Arc'teryx or Armani'teryx?

3:43 p.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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Many an outdoor clothier has lost their way in pursuit of the mighty Greenback(or Loonie in this case).  North Face and Patagonia are examples of two companies who altered their focus to reach the pocketbooks of suburban America.  Both have been branded with the scarlet letter Y (for yuppie) because of it.  Either company has really stepped up their core, technical game in recent years to win back street cred, the later having been more successful.   Nevertheless, the dreaded "Patagucci" moniker will likely never be shaken and I don't think TNF will ever win back its core following.

I just received an email today announcing Arc'teryx's new spring Veilance line and I have to say that I'm a little bit disgusted.  See for yourself:  http://veilance.arcteryx.com/Product.aspx?EN

What started as a few urban-focused garments tossed into the Arc'teryx portfolio has now become a slew of Veblen luxury menswear that is sure to make stockbrokers and attorneys swoon.

My favorite is the plain 'Frame' t-shirt robustly priced at $165 and made with a cotton/wool blend "to offer functional luxury."  The nylon "Module Pants", a hiking pant with a more chic cut will set you back $400.  That hipsterish looking Monitor LT coat will sting your pocketbook at a cheeky $850.  There's even what looks like a pair of hiking pants cut to fit like skinny jeans (it takes $400 to look like an Emo-loving individual who enjoys hiking).  

To their credit, AT is manufacturing the Veliance line here in Vancouver.  The rub is that most of their stuff used to be made here and, save for a few top range jackets, has all been shipped to the developing world.  Give this line some time to pick up steam amongst portfolio managers and telecom execs and I'm sure AT will promptly break ground on a factory in Laos, complete with a few solar panels and a modest fund earmarked to teach their laborers to read.

Don't get me wrong.  There's nothing wrong with earning a profit.  Arc'teryx has stridently defended their foreign-made goods as being just as well-made and as highly quality controlled as (what remains of) their Canadian goods.  From what I've seen and heard, this seems to be true.  The problem, however, is that companies that dip their toes into the mainstream almost inevitably take the complete plunge.  There are too many zeros on the cheques to say no.  All is well and good until quality lags, core consumers are alienated, and the vision that drove them to success is obscured or lost.  

However much capital this will inject into AT's coffers it will do equal diminish the company's reputation for hard-core, outdoor legitimacy.  Can they make luxury menswear and continue to produce the best mountaineering jackets on the market?  Sure.  But you are trekking on slippery scree once you try to make your brand as popular in Whistler Village as it is with backcountry heli-guides and Antarctic mountaineers.

I've been trying to coin "Armani'teryx" for a while now as I watch this all-too-familiar story unfold...expect the moniker to catch.

5:36 p.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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sad to see them selling out to the yuppies.

5:51 p.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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Arc'teryx, the Finnish company? Or has it been sold since I last looked?

Their top-end mountain gear is probably the best there is but it is not worth the retail price. But if someone offers you more money, are you going to refuse it? If customers who needed it and customers who just wanted it, all waited for the sales, then their prices would have to drop. As it is, yuppies help the practical users out.

Most of the rest of their stuff is only marginally better than than gear that is much cheaper, say Marmot. A lot of their clothing can be matched in terms of design and durability but it takes the right kind of demand.

But at least they innovate. Companies like Hilleberg who refuse to invest in machinery that tapes the 'bathtub' (ever see a bathtub with tiny holes in it?) corners of a tent and the training of staff, are worse, IMO. Perhaps we should set up a kickstarter so they can get some fixed capital and work on the corner seams?

As for the future, here is what I think: if you don't buy their Canada-made jackets then you will be left with all the other Asian clothes, because the market exists already. If you don't buy their Canada-made waterproof packs, then you almost guarantee that you will not be able to buy them in future. And their packs are the same price as a rip-off, high-end ****tex jacket from almost any brand, but will last much longer. I don't know what else they make there, maybe some coats. So, there is a connection between supply and demand, it just isn't as predictable on a finer scale in these big companies. Westcomb is simpler, choose it or lose it (if anyone cares?).

As for that Veilance, I don't know how they keep a straight face with that crap. It is so camp. As for Arcteryx's casual clothes, fleeces etc, they are shoddy and I doubt they are made in the same dedicated 'factory'.

