Posted by Elly Blue (Columnist) on September 25th, 2009 at 2:17 pm
At Interbike, a lot of the best stuff never makes it to the main floor. One of the highlights of the week for me was heading up to an 11th floor hotel suite for a trunk show with a few small, independent companies.
There I met Matt and Muriel of Swrve, a small, hip cycling apparel company; there were also a handful of enticing retro-inspired t-shirts from two young companies. But I was there mainly to check out Outlier, a year-old New York company run by two men who make high end, tailored clothing that’s engineered for urban riding.
Abe Burmeister walked me through their clothing line. He and co-founder Tyler Clemens met when they were both regulars at two different locations of a New York coffeeshop, and both happened to talk to the same barista about their grand schemes of creating beautiful, tailored clothes which they could wear to
ride in all weather to professional meetings. She introduced them and Outlier was born.
Outlier’s philosophy and engineering come directly from the experience of biking in New York City. The garments are made in a factory in midtown Manhattan, just blocks from Times Square. Clemens and Burmeister bring their bikes into the studio when creating samples — pinning and riding, adjusting and riding — in order to master good, classy fits that don’t fall prey to the usual problems of “crotch blowout,” cuts that limit leg and shoulder mobility, and shirts that ride up and pants that ride down while you’re bent over.
Their first product, a year ago, was a pair of dress pants made of a technical soft shell high end performance fabric from Switzerland. To demonstrate the fabric’s properties, Burmeister splashed some on the knee — it rolled right off. A heavy rain would soak the pants, he said, but then they’re dry in 15 minutes and you still look sharp. Customers have reported wearing them to weddings.
In the last year the team has added a pair of pants that wear more like jeans, a merino wool t-shirt, and — my favorite — a merino hoodie designed for biking with a hood big enough to go over a helmet and elastic cuffs that stay up when you push up your sleeves to ride (the wrists with all their capillaries are a major cooling point).
This year they’re getting ready to send a pair of women’s pants to production, and have a few other products in the works.
Their newest, and to me the most appealing project is a collaboration with milliner Vincent Osborne to make beautiful cycling caps, out of two different grades of wool (the finest is the same stuff that goes into $3,000 suits) as well as waxed cotton. These hats are gorgeous. Burmeister says they’re made to last — he hopes they’ll be something that can be passed down to kids and grandkids.
None of this is cheap, but Clemens and Burmeister are working hard to keep the prices from climbing too high, primarily by selling directly online. They love local bike shops, Burmeister says, and hope to figure out a way to work with them to sell their clothes while giving the shops the cut they need to stay in business and not compromising on the all-important issues of materials quality and outsourcing.
And while these items may not be a bargain on the surface, their true value is, Clemens and Burmeister hope, that you’ll never need to buy another one.
Elly Blue has been writing about bicycling and carfree issues for BikePortland.org since 2006. Find her at http://takingthelane.com