Movement in Shelter: Veilance Womenswear – Shanghai Edition

Arc’teryx’s VEILANCE launched its first-ever womenswear collection last week with 11 pieces of apparel and accessories designed by creative director Taka Kasuga. The new foray into women’s has been several years in the making, but according to Kasuga, the events of the last 18 months – which changed how we relate to our environments and how we want to dress –  have only validated the mission behind it. Filling a void in menswear-dominated technical design, the new line brings performance thinking from the great outdoors into city life, as our man-made landscapes evolve in response to urgent health and climate requirements. 

Exploring the new collection in the urban context is a shoot art directed by Nik Kosmas, an American-born, Shanghai-based artist whose “physical, emotional, and spiritual” work is informed by technology, science fiction, and sports practice. The spirit of change is inflected in Kosmas’ casting of both men and women for the project, and in the dynamic explored between the clothing and the location: Zaha Hadid’s first project in Shangai. Like Kasuga’s womenswear, the building developed by SOHO China – presciently named for “Smart Office, Home Office” – is designed around principles of flexibility and modularity through a combination of essential elements. Opened in 2014, the mixed-use property combines intimate and public space with a green roof and a dynamic shape resembling high-speed rail cars, which references its location at a transportation hub connecting local and regional trains to Shanghai’s city center and airport, and local residents and enterprise to international networks of travel and commerce. The energy of movement-in-shelter, of adaptability and agility, befits the Veilance women’s philosophy of creating garments that provide protection and pleasure amid changing conditions, globally and at home. Ahead of the collection drop, Kasuga reflected on its genesis, materials, and intuition.

We shot this collection in the super-urban center of Shanghai, and the Veilance women’s collection has an urban focus more than an outdoors one. What is behind that philosophy?

Veilance was created to transform all of the expertise and proprietary technology that Arc’teryx developed for the outdoors into a city-focused solution. Regardless of whether you’re outdoors on a mountain or walking through the city, you want your clothing to perform at their highest possible standard – and most of our time is spent in urban environments. We wanted to offer women beautifully designed wardrobe staples that are going to move with her, fit into her life, and protect her from the cold climate.

What is different for you as a designer in how you approach womenswear, process-wise?

Our goal was to identify the most iconic pieces in a woman’s winter wardrobe, and apply a complete technical re-design to them. With women’s, we recognized the importance of aesthetics first, prioritizing the connection to the garment through touch and feel – men’s is more technically inclined. The technical space in womenswear has a lot of room for growth. Women have for the most part been left out of the technical, performance conversation. They often are forced to choose between designer pieces that are beautiful, but don’t stand up to the realities of the wettest and coldest conditions, or traditional outdoor apparel that is too rigid, crunchy, and harsh. We’re designing for women who don’t want to compromise – so this collection is the merging of the two: soft materials and contemporary silhouettes, with industry leading performance. It’s meant to improve women’s lives, to solve daily obstacles she might not even be aware of.

What new materials and technologies are you excited about with this collection, and what makes them especially suitable for womenswear? 

We identified the softest, lightest, and most breathable materials that we could trust to perform well and work in a modern wardrobe – without being too “tech-y.” This collection features a lot of Polartec Neoshell, a material we haven’t used in Veilance before. It’s a water protective fabric with a very soft drape, allowing for quiet wearability as a shell, without sacrificing tactile elements. It can be seen in our signature pieces, the Cloud Downs, which are combined with Down Composite Mapping – a construction method that uses premium down fill with strategically placed synthetics in areas susceptible to overheating.

With the pandemic, we’ve all been thinking a lot about how we live – where we live, how we interact with our space and our environment, whether we want to live in cities, and how we can do that in a sustainable way. How have these big picture themes influenced your design? 

Our habits and how we interact with our environments have undoubtedly changed in the past year and a half. I think the pandemic really pushed people to seek out time in nature more – when we’ve been stuck inside for so long, it’s only natural to crave that openness in the outdoors. This collection was conceived prior to the pandemic, but I think if anything, the events of this past year have cemented our purpose for designing it. People want versatility, and to do more while owning less. Comfort is at the top of priority lists, as well as the security you gain from functional design. The world is going through a rapid urbanization, and climates are becoming more extreme. We need clothing that will help us adapt.

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