Women's gear, up first
"Trail to town" has become a massive cliché in the outdoor industry. But Arc’teryx got the formula right with its A2B collection.
A riding buddy of mine has a joke about bike clothes: the farther you get from your bike, the sillier they look. Even hiking apparel typically looks too sportif for the local bar. So in recent years, outdoor brands have unleashed a swarm of pieces designed to transition “from trail to town” (now the industry’s biggest cliché). But the new A2B collection from Arc’teryx is the best yet.
Most companies have done their “trail to town” takes by applying technical fabrics to casual basics. There’s the ubiquitous tech tee and the collared button-down made not with cotton flannel, but rather with a moisture-wicking synthetic (or occasionally insulation, in the case of the shacket). I like a lot of those.
Yet with its A2B line of bike-to-work wear, which debuted in 2014 and received a makeover for spring 2017, Arc’teryx appeals not so much to the REI crowd, but to Nordstrom shoppers. The stuff simply looks great. Donna Karan might’ve designed the Yonge Wrap LS ($99), a polyester fleece that can be worn as a structured V-neck or a drapey cardigan. Made of a wool (42 percent) and polyester blend, the A2B Top ($79) features a suave yet practical cowlneck. Only the zippered lumbar pocket marks it as technical apparel.
“We’re really stepping out of the traditional visual language and silhouettes of the outdoor realm and offering things that are much more wearable in the urban environment,” says Arc’teryx design manager Edita Hadravska. “We didn’t want to make another zip-neck. So for inspiration, we didn’t look at the mountain activities we all live for. Instead, we looked at what people wear to work, with friends, on a date, going shopping.”
So rather than offer another hooded rain shell—something that Arc’teryx is already very good at—the company decided to create a cycling-optimized spinoff of the trenchcoats and blazers that are popular among urbanites. The result is the hoodless A2B Blazer ($449), hitting market next spring. It’s made of three-layer Gore-Tex with a supple C-knit backer, and uses reflective tape on the wrists to make the wearer visible to motorists. But once you tuck away those cuffs, the blazer looks like standard-issue office wear.
“It was a challenge to work with Gore, which has certain requirements for waterproofing and wanted to insist on a hood,” says Hadravska. But the A2B Blazer passed Gore’s rain-room test, in part because the lapels channel water away from the neck opening.
Despite the spiffy styling, all of the A2B pieces actually feel comfortable and un-restrictive while riding a bike, curling up on an airport sofa, or hiking neighborhood trails. After all, Arc’teryx has been designing outerwear and apparel for alpinism and other hard-core mountain sports for nearly 30 years. Consequently, it has "a unique knowledge of patterning for movement,” says Hadravska. “With A2B, we took our technical knowledge and put it into casual silhouettes.”
In other words: it’s trail to town, perfected.