, gear being destroy on searches. When a pair of rain pants gets torn up going through blackberry bushes, it needs to be repaired/ replaced if you want continue as it is required gear for SAR in the NW. It is a lot of work and costs a lot to help others in a emergency.
(C) Arc'teryx does have a professional product line with gear specifically tailored to the needs of mountain professionals and we offer industry pricing for those who work within the industry and SARS organizations.
Hey Guys: 1. Outdoor industry seems to be a fairly conservative as far as new styles. As designers do you ever feel constrained by the outdoor industry? If you were to design for something not "outdoor" what would it be?
- Where do you draw inspiration from?
(J) Some brands are market driven rather than market leaders, we'll leave you to figure out which one Arc'teryx is. As a designer you're only constrained by yourself! If I was to design something not outdoor - I'd say lighting or furniture. If I wasn't designing outdoor gear I'd be retired and playing with my train set.
(C) I have a million ideas on how to builder super lightweight campers for Japanese trucks.
- How did you get to designing at Arc'teryx? aka what was your career path that lead you to the here and now?
- What's next for the outdoor apparel industry? What new fabrics/coatings have you personally excited?
big fan of the brand!
(j)- I started off building my own stuff and then realized I could do it as a job and went gunning for a job at MacPac in NZ. After that it was on to Kathmandu as senior designer and I met Carl when I was at MacPac, we stayed in touch and when I was ready to move on from Kathmandu, the weirdest coincidence he called and asked do you want to move to Vancouver?! The coolest thing about this industry is it's tight knit. I still can't believe I do this for a job! (C) I was a keen climber. I worked at a gear store in Melbourne, AUS while studying Industrial design. I helped out with repairs and modifications and eventually started building my own bouldering crash pads. After school I quickly realized that designing rotationally moulded trash cans was not going to fulfill my passion! I hit the road climbing for 2 years I ended up drink beer with some people from Arc'teryx! (c) right now we can't say too much about what's in the hopper but thinking a lot about thermal regulation and the differences between air permeability and breathability. (J) what he said about the hopper....but breaking down load carriage into a better understanding of bio-mechanics, new materials, new composite construction to balance off weight, flexibility & durability.
What's the design vision for Veilance, and how does it relate to the mainline? Do you envision the same customer using both?
(C) The vision is to provide contemporary interpretations of iconic menswear styles. Applying all we've learnt about garment performance, materials and construction.
We imagine the Veilance customer to be more of an urban creature, but believe all of our product has relevance to those who appreciate beautifully crafted objects.
Is there an internal champion for Veilance? Or is it just super fun for you guys to change your aesthetic up?
(C) Veilance has it's own dedicated team but product design at Arc'teryx is a collaborative exercise and Veilance contributes to and draws inspiration from many other projects within the team.
What's the best way to prevent the inevitable "my back got really sweaty carrying this backpack and now I've taken off my pack to rest above treeline and my sweaty back is cold and uncomfortable" situation?
(J) for the sweaty back, marketing people don't like to admit carrying a pack is sweaty! The key is a balance of controlled cooling and low moisture absorption, so pay attention to how the suspension retains moisture and use layering to manage your own body temperature. It's misleading to think that a fully ventilated back panel is good for you, sometimes you can get chilled.
How the shit did you make the Nomin shoulder straps so comfortable?
(C) 25 years of building climbing harnesses!
Thanks for the opportunity! I have a few questions:
From what sources does the Design Team draw inspiration from for colorways, silhouettes, and general design direction? Is there a heavy inspiration form natural palettes, or do you (or in addition to) look elsewhere in the fashion industry to see where the industry in general is going? Is the
It seems a lot of outdoor brands have mimicked the aesthetics that were so well defined by Arc'teryx (Subtle tonal variations from textile to hardware, complimentary color schemes between textile and hardware, etc), do you see Arc'teryx going in any new and radically different directions from an aesthetic and color direction?
Having applied for a job very recently in the Design Dept. (Colour Designer), is there something that your team specifically looks for beyond technical acuity and a passion for what Arc'teryx stands for?
Thanks again for your time!
Let's look at Q1 first... (C) Arc'teryx has a fairly unique approach to colour within the industry. Colour is handled by a separate colour team. With 4 or 5 dedicated colour designers working to apply seasonal palette to the entire product line. The goal is to have the best possible merchandising support between all categories. Regarding Design direction and inspiration, we believe that our visual identity is an important component of the brand and our goal is to strengthen that identity through consistent application of our design values. the challenge for the design team is to ensure that our identity is evolving while still remaining true.
Q3 - (C & J) Vision, talent, passion
Outerwear x Backpack interfaces – what do you need to consider? Do you work together on seam or pocket placement?
(C) Hi guys, this is a source of constant examination and rigorous debate between designers & design teams. (J) for me ultimately the whole package has to work. (C) John & I have the honour of arbitrating these disputes!!
Hey guys, thanks for doing this. I love your products; my Atom LT and a Patagonia fleece kept me warm through the winter at the University of Michigan.
