In the last year the number of men we’re seeing wearing lululemon has increased drastically. Known since its early days for making yoga clothes for women, the Vancouver-based brand added menswear in 2013, around the same time they broadened their athletic focus. Facilitating performance and mindfulness during any activity that makes you sweat is their mission. Design-focused product development has led to many innovations and an increase in quality that all customers have tuned in to. Looking at the menswear line-up, however, outerwear was clearly missing.
Three key pieces—the Einn Shell, Surge Thermo Vest and Stay Puff Parka have just been released, representing a strong, swift and well-considered move in to outerwear. We sat down with the Advanced Concepts and Outerwear team leads—Josh Hiney, Design Director and Jennie McMartin, Product Manager—to learn about the development of these great looking and high performing new pieces.
Knowing the market for mens’ outerwear is fiercely competitive the team set out with specific aspirations. “Our vision was crystal clear from the beginning—holding this handsome sophisticated aesthetic exactly in parallel with full function. These are our two north stars, and holding them at the forefront throughout every step along the way led us to create a cohesive assortment that we’re proud ladders up to the brand,” shared McMartin. They also realized this was an opportunity to reach new customers who have not yet considered lululemon menswear and note that most guys’ first experience trying on a piece is a mix of surprise and overwhelming positivity. “It’s the fabrications. The work and the thought we put in to this is what’s going to keep you comfortable for a longer time than competitors’ products,” Hiney remarks.
All good design, regardless of discipline, is iterative. In the outerwear world it’s typical to see 3-4 iterations before locking the design down for manufacturing. For the Einn Shell, however, there were six cycles of prototyping. “The details were dialed by the third, but we kept refining fit. We wanted to make sure every motion was completely solved for,” shared Hiney. “Every single element of this jacket has to be functional so the approach is so different from other design projects” added McMartin. One distinctive element was part of the original concept, though—a one-piece pattern. The idea came to Hiney in an Illustrator doodle that he quickly printed, cut and taped to see if it would work. It did. While cutting and seam-sealing one piece of fabric creates manufacturing efficiencies, it also reduces material needs. In the case of the Einn they went from using 14 meters of seam tape down to 9.6, in turn reducing total weight, potential points of failure from wear and tear as well as material and manufacturing cost. McMartin calls this reduction of tape the Einn’s “greatest achievement.”
While the Einn Shell is the hero product for the new outerwear line, the Surge Thermo Vest is an important component. You’d likely never notice its cleverly hidden snap tabs, they can be used to secure the vest into the shell, creating a system that’s optimal for cool weather running. The vest is engineered for the body, seamlessly changing insulation weights to optimize for warmth where you need it (chest) and breathability (back). The vest is “so purposeful for the wearer at every component of his run” says McMartin. “This system, while insulating you, is also regulating your temperature” Hiney adds. The zip-up vest includes a single snap at the sternum for moments when you need extra ventilation but don’t want your layers flying around as you move. Also noteworthy for both pieces is the highly considered air flow. The jacket’s pocket zippers, for example, are designed to vent your core as you get warmer, with air flowing in and out the cape vent across the back.
A seasoned outerwear designer before joining lululemon, Hiney believes outerwear “has to start with the raw material.” The bonded three layer shell is made by “the most premium textile manufacturers in the world” Hiney claims. The shell is finished with a durable water repellent coating that keeps water rolling off as an insurance barrier for the waterproof laminate. The red tricot knit on the interior creates a soft touch against the skin, protecting the laminate and providing a better texture for the seam tape to bond to. The seam tape, it’s worth noting, has a clever textured pattern—”we were playing with the notion of sartorial performance” as Hiney describes it.
The final key piece for the season is the Stay Puff Parka. Lined with 700 fill-power goose down this jacket is will keep you warm on the coldest winter days. It’s incredibly light weight and the stretch glyde shell is water repellant. “We’re thinking about a body in motion and a body that breathes, and are using the elements to their favor to actively be a part of their outdoor pursuit. By regulating your temperature you can be out there longer, more comfortably, so your maximum potential can be reached,” says Hiney.
Images courtesy of lululemon