Regarding Patagonia, well, that company needs an enema and Chouinard is a muppet. I admire the fact that they give a crap about the environment but seriously, apart from a few lines, it is just Timberland with some good-looking and/or skinny climbers being paid to talk it up; I think they call them 'Diplomats'. They get people paying an 'ethical' tax but now that fairtrade cotton, organic cotton, is widely available, why pay it?

Armani made some genuinely good clothing and he is a brilliant designer; you cannot blame the direction solely on the directors at the top - the people have a voice. It is like a mob stuffing dollar bills in your underpants shouting "dance, dance, dance!" Most people get rhythm.

Coghlan's is the next Arcshmerix, you'll see.

10:17 p.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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I have gone in a made the necessary changes to the thread content due to violation of the following:

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Happy hiking.

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2:24 a.m. on February 13, 2013 (EST)
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Yeah...Actually, Arc'teryx has been making lots of pretty sweet stuff for LE/Military use under their LEAF line for a while now; these offerings in the Veilance line look to be based on some of the more mundane/covert pieces in that collection...so, if anything, this stuff was made for agency use, and has been re-branded for, as was so concisely stated above, other use. Arc'teryx is making the stuff anyways, so...

As for technical outdoor clothing seemingly being worn for lifestyle activities, keep in mind that for some it is a matter of form following function: I, for instance, don't own more than a few t-shirts and a pair of jeans worth of non-technical clothing. On any given day, as I go about town, I'm likely wearing Icebreaker wool or Patagonia Capilene and covering it with the appropriate hard or soft shell. For me this is a matter of necessity, as I live out of the back of my pickup truck and simply don't have the room for another full wardrobe.

5:42 p.m. on February 24, 2013 (EST)
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Very interesting,

Obviously this new line is geared towards people who aren't neccesarily into camping or hiking but are more fashion conscience.

But I think it's smart to cater to this base of people who don't mind spending a lot of money to look good.

But, we'll see if this line takes off or not. The high end market for this stuff changes so rapidly. One day it's in the next day it's out so we'll see.

 

 

 

 

 

7:13 p.m. on February 24, 2013 (EST)
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in my opinion and experience, that Patagonia has rolled out products that stray from its hardcore roots has not diminished the quality of the clothing dedicated to people who actually hike, backpack, canoe, or otherwise spend a lot of time outside.  they have an ironclad lifetime warranty, and I have several things of theirs that i use frequently.

The North Face is a little more of a mixed bag for me.  i haven't been very impressed by the gear they supposedly dedicate to people who will actually use it in the woods, with a few exceptions.  I see them as having transitioned, in large part, to appeal to a larger consumer market.  That said, some of their gear (the bombproof VE-25, a number of their sleeping bags, their motion-control trail runners, for example) remains very, very solid.  

in this vein, i give Eddie Bauer a lot of credit for how they have handled their First Ascent line of clothing.  it's good, and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.  

6:53 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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The few Patagonia items that I have, I really, really like and use frequently. However, they are ugly - terrible colors for the most part. And their standard retail prices are very high. Everything I've bought that's Patagonia was either used, on closeout sales, or on Ebay, Geartrade or Craiglist.

I also like the articles in those catalog/newsletter things they routinely send me.

Despite the terrible color, I swear by my R1 fleece.

9:12 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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langcow said:

The few Patagonia items that I have, I really, really like and use frequently. However, they are ugly - terrible colors for the most part. And their standard retail prices are very high. Everything I've bought that's Patagonia was either used, on closeout sales, or on Ebay, Geartrade or Craiglist.

I also like the articles in those catalog/newsletter things they routinely send me.

Despite the terrible color, I swear by my R1 fleece.

 It's the cost of doing business they way they do business, and I say that with the intent of giving them the biggest compliment possible to a company of that size.  The workers are treated well.  The working environments are second to none.  The guarantee is insane, and it isn't just rhetoric.  They attempt to leave the lightest carbon and social footprints, and that alone costs a lot of extra money.  They're constantly studying their own practices and betting them by way of sticking to their mission statements.  Chouinard is impressive in nearly every way.  If you have a chance, read Let My People go Surfing.  It'll change your mind about clothing in general, and I believe it explains why Patagonia gear costs more.  I never owned a piece of Patagonia gear...until I read the book.

