How were you lucky enough to land this gig with a sweet company like Arc’teryx?
The company hired me to be a pack designer in 2000. I had never done anything like that before, but they took a chance and brought me in because folks who are not formally trained, but are passionate about what they do, produce the best stuff.. I was producing my own gear at the time and didn't even realize that I had a skill set that was valuable.
People haven’t settled for any kind of outdoor gear except gloves. For some reason, everyone accepts that you have to take gloves off a lot because they are big and bulky, but, ideally, they would be a skin-tight layer. We knew that if we were going into the glove market, we needed to make something worthy. We had to redesign such a basic concept to bring the whole market to a new level.
So how did it all begin?
At first, the gloves were just a side project, years ago. Some designers were working night shifts, just playing around with fabrics, patterns, and designs.
How was this project different from all the others?
With gloves, the tools are huge. Seams, the fingers in particular, are so small that everything we knew about sealing seams in garments or packs was largely irrelevant. We designed some very crude sealing tools in our workshop to help us through, what I initially thought would be, the ‘meantime’ until we got production sorted. Fair results led to an improved design. Simple drawings actually, that I had built by a BMX machinist in his garage-shop across town. Those tools then went into production for the first samples. We constantly rework and improve them, they are very advanced now.
We needed enough time to make a lot of samples and a lot of mistakes. We couldn’t just barrel into a design season and expect to nail it first go. We needed to work it into something we were confident with, something worthy enough to keep after.
Were you all alone on this huge endeavor?
Absolutely not. A big advantage we have is working with a fairly ripped design and production team. Individuals can run with development or new ideas for a time before handing it off and letting someone else take charge. I was only a contributor to the glove’s design.
What was the crux of the project?
Sealing the tips. At one point, during early tool building, a whole range of aluminum phallic-shaped fingers appeared, bolted to bases. It was an interesting concept, but to this day, nobody claims responsibility.
What’s the difference between Arc’teryx’s new gloves and their older ones?
There was no road map for this design project. We had to invent a new way to construct the gloves to live up to the rest of our products. It has to be taped/waterproof and then fit really well. So, we came up with new ways to pattern fingers and join them together. Each finger has only three seams, so the amount of stiff and no-breathable seam tape is minimized. The seams, on the shell, are micro-seamed and then taped flat, so there is no 3-dimensional seam allowance fighting for real estate inside the finger. We combined that with a micro-seamed fleece liner, so when both come together the seam bulk is minimal- this is why the dexterity is so good. The shell is a lot like a 3-Layer Gore-Tex jacket, allowing multiple liners and easier drying. The Gore-Tex fabric is either exposed to the elements, or is bonded directly beneath the shell’s leather. In both cases, it is as close as possible to the exterior, which minimizes and localizes where water can penetrate.
What’s important is that it fits well and has the technical qualities that people want. It’s warm and waterproof, not just for half the day, but all day. It has to work for the guides that are out here for 100-days.
The bottom line?
All-day gloves which aren’t dependent on the woodstove, sun, or heater to make them bearable the next day.
Do you get to test your designs out?
That’s the beauty of what I do. In order to have confidence in such a high-risk job, I have to go out and ski in everything I produce. I am outfitted in all the products we produce because someone has to make sure it all works.
Editors Note: This is part three in a multi-week series. Check out the rest of the Dream Jobs here.