Way back in 2006, pretty much the first thing I ever heard about Nau was that there were these crazy people making a blazer out of technical fabric. I was working at a climbing magazine at the time, and people literally shook their head at the idea of using buttons to close a coat. But fast-forward, and the Riding Jacket has become an icon for Nau, and one of the most popular pieces in the Fall Line. I sat down with Creative and Design Director Peter Kallen to talk about the Riding Jacket, its inspiration, and how it’s changed for Fall 2011.
Alex: Why do you think it is that people have responded so well over the years to the Riding Jacket?
Peter: We’ve always positioned our brand as the alternative to what’s already out there. We wanted to challenge the idea that a blazer is only meant to be at a wedding, or a job; that’s really not the case. It’s just a great silhouette that can have a lot of versatility if done right. So I think that people were ready to see a less serious blazer that had a lot more versatility, and that’s why it shines so bright.
You mean people were ready for buttons.
You’re in Chamonix and the whole playground there; look at old vintage photos: everybody had a blazer on with buttons. I think the Riding Jacket is maybe a present-day version of what was available to guys mountaineering back in the 1800s. It’s taking yesterday and bringing it to today.
You talk about that historical context of people wearing blazers in the mountains, but clearly another big inspiration point is the bike. Are there features of this season’s new design that draw on that, or that lend themselves particularly well to the bike?
Well, I’m on my bike all the time. So it’s just sort of a given that my design is influenced by the bike. You know, it’s so funny, it’s almost like I overlook that portion of it because it’s so inherent—it’s like the ‘go-to’ for me—that it becomes the other references that are more considered. But you’re right: it’s really crafted to be in the drops. It has the cross-over collar, it has the extra length in the sleeves. It’s cut for that bike-prone position, and that sense of movement.
So what’s changed for Fall 2011?
Because we really pioneered this ‘technical blazer’ category—or maybe the right terminology is a ‘useful’ blazer—we’ve had a lot of opportunity to explore other blazer silhouettes, like the Vice, or the Transporter, or the Shroud of Purrin. So what we’ve brought this season is really a more simplified, more stylish approach to the classic blazer that compliments all the other blazers that we have in the collection. And it updates a new sense of style too: the pocketing, the tailoring, the collar – it has all the same spirit but a little more modern style than the previous one.
And there’s one for women.
For sure. The intent was derived from the idea that women used to climb and ride in various “blazer like” jackets back in the day, not unlike men, but it was executed differently. The cut and silohuette was more fitting to a womens physique, and did not try to mimic the men’s style other then it being a jacket of sorts. The overall intent of the piece is about how the jacket fits and is styled , and what the fabrication is that makes it so easy to care for and use in a variety of situations. It’s meant to be flattering and very useful in ones wardrobe and also meant to blur the lines of performance and fashion.
When you say that designing for the bike is integral to your process, it reminds me of a lot of the thinking that Nau puts into sustainability: it’s not like you stop and say, ‘ok, now we’re going to do something different and make a sustainable jacket.’ You do it everyday, so it just becomes part of the design process, and how you define ‘quality.’
So if those are the givens, what do you focus on?
I love the process of minimizing. I love less-is-more. I love taking away as much as you can without subtracting the essence and the intent. It’s a subtractive process that I go through, and I think the Riding Jacket represents that; it’s a study in subtraction. It’s the perfect weight of fabrics, it’s the perfect pockets, it’s the perfect cut, it has the perfect number of buttons.
It lands gently in the wardrobe of a person who does a lot of things on the move; if they travel, or just for getting around the city, it’s a really great versatile piece that translates into your wardrobe that way.
So it’s not a piece that adds to their wardrobe, but that integrates with their life.
Yeah! It becomes a little heady, but it’s exactly that: it’s not just real estate in their closet.
Words by Alex Hamlin.