8:44 a.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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It's the cost of doing business they way they do business

Well, if Patagonia prices reflect the true costs of "doing business", then what hope is there for both companies and consumers that would like to see change? Paramo clothing comes higher than Patagucci in the Ethical Consumer scores, for fleeces and waterproofs, yet Paramo prices are closer to what the average consumer can afford. And profits are made.

I've read Chouinard's book, the one you reference, and that is why I feel he is a silly man who takes himself too seriously, coming off as an elitist snob, often a hypocrite. I have also watched and read his interviews. There really isn't anything special taking place here: Patagonia sell a 'feel-good-do-good' factor, guilt assuagement, which allows people to carry on as normal in a status-obsessed culture. There is nothing inherently wrong with guilt-assuagement but it should be part of a constructive set of motives, not a utility reason for relative inaction in a demanding context. Of course, other things equal, they have the ethical edge over some of their competitors and this should be factored in when choosing (durable) gear in exchange for money-power. Other brands have sufficiently long-term guarantees and are equally hard-wearing, to say nothing of design etc.

A major reason shops carry Patagucci is because it 'anchors' other prices, making them seem more reasonable, so you are disposed to buy at least something. Arseteryx is the same. There is also the 'halo effect' produced by strong principles in manufacturing and design but as the OP alludes, this is difficult to sustain forever in all sectors and over time, and it can be easily 'over-milked' in an obvious way at any time.

However, the marketing of overpriced/exclusive clothing to Wilderdouches and metrosexuals does sometimes look like it will go on forever, which is why, at the cost of some disillusioned "core users", these things are happening. I think it will be short-lived.

And speaking of disillusionment, I have recently had the chance to examine the difference between 'pre-Veilance' and 'post-Veilance', Canada-made, Arcteryx goods. I think the latest quality of manufacture discloses an important possibility, which is that they may have moved the higher skilled workers to the Veilance line already, without proper training for those taking on the 'mountain' products. This could be in response to all the big companies chasing fewer profits generally: the Veilance side of Arseteryx will command a much greater percentage of surplus value, so it makes sense for the bottom, short-termist, line.

Now where can I get a waterproof t-shirt?

2:58 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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Pathloser said:

Other brands have sufficiently long-term guarantees and are equally hard-wearing, to say nothing of design etc.

 I find Patagonia most admirable in its manufacturing and R&D ethics.  It isn't just that their guarantee is backed by crazy-good stories of pulling out old patterns and attempting to make a one-off product they haven't made in a dozen years to appease a customer.

But I certainly get what you're saying about the status propagation deal.  The Ralph Lauren of camping gear thing irritated me from the beginning, but at this point in my life, it's almost inconsequential.  It isn't because I make the big bucks now, either.  My judgments about the company were greatly mistaken.  But don't misunderstand me, I don't own a wardrobe of Patagonia, either.  It's more that I'll now put them in the running when I'm in the market to buy gear; whereas before, they were never a consideration.

I apparently haven't run into Chouinard's hypocrisy.  That, or I don't view situations from the same perspective as you do.  I'm always open to learning, though.  If you have specific examples, or articles etc, I'd love to hear and read them.

Thank you for mentioning Paramo.  I was not aware of the name.

4:58 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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I apparently haven't run into Chouinard's hypocrisy.  That, or I don't view situations from the same perspective as you do.

Well, you would only have to be as cynical as myself perhaps, as it is due more to my reading of his offhand remarks that some may only construe as paternalistic, possibly sardonic. The company as a whole, though, is easier to pick apart publicly. I see it this way: if you are going to posture, you had better be consistent.

So take for instance today's press release special: a 700 dollar 'climbing' jacket from Patagonia, from an 'ethical' company. Now everyone knows that anyone who can afford a lightweight, specialist jacket such as this already has several others that are similar. What message does this send, at a time when a significant number of people are skirting dangerously close to the poverty line, if not sunk below it, and the only promising markets are the countries that produce the garments? And now couple this event with the advert that they put out on Black Friday in 2011, on the only day of the year when the poor are actually allowed to riot. (see here)

IMO they should have run a similar advert in the exact same newspapers, only with the tagline: YOU CAN'T BUY THIS JACKET. The message would have been just as clear to the "core-users": only our ethics are for general consumption.

