Clothing should be as much about function as it is about style. That’s part of the philosophy behind the bike-commuter friendly label Outlier. Over the past several years the small upstart label has gained a cult following, not just among cyclists, but also by those that appreciate an approach to designing clothes that places equal importance on both looking good and functioning well. This past week I took a trip out to Brooklyn to visit Outlier’s design studio and headquarters to see just how things work at Outlier.
“One well considered object can take the place of many cheaply made ones.”
The company’s loft in Williamsburg is part R&D lab, design center, shipping depot and warehouse all in one. It’s a bright space filled with energy and a sense of purpose. Tyler and Abe both have a strong feeling for the company’s mission and they seem purposeful in their undertaking. As we talked and looked through a rack of current products (and some soon to be released items), the stack of outgoing packages continued to grow and grow as sales for the day added up. According to Outlier, there is strong customer loyalty and the instance of repeat orders is often. As someone that has worn a pair of Outlier pants, this is a statement not difficult to believe.
Outlier began because Abe Burmeister couldn’t find the perfect pair of pants and Tyler Clemens couldn’t find the perfect shirt. Both wanted clothing that would perform well while commuting via bicycle and would also get them to work looking professional. That called for items that look good, but also incorporate thoughtful design and possess performance capabilities. So Outlier started to produced its own pants that stretch and repel moisture. It also began making shirts that offer range of motion and keep you from looking sweaty once you arrive at work or a meeting. Both initial items were a resounding success because the clothing functioned and looked good doing it. Tyler and Abe discovered that they weren’t the only people looking for clothing without compromise and Outlier was off to a quick start.
After rolling out its first few items, Outlier has maintained a steady pace of releases that are offered immediately through the company’s own website. The brand’s products are also available in brick and mortar retailers like Mission Workshop in San Francisco, Chari & Co. in NYC and West End Bikes in Portland, but the primary model is direct to consumer. This helps keep pricing in-check and allows Outlier the ability to offer the highest quality materials and construction (all of the clothing is made in the U.S. and Canada). Though the products generally have a strong tilt towards the world of cycling, Outlier is suited just as well for use in traveling or everyday life, as it is for man-powered commuting.
So far the company has followed its instincts and is simply making the product that functions well and at the same time looks good. It’s a pretty straight forward approach, and one that has served both Outlier and its customers well.