ARCTERYX BRAND TECHNOLOGY INNOVATORS
Choosing a name for a new brand is one of the most exciting steps for a new company – it will represent the genesis of its creative birth. ARCHAEOPTERYX LITHOGRAPHICA, the first reptile to develop the feather for flight was the inspiration for Arc’teryx in name and logo. It represents th freeing of self from the constraints of the physical world. When it formed there already were more than a few well established brands in the market – some for over 100 years. The Arc’teryx competitive advantage was achieved by merging fresh designs with the best quality high performance materials. Assembling them in the most innovative and durable manner for each product’s respective activity was the goal from the beginning. But how did it all begin?
Arc’teryx was founded in Vancouver, BC, Canada in 1991 using a high tech pizza oven and an Ikea wastebasket as a mold. An intense series of experimentations were carried out on temperatures, processes, materials and pressures – part of the learning curve for this particular craft and one with similarities to Bill Bowerman of Nike in the early 1970’s. Fuelled by passion and creative minds eventually Vapour™ Technology was born—the first three dimensional outdoor equipment design that used multi-dimensional foam, high temperatures and rapid cooling to emulate the human form. Ergonomic Design would become one of the keys to differentiating Arc’teryx from its competitors. It was a new approach, with better results – and only Arc’teryx had it.
Translation of the new design into reliable reproduction was eventually achieved through grinding out acceptable results through long and arduos trial and error. The invention of specialized equipment eventually lead to success and ideas for other applications of thermoformed technology. First to be tested was suspension systems on backpack that would soften load-bearing frames. Baking various thicknesses of foam into true form fitting shapes introduced curvature into exceptionally comfortable hip belts that were also lighter in weight. Shoulder straps followed and with them, the possibility of incremental tapering, sophisticated shaping and the iconic silhouette that made the Arc’teryx Bora series of backpacks stand out.
“Inspiration comes from the most ordinary moments……all that is required is an open mind and willingness”
Lamination is best described as a technique of manufacturing a material in multiple layers. In the case of Arc’teryx the goal was for material to achieve greater strength and stability. Both jackets and backpacks are permanently assembled by heat, pressure, welding, or adhesives.
Lamination allows for a seamless construction translating to reduced bulk, increased durability, lighter weights, and clean finishes. Since products weigh less, and last longer the brand value goes up in the eyes of consumers.
Arc’teryx AC2 technology takes backpack construction even further by using very lightweight, durable ACT Fabric™. This fabric allows them to create weathertight bags that are both air-and-water impermeable.
When hardshell designs first began zippers were weak points that needed a extra reinforcement to be both weatherproof and durable. Bulky zipper flaps with excessive tabs of heavy, stitched fabric-were used as gutters to channel moisture away from these points of entry, overweight with stitching and reinforcement.
The Arc’teryx R&D team came up with the idea to use the urethane coated, long-lasting and smooth sliding WaterTight™ zipper as a instead of conventional materials and methods. Lengthy testing, of different options eventually lead to a perfected zipper which soon became an important advantage of Arc’teryx apparel.
Sensitive and understated design backed up by solid and highly technical material construction. From the elimination of flaps and excess bulk a pure, minimalist form emerged.
The WaterTight™ zipper was a step away from conventional construction that would become one of Arc’teryx’s signature qualities.
Arcteryx brand stated goal is to build the lightest, most durable, highest performing equipment possible. Lofty standards are easy to state but hard to accomplish. Part of its success stems from its historical willingness to reach out and form partnerships with other textile manufacturers doing things better than Arc’teryx.
Another productive partnership was formed with Polartec® resulting in the development of softshells. It came about by exploring the possibility of laminating complimentary woven fabrics together to create a textile that was highly breathable, wind resistant and tough. Arc’teryx’ Gamma Series is the outcome and can best be described as flexible, weather resistant and breathable. Arc’teryx employed the revolutionary Polartec® Power Shield® fabric in its contruction. The result was an entirely new product category: Softshell Jackets..
There is a subtle yet noticeable sensation of freedom when wearing Arcteryx brand apparel. This feeling is not about volume and space. Rather, it is a result of ergonomics. The apparel is designed to move as the body moves. Arc’teryx plans each part of the garment in three-dimensions and incorporates the type of movement of the activity it will be used for. Skiing and hiking jackets will have different construction corresponding to each unique movement range required. Knees and seat areas of pants are articulated to permit full knee bends without lifting the pant hem or causing the waist to gap at the small of the back. Ergonomic fit is an other important area where Arc’teryx tries harder and delivers a better product than many of its competitors.
To take the challenge to build upon what already exists and stretch to constantly improve defines the culture of Arc’teryx. Hiring employees with passion and curiosity is their recipe for how to push the boundaries of sporting apparel manufacturing to new heights.
Within the company design teams are given time to establish healthy relationships with their ideas and -critically – the opportunity to discover and appreciate the true nature of a product. Here designers test product in real world conditions on both themselves as well as on pro athletes.
The outcomE of this unique and cultivated design culture is Arcteryx brand designs that are easy to understand as improved solutions to sporting problems and garments that are an absolute pleasure to use . The aesthetic element of beautiful minimalism is what draws an immediate satisfaction. The qualities in the ergonomic design really shine through the more one uses each Arc’teryx garment.
ARC’TERYX PRODUCTION FACTS
The production of a single Alpha SV Jacket at the Manor Street factory, Vancouver:
- Number of operations: 211
- Number of minutes spent cutting: 24.149
- Number of minutes spent sewing: 222.157
- Number of minutes spent finishing: 32.376
- Total number of operators who touch the jacket: 65
Total time to assemble an Alpha SV Jacket: 4 hours 38 minutes