Interview: Taka Kasuga of Arc’teryx Veilance

We discuss form, function and staying relevant in a crowded market

Working with Arc’teryx brand Veilance for three years, Taka Kasuga is the Design Director in charge of both maintaining and evolving their apparel. While countless brands are working in the realm of tech-meets-style now, Veilance has been in the game since 2009 (not to mention Arc’teryx was founded in the early 1990s). Known for being technically-driven yet luxurious, Veilance’s sleek and sophisticated silhouettes make their products just as wearable in the city as in the wilderness. This is tech-forward performance apparel without unnecessary zips, pockets and logos—opting for clean lines and a high-fashion attitude. And, they’re one of the first brands to do it. But given the increased competition, it’s hard to stay in the lead. We recently chatted with Kasuga about how they do it.

Veilance is one of if not the first brands to take technical innovation and manufacturing from the outdoor space and apply it to a very style-forward, urban-friendly aesthetic. Today there are so many competitors. How do you keep Veilance ahead of the game, relevant and interesting for customers now that the space has got a bit crowded?

For us, the main goal is to provide the best or better experience than we’ve had before. When you think of the functions, there are two ways to look it. One is the look itself—you can look more technical if you use some materials or trims. And the other is how it works—what we focus on is more to do with how it works. We believe is how it works is not something that’s going to go away because there’s comfort that comes from the function. And with this kind of functional side, there are a lot of innovations happening and that keeps evolving and something that we want to advance and evolve with.

So you lead with the function and then adapt the style as you see it appropriate from season to season?

The style and the function for sure, but what I see out there is more focused on the look rather than the function itself, but our priority is not so much about outdoor look, it’s more of the function itself. And we want to make sure that we have a cultural context… So that’s where the aesthetic side comes from for Veilance, so it has a lot to do with working with the menswear icons.

We’ve had a lot of Gore-Tex, but now we started to apply that context into different materials, such as cotton or cotton blends. That started to look more interesting and we are kind of evolving both from natural material side to very, very progressive, what’s the latest, the most breathable fabric from Gore-Tex in the future kind of thing. So I think in the past few seasons we were making more maintenance moves, but we are really progressing in the future.

Where do you look for inspiration when designing?

So many things. Everything from my travels, to art, music, cultural trends—any one of them. But the second thing is coming back to the design floor. That’s where the whole other side of innovation happens. So I think it’s quite important that you are always inspired by what’s happening in the world and also by the innovation that’s happening on the design floor.

Where in Japan are you from?

Shimane Prefecture, two hours north of Hiroshima by car. It’s quite beautiful. But I also lived in Tokyo for about eight years.

Every place I’ve been and seen in Japan, it just resonates with me. I think maybe a little of why—what of the things I love about Veilance actually, I find the philosophy and aesthetic to be a bit Japanese. I don’t know if you’d agree with that.

Yeah, it’s interesting to hear that. I think it’s something there aesthetically, but also the company, we work extensively around materials and the construction are based on what material is. We don’t necessarily force it, so in a sense it’s like how Japanese traditional carpentry works—with the materials and how it’s constructed. There are some similar elements there.

Images courtesy of Veilance