arc’teryx’s-new-system-a-line-is-a-very-stylish-gateway-to-the-great-outdoors

Arc’teryx’s New System_A Line Is a Very Stylish Gateway to the Great Outdoors

Arc’teryx is, first and foremost, an outdoors brand. The company is based in Vancouver, nestled between the Canadian Rockies and the Pacific Ocean, and its gear has always been designed for the unexpected climates and unpredictable activities one finds in that neck of the woods: dynamic, varied, quickly changing. Brash, colorful, and utilitarian-in-an-in-your-face-kind-of-way jackets have always been part of Arc’teryx’s offering, but, for much of the last decade, they’ve been reserved for already-established outdoors people. A decade ago, Arc’teryx introduced Veilance, a stripped-back, minimalist range that catered to and won over fashion-forward city dwellers who weren’t necessarily scaling mountains on their days off. That paved the way for those same people to eventually discover the mainline collection when the gorpcore movement exploded in the late 2010s. Now Arc’teryx is introducing System_A, and betting that it’ll be a favorite for existing customers, while allowing new acolytes to discover the brand. As creative director Taka Kasuga told GQ over the phone, System_A is a “gateway into the Arc’teryx world […] for younger, progressive consumers who are a little bit more style-conscious.”

Courtesy of System_A

Launching August 11th through the brand’s webstore and physical outposts, the inaugural drop—Arc’teryx is opting for a twice-a-season release schedule—features technical T-shirts with heat-sealed seams and oversized logos, soft shell jackets, matching cargo pants and shorts, accessories and a longer parka-style shell. The shells feature off-tone material blocking that highlights the technical panelling, with velcro patches that allow badges to be affixed and swapped out. Besides the oversized logos on the T-shirts, Arc’teryx’s tell-tale bird logo is absent from the collection, with the jackets featuring the brand’s word mark in its stead. The resulting pieces are equipped for mountain life—cold, windy, wet—but carry a gritty urban edge. It’s almost like the minds behind Arc’teryx see the way brands like it have been co-opted in recent years, and want in on some of the fun.

System_A isn’t starting from scratch so much as drawing from the brand’s roots, smashing together the version of the brand fashion heads love with the iteration beloved by outdoors obsessives, and presenting it in a way that’s palatable for those who don’t yet know much about Arc’teryx.

Arc’teryx might not cater to the moment, but, as it so happens, System_A feels very of the moment—for both casual observers and the most hardcore Arc’teryx heads out there.“There’s the definitely an opportunity to bring more people into experiencing the beauty of nature,” Kasuga says. “We started on System_A pre-COVID,” he adds, “but things are lining up well now.” Kasuga mentions meeting with the anonymous figure behind the nature-and-crunchy-style Instagram account @organiclab.zip, who he calls “an early adopter,” of all things outdoors: a sort of harbinger of things to come. Kasuga is right—in recent years, we have witnessed the rise of gorpcore as a clothing choice, but also as a kind of philosophy. Ironically, Instagram has allowed once-niche accounts like @organiclab.zip or @unownedspaces to put the beauty of nature in front of more eyeballs.

Courtesy of System_A

It’s undeniable that there are new people paying attention to the outdoors, but it can be a daunting, sometimes insular world. System_A, with adapted fits designed to fit more body types, gender-fluid silhouettes, and a dedicated women’s line due for Spring 2022, aims to welcome them with open arms.

And for those who are already neck-deep in Arc’teryx, System_A might offer something of interest. When the Canadian rapper Killy shared the first glimpse of System_A, keen observers picked up on the velcro patches on the Paltz jacket’s sleeves. They had seen them before, on other Arc’teryx jackets—just ones they couldn’t necessarily get their hands on.

Those patches came from an Arc’teryx project called LEAF, only available to those who can prove they work in law enforcement or serve in the armed forces (LEAF is short for Law Enforcement and Armed Forces) or require what Arc’teryx deems professional-level equipment, say for mountain rescues. And yet, over the last few years, LEAF gear—which elegantly blurs the line between minimalist tech and maximalist gorp—has become white-hot. It’s popped up with increasing regularity on civilians—most notably on Drake and Virgil Abloh, who sported matching LEAF jackets to a Nike fashion show in early 2020 and kicked LEAF hype into overdrive, and on Tom Hardy, who is generally a big Arc’teryx guy.

System_A, Arc’teryx reps say, is not influenced by LEAF. The two lines are partitioned off into different worlds, with no interplay between them. Be that as it may, Kasuga, says that the interest in LEAF showed him that customers were appreciating the “authentic identity of Arc’teryx.”

Courtesy of System_A

And there’s no denying that System_A has an authentically gritty edge that will attract some of those who liked what they saw with LEAF, but couldn’t get their hands on it, whether it’s the velcro patches or the off-tone material blocking. Kasuga points out that the patches have more to do with allowing new adopters a means for self-expression than tactical utility: “I thought it was a cool detail to personalize jackets, in a sense for self-identification,” all while still being true to Arc’teryx’s authentic DNA.

That’s what makes System_A so interesting: it’s true to the brand’s DNA, but repackaged for a new customer, aiming to make Arc’teryx easier to understand and easier to wear, for more people, in more environments, no matter how extreme.

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