TECHWEAR SUMMIT: @organiclab.zip DMs TAKA KASUGA of @arcteryx @veilance
Organiclab.zip is a digital showcase of contemporary garment engineering with a cult following on Instagram – part of a growing multi-platform web presence – whose outerwear poetry we’ve been fans since the beginning. One brand that makes unsurprisingly frequent appearances on the @organiczip.lab feed is VEILANCE, the Arcteryx line that pioneered the fusion of luxury with tech-forward design. Chris Black, cultural commentator, content producer, and friend of 032c, read our minds when he offered to broker a conversation between Veilance design director TAKA KASUGA and the anonymous curatorial persona behind Organiclab.zip. The conversation below is what happened once the garment chronicler slid into Kasuga’s DMs.
Hey, good afternoon! 🐛
So to begin, who is Taka Kasuga?
You remember the Japanese guy you took to an underground tiki bar in Chinatown, Montreal last summer? That’s taka ;–)
Man, you got me drunk!
Ok, so I’m a guy who’s always pursuing beauty that‘s in the expression of freedom 🗽
Haha! Ah yes, the first person to share my face online, tagging @organiclab.zip 🔍
Yes, the only one to do so
I have the back shot too haha
I love how you described yourself, makes me happier to interview you
Just don’t post them here and we will be just fine
So,were you always interested in functional design?
I grew up in Japan wearing jeans, tee-shirts, and sneakers without even being aware that they were functional design
Like everybody else I guess
I became more aware of it after I started to work for Junya Watanabe at CDG. Workwear, military, and outdoor gear were the starting point back in 2003–05. We worked with Levi’s, The North Face, and so on when no one was talking about collaborations
I became more interested in what‘s coming next which eventually led me to Arc’teryx
How about you?
Nice! My favorite collections of Junya Watanabe are from 2003 to 2005 🎣
I was a boy-scouts kid; it was my introduction to functional design. Along the way, I started doing more vigorous activities such as winter camping and hiking. I guess functional design grew as interesting as essential. Like you, I wasn’t really aware.
Let’s talk about Veilance now!
Veilance is known for merging performance and design but beyond that, could you explain what is Veilance in your own words?
Think of a high performing architecture that looks good and moves with your body. That’s sort of like what Veilance is
I heard that you work many seasons ahead. Do you feel like you are living in the future? What is the development process behind Veilance’s “modern day uniform”?
The process is rather practical
It starts from the longest lead time which is the material research & development. Without having the right kind of material for the brand, no style will come to life. We just reviewed a material list for fall ’22 – so it‘s about a 2 1/2 year process. After proof of concept, we move into product development in August September. We layer color after that.
It‘s opposite from the industry standard ↔️, which is to kick off the season with theme, mood board, look & feel, color, etc. where a 6–12 month process to the market is the norm. At CDG, it’s 2 months from ideation to runway 🤯
😳 , quite thorough
Could you develop on the materials you work with and some of the challenges that comes with them?
Well, hope it’s not too detailed
Not at all. I appreciate the methods and procedures
Sometimes when you work with new advanced materials you, you need to come up with a new way to construct. We have a tool shop at the design center. They are experts in coming up [with] solutions
Gotcha – modern problems require modern solutions
What about noisy garments?
You can’t sneak into anywhere with your Gore–Tex on for sure
Intangible things like noise need to be considered when we are developing material. Also how the material looks and feels. It’s less of a concern in outdoor end use, but very important to make products more versatile, [adapting] to many different occasions
Squish squish 🧀
What is the general procedure of a prototype’s wear–testing and how does your design evolve through the process?
Is the purpose of wear–testing to achieve a predetermined objective or do you actually define the prototype in the act of wearing and testing?
The design intent is often set before we start the process. So the process itself is like proving your concept by ideating. We start from testing how the material and the construction work in the intended use and environments. If the sample is keeping you comfortable, that’s a good sign. Otherwise you need to assess why it’s not working. Then we move into developing specific styles with certain feature set.