As someone who is figuring out what I want to do after college, I've been interested in working in the clothing industry. My question is what's the best route for me to get from a college graduate to being successful working for a clothing company? Internships (do you guys have internships?)? Knowledge of clothing construction?
Hope you can help me out, thanks!
(J) I can only speak to back packs - but for me it was 10 years between starting and thinking about being a pack designer and doing it. Start with building your own stuff, experimenting. Talk to a lot of people because everyone has their own story. The only thing that is consistent is it's hard work, but really worth it.
(C) In terms of internships. They are complicated for us in Canadian regulatory space. We tend to fill our roster with students from several of the Canadian Universities.
That was exactly the kind of answer I was looking for, thanks!
But does that mean that Arc'Teryx doesn't have a place for me as an American student?
(C) Unfortunately it's very difficult for us to host interns from outside of Canada. Feel free to contact our HR department to find out more about the internship process. [email protected]
Any major influences in pack design over the years? Anyone or brand that taught you gold?
(J) When it comes to design I probably learn more from my colleagues, trial and error, and some painful product testing!
What's the difference between the various types of GoreTex fabric that you guys use?
I love my Sentinel and Atom LT! Thanks!
(C) Gore-Tex is comprised of Face fabric, membrane and backer and we try to configure these elements to create the best packages for a given activity. The woven pro-shell backer provides the best compactness to durability ratio, where as the brushed backer on your Sentinel provides an element of warmth.
How much consideration is given to cost vs. benefit when designing new packs? Have you thought about making a "best pack for broke climbers" that doesn't use the latest and greatest materials but is "good enough" and supremely affordable?
(J) sorry dude!
John, can you tell me about your pattern making process?
And secondly, I'd love to hear about what's next in terms of fabric/material innovation?
(J) Pack patterning is as much sculpture as anything. It's 3d and organic. If something is really challenging I might carve a foam armature or simply experiment with fabric drape. Ultimately the fabric will tell me what it wants to do.
In terms of fabric/material innovation my lips are sealed but we're drawing from a broad palate not confined to the outdoor industry.
Apart from your own brand, which ones do you guys wear/like/respect (tech and non-tech)?
(J) I'm so fussy I build all my own gear. When it comes to tents I have a lot of time for MSR & Hilleberg. Sleeping bags - Western Mountaineering bags are intriguing.
(C) On my side I've got lots of time for Snowpeak and their commitment to titanium. I'm a bit of a t-shirt junkie and my current favourite is Ugmonk and Glennz tee's. I also really like elements of Descente has going on in their all-terrain collection.
(J) I agree with carl on Snowpeak - that stuff is gorgeous.
A few questions
1: Will we see a new pack for cragging that will fit the Haku rope bag inside of it nicely? You had an old cragging pack that did this but not anymore.
2: Will Arc ever start to make expedition puffys for high altitude climbing? My Cerium SV isn't cutting it, went back to feathered friends jacket.
3: Can I get the Alpha FL 45 in green?
4: How come you guys always think I work for Arc when I'm standing at Y2 cafe waiting for my sandwich?
5: Can I get a gig battle testing your gear? I have a ton of potential input.
(J) As far as a cragging pack no plans right now but it is core to our brand so it's on the radar.
(C) High altitude puffy's, we've definitely been field testing various concepts with our athletes over the past 3 years and some of those ideas will be coming to the product line shortly. The focus has really been on 6000m range with no real plans to be addressing the 8000m market.
(J) Alpha 45 in Green, sorry no - Yellow or black next year. 30L coming in green.
Q4 - You must be fully decked out in gear and over caffeinated!!!
I see that Arc'teryx designed the packs for the USMC. Could you elaborate on that story? Is it safe to assume that you do not manufacture those packs? Did you bid, or were you asked to design them?
I want to know more. I'll be using one an awful lot pretty soon, and I hear they aren't in the best of shape (the training ones).
We used to make the ILBE but not any more. I believe the answer above from willsteph is correct.
What's new - anything on the verge that I should be saving my money for? Either advances in existing packs/jackets or brand new lines of equipment?
(J) Sorry your wallet is ours...there's lots coming!
This might involve Jo as well, not sure, but what do you guys do differently in pack design for women? Any plans on further expanding and differentiating your gender-specific carry line?
(J) We have a women's focus and it's all about fit (shoulder strap shape, back length, pelvic shape), not about "shrinking it and pinking it" I'll also add that we spend a lot more time test fitting packs to women as they are very discerning users.
Who ultimately signs off on designs at Arc'eryx? Is it a team decision, or a product manager type position?
(J) We're a design driven company but the VP of product has the final say.
I'm going away for a year abroad with my girlfriend to South America (Peru, Costa Rica and Ecuador) and New Zealand and Australia.
What's the most important piece of equipment for these types of trips (or any that need testing! ;) ;) )?
(J) Good tent and sense of humour!
Whats your guys favorite outdoor activity and how much does Arcteryx gear make up of your own gear kits?
