Arc’teryx is counted among the upper echelon of technical garments. Held in the same breath as The North Face and Stone Island, the brand represents the cream of the performance-wear crop. Founded in 1989 in Vancouver by rock climbing enthusiasts David Lane and Jeremy Guard, it was first known as Rock Solid Manufacturing. The name was scrapped just two years later and changed to Arc’teryx after the first modern bird, Archaeopteryx. The outline of the fossil remains the brand’s logo to this day.
Arc’teryx built a name for itself for creating the first thermomolded foam climbing harness as well upending the jacket market with the technically superior Alpha SV jacket, an iconic piece that still remains in the collection.
The brand’s sublabel, formerly known as Arc’teryx Veilance before simplifying its name to Veilance, was launched in 2009 as a fashion-eyed branch using the same technical prowess. Since then, it’s grown organically and garnered for itself legions of fans, including fashion elite. Errolson Hugh, lauded designer for techwear brand Acronym, has gone so far as to equate Arc’teryx to Hermés.
Now for the first time, Veilance is offering a jean (as well as a jacket) made from the fabric that built America. With technical innovations like the first waterproof zipper, bleeding-edge performance fabrics like Gore-Tex Infinium and more, denim wouldn’t be a fabric you’d expect from the brand. In its inception, though, denim was the performance fabric for its time. Built to withstand the elements and bear the brunt of hard labor, denim was the go-to fabric for the likes of miners and cowboys. We got our hands on the $350 Veliance Cambre pants and talked with Veilance designer and creative director, Taka Kasuga to explore.
“The initial idea was we just wanted to expand the range of our material palette,” Kasuga says. “I wanted to play with traditional materials but in a technical way. So it comes from the construction and patterning. It’s definitely an experimentation for us, tackling what denim is today and how we can make it different.”
The fabric — aside from the grey color — looks like your typical (very nice) denim. The denim’s face is sprinkled with the kind of artisanal irregularity you’d expect of a small Japanese denim mill. Unlike many technical fabrics, it’s not flat and lifeless. There’s texture. There’s tonal variation. It is, by all discernible accounts, a denim for denim lovers. But if you know anything about Veilance, you know there’s something special underneath the hood.
Kasuga says, “We looked at the modern-day menswear icons and the blue jean is definitely one of them. But we hadn’t broken that mold before. I knew that 3D patterning and laminated construction would put it in a different perspective. But we had to find the right material. So we partnered with a technical Japanese mill which has been a partner with Arc’teryx for a long time.”
While the fabric’s warp (its face or the outside of the garment) features typical cotton yarns, the magic is on the inside of the pants, the weft. The denim uses yarns made with hollow core polyester filaments and they’re the key that unlocks the jean’s performance potential. Thanks to the hollow core, the special polyester is lighter, thermoregulatory, moisture-wicking and more durable. All these properties are similar to what you’d see in many types of wool but this special fiber is softer against the skin. Plus, a wool denim just doesn’t sound very Veilance.
It also helps with the construction of the jean itself. Apart from carefully placed bar tacks for structural integrity, the jean lacks any outward-facing stitching. Instead, Kasuga opted for taped seams, which adhere to synthetic fibers but not natural fibers like cotton, to cut down the bulk of traditional felled seams. What results are seams that almost perfectly flush.
Those flush seams come in handy, too, considering the amount of carefully designed patternmaking involved. With ergonomics in mind, the futuristic jean employs a host of articulated seams and gussets meant to better mimic the contours of the human body, allowing for a more comfortable range of motion.
So, it’s a very Veilance jean. Even down to the sulphur-dyed grey colorway which also fades like normal denim. When I asked about the color choice, Kasuga’s answer was practical. “The main reason for that is because of Arc’teryx’s sustainability initiative. We didn’t use traditional indigo because it requires too much water.”
Building upon the classic blue jean is an easy task, but improving what many consider to be a perfect garment is not. The Cambre pants embody Arc’teryx’s original vision of evolution. Through trial and error, with practicality and performance in mind, every detail is considered. In Darwinian fashion, Veilance has trimmed the fat and rid the time-tested garment of the unnecessary while adapting to the needs of the modern wearer. The basic blueprint is still there, immediately recognizable. But what Veilance has birthed is undeniably the next generation of the blue jean.