If you find me on the street, I’m often wear testing future concepts🚶🏽♂️
I really like the idea of wear testing prototypes, it really allows you to explore and achieve its very best potential, in my opinion. It’s trustworthy.
What is your relationship with the outdoors?
How do you incorporate staying active in your routine?
Luckily I grew up in nature 🌊 ⛰
I was reintroduced to the outdoors after I moved to Vancouver. It brought me so much joy after living in Tokyo and NY
I had no idea that trail running was much more fun than road running. I learned to climb a little bit as well
Outdoor sports can be intimidating to a lot of people. It’s an opportunity for the outdoor industry to democratize the beauty that the outdoors brings
I think that as people move into urban centers, there‘ll be an increased longing for pristine nature. It‘s important for our well being 🌎
On another note, what is System A?
System A is our internal name for a new concept that we have in development right now 🤫
The name originally came from 2008 or so. Before Veilance was named, it was called System A. Errolson Hugh told me William Gibson came up with the name System A. It derived from Systema, a Russian Martial Art, in Gibson’s book Spook County.
🤐 I’m intrigued by the project and especially looking forward to see it!
I also know that a lot of people are excited and anticipating this so…🥁What should we expect from the new Veilance women’s line?
Well, I’m excited this is finally happening. It’s planned to launch in fall‘21 🚀
Because performance womenswear is almost non existent today, there’s no expectation to start with. I always felt like it’s one of the missing opportunities in the marketplace that Veilance must get into. It took me a few years to actually start working on it.
I can tell you that it‘s not going to be a cut and paste of the current men’s line. Playing with silhouette and volume with right kind of material (that doesn’t do squish squish) is not something we’ve experimented as an outdoor company. I wanted to adjust the process. So I went back to figure drawing with pencil and paper, then draping. For me, it’s like two worlds coming together, form with function
Yes, wow. I agree. There’s definitely a huge space for improvement in women’s performance wear. There’s so much to say, I feel like it deserves an interview of its own.
That being said, what do you think is the future of design?
Uhm there’re a couple of major things:
1️⃣People will continue to adopt comfort that comes from ultimate function whether it’s from sports or outdoor. You can call it athleisure and/or streetwear. Even though these terms have cultural connotations, both of them are moving towards the same direction in a big picture. People are looking for a new kind of expression of freedom that comes from the functional design
2️⃣ Future designers must come up with sustainable solutions. It might be totally a new way in terms of how we design and manufacture. New technologies are improving day by day. Sustainability is relatively a new term in the industry and there‘re a lot of greenwashing happening.
Merging these two sounds like a good goal
Totally agree with #2️⃣! I‘m really into Rocksolid’s circular economy initiative program, launched last year. What is Veilance’s attitude towards sustainability?
Veilance is about to launch its own upcycling project very soon. ♻️ We are starting from used products and will extend to using left over materials from the manufacturing waste
Upcycling used things is not necessarily a new concept. I grew up with vintage jeans and sneakers, then moved onto second–hand designers! Grailed is like a digital version of it. Now there’s a merger of this circularity of products with the rise of sustainability consciousness.
BTW, it’s called MOBIUS PROJECT. The inspiration came from this:
And why do you think performance wear has gained such increasing popularity over the last few years?
If you had an option that works better than the other, why not choosing it? 🤷🏽♂️
Exactly! It’s always a pleasure talking with you. It was good to read about the future of Veilance in your words. I’m really looking forward to see the project come to life.
Same here. Come to Vancouver after this pandemic. We should do 🏔 and a few more rounds of pain killer 🍹🍹
Lastly, thanks Chris Black for coming up with this interview. It was so nerve–racking to just causally type up something like this on my iPhone for publishing. I’m not Justin Bieber! 🙃
Thanks to both of you and hope to see you soon Taka 🥂🐛