(J) Coming to Vancouver and getting into backcountry skiing - I'm now 100% Arc'teryx. (C) I'm a little ADD, right now trail running, mountain biking and backcountry skiing. All offer great opportunity to constantly asses what we're doing and where we're going with the apparel program. I'm 100% Arc'teryx prototypes. Which has it's good days and it's bad!
but AR doesn't make skis, avy gear, stoves, goggles/glasses, or a few other items critical to those sports - so your kit can't be 100% AR.
I assume you both mean that if AR makes it - you won't take another brands over yours - which I respect!
(J) When it comes to ski's & Boots -Salomon, When it comes to caving - Petzl are it. Diving - Poseidon.
(C) Ski gear, I tend to rotate through stuff quickly - a poor tradesman blames his tools!
Where do you get your design and functional-requirement inspiration from?
(j) Our end users, the people who are out there doing it. (C) it's also about being part of an active community. Arc'teryx is community or a collection of passionate users. it's a great source of problems to be solved.
Hey guys! Love the products. The atom hoody is like wearing a cloud! I have a couple questions about your rock climbing apparel. Are there any plans for a climbing specific line of clothing? Or any further advancements in your harnesses? Because that would be rad.
(C) Lots of work being done on the future of harnesses right now, stay tuned! Climbing apparel, some cool stuff coming in the S16 season.
Is the Arrakis gone forever ?!?!
(J) Yep! What's coming down the tracks will make the Arrakis look like a 1930's coupe!
What's the hardest bit to get right with pack straps?
(J) I'd say it's been to balance load carriage with minimum weight and low water absorption. You can get away with minimal padding if the pack contours well to the body.
(J) Pattern and the fit and the balance of internal foams. n other words, good, even load transfer.
Thanks for the opportunity! I'm also a huge fan. Plus I'm Canadian so a bit more love for the company :D
I do search and rescue. I had some gear I was unsatisfied with so I designed my own solution. I was told by colleagues they'd buy it, and I genuinely think it's got innovative features worth pushing further.
Since I have neither the capacity ($$$) or skill to manufacture even a few myself (my prototype took me forever), how do you think an individual can try to bring a product to market? (it's not so much about making money as making it available to others)
What are common mistakes in design that should be kept in mind? (it's load carriage, but not a pack)
Would any of you be willing to have a look at it a give me your thoughts?
(J) We suggest getting a prototype to the point where you can truly evaluate it and then shop it around the brands that you think it has the greatest relevance too.
(J)The common mistakes to keep in mind are that you aren't the only end user.
(C ) and does the product communicate how it should be used. Is it intuitive.
Hi Arcteryx team!
1. What do you think distinguishes Arcteryx from some of the other major outdoor brands i.e. Marmot, Mammut, etc.?
2. Can you gift my buddy who just got into skiing with me a Sidewinder SV? The poor guy has been using a really old ski jacket that gets completely soaked by the end of the day
1 - (J) We don't just design, we build it, we test it, we break it. (C) Arc'teryx still has a significant manufacturing facility within 10 mins of our design centre and we maintain the full sample making capability within the design department where we can build every product that we make. Understanding the tools and materials that we have today helps us to imagine and develop those we will need in the future.
Is there a specific reason that upper-arm pockets aren't more common than this? They are particularly useful when wearing a pack, unlike anything on the front, and very few (outside of LEAF) have them.
Have hybrid shells : hardshell on the more exposed areas (hood, shoulders, arms); and softshell on less exposed/sweatier (back, under the arms, chest) been tested? If so, any reason they haven't been more widely adopted?
(C) Specific reason upper arm pockets aren't more common is that there's limited real-estate on the upper arm which means pockets are either space constrained or require the garment to be somewhat over sized as is the case in the majority of our LEAF Product.
In the case of Hybrids - I've really enjoyed using them over the past 10 years but there use occasions tend to be quite specific and I think they end up being a secondary purchase for most users.
Do you guys have any plans to do tents?
(J) We're having enough fun with backpacks thanks! (c) That said there are a few whacky prototypes that have been kicking around the design centre for many years now... but no plans to commercialize.
I love your jackets, and I was kept warm in the Italian High Alps by one this winter. What is the favourite jacket you have designed, and why?
(C) My fav is still the Fission SL. Switching to a layering system where shell and insulation are in one package completely changed my approach to backcountry skiing,. As some one who sweats a lot when working hard the hydrophobic nature of Thermatek insulation allows you to push really hard without worrying about changing out layers during the day. (J) I've not actually designed one but the Alpha FL is a brilliant blend of weather protection and minimalism. But my fav pack... you'll just have to wait and see.. :-)
Are you friends with the gem of a human Jurgen Watts?
Can confirm, Jurgie is alright.
he's all good!
(C) yes, we suffer that affliction - he just started with us!
Bought one of your super light weight harnesses a couple years ago, the thing fucking broke the first time i used it. Not what i expected from what i perceived to be a premium brand. Any comments?
(C) It's troubling for us to hear this. We encourage you to follow up with our warranty department because customer feedback is an essential part of our process and climbing safety is paramount.
What is your favorite type of climbing and why is it trad?
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