Recently an economist suggested that there should be a tax on luxury goods, as they only make everyone else feel less happy and drive them towards more waste.

Hey, thanks for taking my rant seriously, by the way.

;-)

5:44 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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Pathloser said:

Arc'teryx, the Finnish company? Or has it been sold since I last looked?

"Arc'teryx is an outdoor clothing and sporting goods company founded in North Vancouver,British ColumbiaCanada, in 1989. The name and logo of Arc'teryx refer to the Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird. The logo is based on the "Berlin specimen" of the bird, the most complete skeleton to date." Wikipedia

Simple (and basic) research. It's always been a Canadian company. 

6:13 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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A $750 jacket?  $500 pants?

It all seems like yet another status symbol for trustafarians.

6:23 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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Simple (and basic) research. It's always been a Canadian company.

Amersports

I was being a bit "tongue-in-cheek". It's a Finnish-based-and-headquartered owned Canadian company. Perhaps they also have offices in tax havens, who knows?

Sage, I think Patagonia missed a chance by not making the silly jacket in the USA, which would have had a much different impact, IMO.

7:43 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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Pathloser said:

Simple (and basic) research. It's always been a Canadian company.

I was being a bit "tongue-in-cheek". It's a Finnish-based-and-headquartered owned Canadian company. Perhaps they also have offices in tax havens, who knows?

Sage, I think Patagonia missed a chance by not making the silly jacket in the USA, which would have had a much different impact, IMO.

 The Arc'teryx headquarters are very close to where I live in British Columbia, Canada. Their Headquarters  are not in Finland.  

3:59 a.m. on March 2, 2013 (EST)
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The Arc'teryx headquarters are very close to where I live in British Columbia, Canada. Their Headquarters  are not in Finland.  

I know that. I intended it to be parsed: Finnish [...] owned. Who cares if the owners of the piece of paper that owns the Canadian company are actually from Finland? It's globalisation!

Welcome to Trailspace!

11:20 a.m. on March 2, 2013 (EST)
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Although it may at first sound superficial, my primary concern about Arc'teryx producing a super-luxury, urban clothing line is image.  I don't want to be associated with the ultra-rich, highly consumptive, appearance-focused kind of people who purchase this kind of clothing because it doesn't reflect my personal values.  People will say that image doesn't matter and only product quality/social responsibility should figure in to product selection but I beg to differ.  Let's say Prada started producing the world's best mountaineering shell in Italy's greenest factory and promised to donate all the proceeds to hunger relief.  Assuming you and I could afford such a product would you want to be seen on the trail in a Prada jacket?  If you're like me the answer is no because that brand projects an image that you dislike or don't agree with.  We are all image conscious and it isn't always a bad thing. 

11:33 a.m. on March 2, 2013 (EST)
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As to the nationality of Arc'teryx, I'd still say they are a definitively Canadian company.  Their headquarters are in North Vancouver and about a quarter of their gear is still made in the metro area.  Amersports does indeed own them and they are a Finnish company but the brand itself is Canadian.

I think the best comparison is Anheuser-Busch.  InBev bought them in 2008 so the company is now Belgian owned.  Nevertheless, Budweiser remains definitively American in my opinion.

Not that it doesn't bother me a bit.  I was born and raised in the US and we are a nationalistic lot.  When I immigrated the Canada I found the same feelings start to grow about Canadian companies.  I wonder if the Veilance line is the brainchild of the execs in Helsinki or the execs in North Van.  We will probably never know.

11:44 a.m. on March 2, 2013 (EST)
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HalcyonDays said:

Assuming you and I could afford such a product would you want to be seen on the trail in a Prada jacket?

 Yes, I would.  As selfish as I am, some values trump my image, and my self-image of supporting such a thing would make the outward image virtually inconsequential.  In other words, it would lend that sliver of forwardness to being that much closer to who I want to be as a person.

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