Started as a news website back in 2001, Germany’s BEINGHUNTED. has outstripped its initial aspirations to become a studio, brand and all-round creative tour de force.
In a new series, founder Jörg Haas — who also owned Berlin institution Firmament for a decade — flags up some of his favorite stores, brands, and cool oddities, sharing his experiences from years gone by and thoughts on current affairs. In this installment, Haas shares his experiences (as well as some never-before-seen images) of W. L. Gore and GORE-TEX over the last 20 years, as well as his role in bringing the company to some of the world's coolest brands.
I was never interested in fashion. Clothing, yes; fashion, no. For me, wearing something that no one else had was the whole point. It wasn’t about being “in fashion” or following trends.
Tracing back this mindset, I’m led to a time when I tried skateboarding and graffiti; started listening to hip-hop, the “Madchester” sound (for lack of a better term), and everything in-between — think Massive Attack, Mo’ Wax, and Ninja Tune. Each phase had a certain style and stuff that I wanted to own.
My evolution from printed T-shirts to jackets came around the mid-1990s, possibly with Stüssy’s iconic World Tribe Jackets (some of these were for sale, not just exclusively handed to Tribe members by Shawn Stüssy, as I have read so often in recent years). Other favorites were leather bomber jackets by French brand Chevignon and Stone Island’s teched out parkas (these were, unsurprisingly, out of my financial reach). More in my league were the simpler jackets from Polo's new Polo Sport line, DKNY’s tech line, and Nautica. My first proper investment was a woolen, black label Prada M-65 — a perk of living at my parents’ and being able to spend my first earned money on “cool shit.”
GORE-TEX jackets had not appeared on my “need to have” radar before I met Errolson Hugh of ACRONYM while living in Munich around 2002. The only lifestyle brand I can think of that might have had a GORE-TEX piece in its collection back then would be A Bathing Ape. Everything else was pure outdoor (or performance) gear, with little suitability for daily use. One story that did catch my attention before then, I think this was the mid-to-late 1990s, was a short piece on an innovative Canadian company by the name of Arc’teryx. It was welding seams instead of sewing them (saving on the weight of yarn) and using embroidery machines to attach round velcro patches on their jackets.
Seeing ACRONYM’s 2001 kit — comprising a jacket, bag, CD, and CD-ROM — in Relax magazine for the first time was an eye-opener. After a bit of detective work (I found a store in Berlin that carried ACRONYM), I managed to get in touch with Errolson and Michaela. They gave me their office number and prefix, 089, which came as a surprise — it was my hometown of Munich’s area code! We had been almost-neighbors for years without crossing paths.
And so my personal collection and relationship with GORE-TEX started with ACRONYM. Wearing the brand’s iconic GT-J1A or E-J1A (the material came first in their nomenclature back then) came very close to wearing a Stüssy or Very Ape T-shirt. You knew that that person had a link to ACRONYM.
Through the first online shop on BEINGHUNTED., The-Glade.com evolved, and through that came my store in Berlin. The move from Japanese magazines (we were the first and only online shop that carried Relax, Huge, etc. at the time) to technical outerwear seemed like a big step, but with Errolson involved, it was a small one, and it made perfect sense: ACRONYM, Stone Island Shadow, and later Arc’teryx Veilance all soon followed. Through another friend, I was able to order key pieces from Burton Snowboards. With visvim’s first clothing collections, some more exotic jackets found their way into my shop and wardrobe: GORE-TEX laminates with Italian cotton, washed cotton camouflage, and even Harris Tweed. Those were the heydays for GORE-TEX “lifestyle” in Japan, especially brands like Junya Watanabe and WTAPS. A bit later, Nanamica created outerwear that connoisseurs still reference today.
My relationship with Gore came about because of the diverse product portfolio in the store and relationship with Errolson. First in the form of two smaller workshops (around 2008) on the subject of “lifestyle/fashion” and later in the context of product launches for Arct’eryx Veilance and Stone Island. As this category is handled by the German HQ near Munich, all processes were easy and relatively effortless.
By 2014, I decided that I’d had enough of retail. It turned out to be good timing because at that same time, Gore decided to look into activating the field of technical outerwear in the lifestyle segment outside of Japan. We picked up our conversations from the workshops and set up a strategy. Gore put in place a program that allowed smaller brands to be able to use laminates to create the black-diamond “Guaranteed To Keep You Dry” outerwear. I had my network and so the journey that is now “GORE-TEX Products Studio” started.
It also didn’t take a lot to convince collaborators to come on board. The lead times were more tricky; Other than the regular fashion-cycle, developing a garment with GORE-TEX technology usually takes double the amount of time. All fabrics are produced by GORE-TEX, hardly any fabrics are “in stock.” All garments that carry the “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry” label need to be tested. Full production can only commence after the successful “baptism” in the brand’s rain tower. Garments with GORE-TEX technology inside can only be produced in licensed factories, which can only use the brand’s seam tape that can only be applied on their own seam tape machines. All of these aspects are in place to guarantee the highest standard regarding comfort and protection.
Initial meetings between new partners and Gore associates inevitably lead to “the archive” — the treasure chest, the Oz of technical outerwear, the dragon’s lair filled with deadstock TNF Trans Antarctica expedition suits, and all the other rare GORE-TEX pieces you’ve ever dreamed of. Unfortunately, this place doesn’t exist. The German HQ has a large collection of lifestyle pieces from the last 10-15 years, while the US HQ in Newark, Delaware, houses a lot of — but not all — high-performance garments and footwear. I was lucky to get invited there to do some research, and I did feel a bit like a kid in a candy store. There is also printed matter and other goodies, like memorabilia, merch, stickers, pins, caps — stuff that, if seen in the every-day, could easily be mistaken for bootlegs. Oh, and yes, they actually have all of the TNF Trans Antarctica expedition suits there, including the dog suits with matching paw covers.
Over the last three to four years, we have seen some of the world’s most influential brands create their versions of fully waterproof and breathable products. Although never a requirement, the GORE-TEX logo most often appeared bigger than we could have ever imagined on the outside of not only jackets, but also footwear — design elements found in competitive sports.
Our initial strategy was to see GORE-TEX implemented into non-performance styles. However, a lot of the new-wave products were based on iconic outdoor styles (see TNF Trans Antarctica). The aesthetic has shifted exactly towards the active-lifestyle category in the last three to four years, too. As part of this development, I am now looking forward to seeing the functional aspects of performance apparel and footwear adapted for non-outerwear, too. Usually, we wear our jackets for a maximum of one hour on a daily basis. The eight or 10 hours in which we don’t is where the biggest scope for innovation lies.