[For this, the second installment of The Thought Kitchen's ongoing conversation about design, Josie sat down with Nau designer Peter Kallen to discuss the finer points of the Succinct Trench. For More of The Design Eye, check out last month's inaugural post, on the Lightbeam Jacket. —Ed]
Josie: So tell us about the Succinct?
Peter: Ok, well, just so you know, only the Succinct Trench for women is new this year—the Succint Trench for men is so genius that we didn’t change it. When we find something we like, we run with it! But they’re both inspired by this use of new technology: the lightweight 2.5-layer recycled polyester fabric. The reason why we chose 2.5 layer is the fact that it’s waterproof, it’s breathable, but it’s really light. You can compact it, compress it, take it with you: it packs down to the size of a small cantaloupe.
What we decided what we wanted to achieve with this was a trench with the silhouette of a longer length coat, something not unlike what you would see back in the Quadorphenia, mod scooter days.
Oh, you know the old longer length jackets they used to wear on scooters? That whole ‘mod’ movement? These jackets take on that kind of role, but with new technology. They’re a very refined, modern approach to a trench that’s not trying to be so stuffy or uptight but a bit more spirited and on the move. And that’s why the 2.5 layer fabric was used—the fact that you can stuff it into your bag or your pack or whatever. And it’s kind of cool that while this fabric performs really well in any kind of condition, and it has this really cool style. It’s just an opportunity to make a silhouette that fits really interestingly into your wardrobe: the trench style allows you to be really professional in it, but you can use it for other things too.
We wanted to make something really precise and pointed in this versatile way. Use the cues that it’s a trench, and then keep it vague in the sense of how you would interpret its use in your wardrobe. It becomes really versatile in that way.
Josie: I love the collar. Having snaps instead of a zipper at the neck, it makes it so soft. There’s nothing bulky. I know sometimes companies will put a flap over your chin but they’ll also put a zipper, but with this there’s nothing there, it’s really lightweight, it’s just nice.
Peter: Yeah, and you see how there’s this great sense of discovery when you try it on. The cool thing about these pieces is you start putting it on, and it kind of reveals itself to you. You know, design is for interaction, and this is a perfect example of designing for interaction. And that’s really cool.
Josie: Could you talk about—I really liked last month when you were talking about the lightbeam, how you were working with asymmetry and creating this balance. Is that something you were working with here?
Peter: Well, more than talking about asymmetry, the Succinct Trench is a good example of the collision of old world style and new technology. I mean, I go back to quadrephenia—or back even further to those old ‘new’ looks of the Dior era, when women moved out of this really uptight tone into something more modern. The women’s succinct has a little nod to the kind of silhouette and air that was popularized back then. It sculpts around the upper body and then falls away. But because it’s in a shorter length—they would have been longer back then—it’s even more useful. You can be on a bike, you could be in the saddle…it’s like a short, mac-length duster. And it has these cool sculpted details that really relate to the present day users: for the people that are commuting on the bike, you have these sculpted cuffs that protect your knuckles. And if you look at the adjustable cuff details, they again represent this collision of the old world and the new world: they can seal out the weather around you while adding this stylish side to the jacket.
So, essentially on the women’s, we’ve taken not so much an approach of asymmetry, but more this collision of old fashioned style with new technology to make this piece that is incredibly useful and incredibly stylish. It’s a raincoat that makes you look cute.
Then on the men’s side—but really in everything that I design—I feel its important that there’s nothing superfluous; it’s a matter of taking out all the elements and details that aren’t needed, so it ends up being just enough. And again, that’s where the name “Succinct” comes from: it’s concise. It’s pointed. It has just enough details. It has all the cues and adjustments and pockets, two way zips, snaps: everything that is just enough to give it a really focused perspective. I like to see that in all aspects of design; I hate bejangled crap. It’s just useless; it becomes visually noisy and disruptive. And anything that’s visually noisy or disruptive takes away from the person that’s wearing it. Ultimately good design is about the person, not the object.