Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Brand History: Arc'teryx



Founded: 1991
Country of Origin: Canada
Famous for: Innovative climbing gear, Bora daypacks, Theta AR hardshell, materials science advances with GORE-TEX fabrics, Veillance techwear line
Social and Environmental Responsibility initiatives: International Down and Feather Laboratory-audited down suppliers, internal and external ethics audit processes for all Arc’teryx manufacturing facilities, First-World manufacturing in Vancouver Factory, “Bird’s Nest” all-weather garment donation initiative to help homeless in Vancouver community


Arc'teryx co-founder Dave Lane

    In 1989, Dave Lane and Jeremy Guard founded Rock Solid in Vancouver, British Columbia on the promise of delivering world-class climbing gear to outdoors athletes throughout Coastal Canada and the world. Rock Solid produced highly-acclaimed gear, but the Lane and Guard’s ambitions weren’t just production – they were innovation. The two business partners were dissatisfied with merely improving the outdoors gear of the day. They wanted to transcend the market. They wanted to create solutions to problems never before thought solvable. They wanted to evolve.

The most complete Archaeopteryx lithographica fossil to date: the "Berlin specimen".

    In 1991, Rock Solid became Arc’teryx. The name “Arc’teryx” is a shortened version of Archaeopteryx lithographica, the scientific name of the first flying reptile and “the first [in its line] to take a bold evolutionary leap”. But evolution and innovation couldn’t just be Arc’teryx’s image: Lane and Guard had to deliver on the promise of their new name and logo. In 1992, Arc’teryx burst onto the scene with the duo’s first widely-marketed product, the Vapor harness. The Vapor harness utilized 360 degree thermomolding technology to provide unparalleled, sculpted comfort and mobility within a world-class lightweight climbing harness. The same anatomically-contoured thermomolding techniques that made the Vapor an overnight success were refined for the release of the Bora series backpacks in 1994, whose cutting-edge thermoformed suspension system led to multiple industry awards and cemented Arc’teryx as a true outdoors innovator. Then, in 1996, Arc’teryx received a license from W.L. Gore and Associates to use GORE-TEX waterproof fabrics in their products. Within two years, Arc’teryx (the equipment innovator) would evolve again into Arc’teryx (the worldwide outdoors sensation).

Arc'teryx Alpha SV jackets in use, 1998.

    The first Arc’teryx apparel collections, released all the way through 1998, featured several “industry first” technologies that would go on to set new standards for outdoors apparel as a whole. The introduction of laminated WaterTight zippers, 16-stitch-per-inch microseams, and the world’s first ever waterproof softshells represented a paradigm shift within the technical apparel industry, and Arc’teryx was leading the charge. Arc’teryx’s flagships jackets (the Alpha SV, Beta AR, and Atom LT, among others) would go on to win numerous awards from outdoors industry publications like Backpacker, Outside, Climbing, and Powder, and the recognition continues today. The 2007 co-development – and subsequent world-first introduction - of GORE-TEX Pro fabric proved that even close to two decades after its founding, Arc’teryx’s legacy of innovation is still being written. In 2010, the Arc’teryx DNA evolved again, finding a niche in a market usually snubbed by gearheads yet completely receptive to the Arc’teryx corporate philosophy of bold strides forward. That year, the Arc’teryx Veilance fashion line launched under the direction of designer Conroy Nachitgall.


    Embodying a blend of aesthetic design and materials innovation, the Veilance line is Arc’teryx’s entry into “technically-focused menswear” – a hybrid between form and function near and dear to the heart of any winter-weary Michigander. Since the line’s debut in 2010, Veilance has come to represent a bold new direction for the outdoors apparel industry, influencing the creation of similar lines by competitor The North Face and even the overall direction of Arc’teryx’s Essentials and 24 outdoors collections. Veilance collections have incorporated the latest R&D advances from Arc’teryx (such as Down Composite Mapping) into casual, urban contexts, truly bridging the gap between “modern cold-weather style” and the George Costanza coat of days gone by. It is wearable technology the Apple Watch could only dream of.



    Throughout Arc’teryx’s history, Lane and Guard have obsessively sought innovation above all else – from harnesses to backpacks, fabrics to zippers, GORE Pro to Veilance. As Arc’teryx approaches its 30th anniversary with the launch of a just-announced footwear collection promising radical takes on traditional footwear materials design, I’d say the duo’s vision is right on track.

~Alex R. -Men's Fashion and Men's Technical Apparel

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