PSFK spoke to Abe Burmeister, co-founder of the innovative tailored performance clothing company, Outlier, about ‘simplification’ as a design principle. Inspired by Heineken’s new challenge to reinvent the Draught Beer Experience, PSFK.com hasinterviewed change-making creatives who are constantly reinventing the world around them. By creating better, functional clothing for city inhabitants through a process of simplification, Abe and his team have been able to re-imagine an entire category. Outlier is now producing garments that are of the highest quality and that hold up no matter where and how you’re moving.
The idea for Outlier started as a personal desire to create functional, stylish apparel for the city cyclists. How do you think the brand has re-imagined what people should be wearing while in motion (whether on a bicycle or walking down the street)?
I think what we do is quite a bit simpler than ‘re-imagining’ anything, we are just trying to make better clothing! Clothing has barely changed in 100 years particularly in menswear. People are wearing more casual items and polyester is everywhere but beyond that clothes haven’t changed much on a fundamental level. Jeans for instance were invented in the 1870s and built around a 400 year old fabric. Sixty years ago the first commercial jet service was launched and people are now flying all over the world with suitcases filled with the same sort of clothes they could have bought then. In a lot of cases the sixty-year-old stuff is better too, it was far more durable and likely sewn with more care and craft. What we do is a simple act of fabric arbitrage, we find materials and constructions used in more technical apparel areas, outdoors, performance sports of the military and take them into the world of menswear. The result is clothes that enable you to live more freely. You can travel farther, pack lighter, and worry less about the weather. Some of that comes from spending a lot of time paying attention to details but a lot of it comes from the fact that we are willing to look harder and spend more money on materials than other brands. The end result means you can travel around the world with a whole lot less baggage and a lot more freedom.
Why do you think it’s important to focus on designing better clothes for urban environments?
The city is where most of the world’s population lives, and if trends hold up a lot more people are moving in! Clothing is pretty much essential to life, outside a few tropical paradises you can’t really live long without it. We obviously don’t need better clothing, but if we can build things that have potential to improve the lives of a few billion people, why not?
How has technology played a role throughout the design process?
It doesn’t play much of a role at all really. We use lots of technical fabrics and are always trying to push things in that direction, but when it comes to actually designing garments we are super old school. We draw patterns on paper, cut fabrics with scissors and sew them with machines barely different than they were 80 years ago. We never ever do anything just because it’s new and novel, some technologies are genuine improvements, others are red herrings. We are only interested in things that work. There are some new manufacturing techniques in clothing we are experimenting with, but for the most part we don’t let the tech lead us, we focus on simple quality instead.
Please share how Outlier evolved into a brand balancing form, function, and physical practicality?
Well we started as a brand trying to balance form, function and practicality so in that sense I guess we haven’t evolved at all! But what really has changed is the scope of our design focus. When we launched we had exactly one product, and we had very intentionally narrowed the design scope of that product down. We were well aware that our OR pants were great for business travelers, bartenders and hikers (to name a few) but we wanted to keep a razor sharp focus when designing so we honed in on bike commuting. Once the product was on the market though that started to seem rather constraining and we needed to widen our focus. This is really a constant balancing act for us, design too broadly you wind up with bland crap and too narrowly you wind up with over specific garments that don’t travel well between social situations. What we look for are designs that open up possibilities and broaden the horizons of the life you can live every day.
About Heineken’s Challenge To Reinvent The Draught Beer Experience
In a rather audacious move, Heineken are asking people from certain countries around the world to come up with new ideas tied to the draught beer experience. Over at the Heineken Ideas Brewery site, creative minds can offer a new vision to the drinks company.
Heineken say that draught beer is enjoyed the world-over, but it has not changed much over the years and Heineken sees the potential to take inspiration from technological advances and the development of other industries to create an exciting new era in draught beer.
Submit your new draught experience concepts at Heineken Ideas Brewery.