Live anywhere near a major city and you’ve likely felt the crush of a jacket trend peaking. First came The North Face; then, Canada Goose. Every winter for the past decade, one of-the-moment brand seems to dominate sidewalks around the globe.
Now, with Italian luxury outerwear labels like Moncler and Stone Island burning white hot, this season will likely see yet another wave of identical jackets take the world by storm.
While matching coats work well for penguins, there’s a reason every dystopian fiction includes some kind of uniform outerwear: covering yourself in the same thing as everyone else doesn’t leave much room for self-expression. Buck the trend this winter with these 10 stylish under-the-radar outerwear brands that’ll keep you warm, dry and ahead of the curve.
For those who seek difference through detailing, Japanese outerwear label meanswhile is the name to know. Although the brand is but three years old, an eye for tasteful variation (like the strap closure on last spring’s Tussah Anorak) has earned meanswhile acclaim both at home and abroad. Sure, it may not have the decades-long history of its contemporaries, but in many ways, that makes its clothes all the fresher.
The North Face may host “Free Indoor Climbing” days, but Japan’s own and Wander takes it to a whole new level. Founded in 2011 by Issey Miyake alums Keita Ikeuchi and Mihoko Mori, the Tokyo-based brand hosts its own regular HIKING CLUB, inviting customers and the community into the universe they’ve built. Given the background of its designers, it’s no surprise that and Wander looks just as good off the trail.
In the world of ski racing, Descente is Ferrari F1: with nearly a century’s worth of performance legacy behind every jacket (and a lofty price tag in front of it), Japan’s foremost alpine outfitter has a lot to be proud of. ALLTERRAIN, then, is Descente’s “road car”: all the same technologies used to win Olympic Gold at Sochi, packaged into the sportswear your sportswear wishes it could be. This year’s award-winning Mizusawa Down Jacket will retail for around €1,500.
Need another reason to believe in climate change? Los Angeles may just be the future of outerwear. Founded in 2013, the LA-based Heightened Sense® has embraced carved out an identity equal parts anime, techwear, and acid grunge cool, churning out coats that look right at home in a space station nightclub.
Who knows? Blade Runner’s Los Angeles may indeed be two years away.
The brainchild of designer Takuji Suzuki (whose brother, Daiki, runs Engineered Garments), ts(s) is a love letter to the ways of the past – but don’t call it old fashioned just yet. In his own words, Suzuki’s eponymous label aims to create “unpredictableness with dignity,” merging heritage constructions with fabrics not often found on garments of the day. Think herringbone mountain parkas and other beautiful eccentricities.
With all due respect to RRL, the world’s best three-letter Americanawear may just be Japanese.
In Japanese, “alk” (歩く) translates as “walking.” Dressing in an alk phenix jacket, however, leaves you prepared for far more than a simple stroll. More streetwear than outdoors, this Japanese brand burst onto the scene last year with a strong fall/winter that featured some of the most stylish shell jackets this side of Y-3.
Mysterious. Reserved. The bleeding edge of materials design. If Descente is Ferrari, Arc’teryx is McLaren. In 2009, the trailblazing outdoors brand entered the fashion space with “Arc'teryx Veilance,” a menswear-only apparel line with technologies ported 1:1 from the brand’s alpinewear. The first-ever Veilance collection featured a matte black field jacket in 3L GORE-TEX Pro; the second, a waterproof zip-front bomber. It’s only gotten better since.
An official GORE-TEX license is no small achievement. In Czechoslovakia, only one company has earned the ability to work with GORE’s waterproof fabrics: Tilak, a quiet giant behind some of Europe’s highest-quality outerwear. The brand’s Odin Jacket (in hard-to-find black/white) has even become a techwear grail in its own right, due in no small part to its mix of breathable cotton ventile and killer styling. Oh yeah - as if you needed any more reason to pay attention, ACRONYM’s own Errolson Hugh has also designed for Tilak since 2002.
Czech 'em out before they blow up here.
For over 50 years, the Sanjo-based Snow Peak stuck to its guns: the company would produce gear, and gear alone. During that time, Snow Peak’s obsession for detail won recognition the world over – from camping stoves to titanium saké bottles, mountaineers depended on Japan for the best in backcountry.
In 2014, designer Lisa Yamai (the granddaughter of Snow Peak’s founder) launched the brand’s first-ever apparel collection, channeling her grandfather’s focus on quality into perhaps the most essential outdoors gear of all: the layers between you and the snowy peak you’re ascending.
Rocky Mountain Featherbed
There are revivals; there are homages; then, there is Rocky Mountain Featherbed. In 2005, a small team of Japanese designers relaunched the then-defunct “Rocky Mountain Featherbed,” a Wyoming-based jacket maker that went bankrupt in the 1980s. Their designs? Based entirely on vintage pieces from the brand’s original run. Whether zombie or hermit crab, the newly-Japanese Rocky Mountain Featherbed consistently turns out some of the best-looking down coats on the market. Long live the king.
For more under the radar outerwear, check out the latest from The North Face’s limited Urban Exploration Collection.