Do more with less. Do more in a day. All while expanding comfort zones. That's what drove Tim Maud, Global Design Director Outdoor Apparel — as he designed the Spring/Summer 15 Terrex collection.
Tim, in recent years modern alpinism has become more and more athletic. What does that mean for your daily work as an apparel designer?
In fact, our athletes are changing their activities. They're doing more things in a day. They're running, biking, climbing and even flying. Our aim is to produce versatile, lightweight garments with the maximum performance possible. We want our athletes to do all these multiple activities with less restriction, have more freedom to explore and to express themselves in the mountains. Our athletes... are our inspiration.
Can you give us an example for that kind of inspiration?
We have an athlete called Don Bowie. This guy intends to climb an 8,000 meter peak in less than 24 hours. To train for this he's running and cycling. As an apparel designer, my job was to use innovative fabrics in an innovative manner and then construct them in a way that makes our new products incredibly light, incredibly versatile, durable and perfectly fitting for the use of the athlete.
Then people might say your products are good at all things but excellent at none, right?
You might think that, but our goal for the Spring/Summer 15 collection was to create versatile products without compromise that are the masters of everything. And our athletes' feedback tells us that we have achieved it.
How did you manage that?
For the Skyclimb Top, for example, we combined the super high-performing fabric Polartec Power Dry High Efficiency with the new insulation fabric called Polartec Alpha and the most innovative Pertex Equilibrium to realize a whole new concept. By using these in a sandwich we've created a completely different garment that is wind-resistant, has great water resistance and active moisture management — in one piece. This is something that has not been done before. The athlete can put this on at the car park, run up the mountain, ski or bike down the mountain. Do more with less. Do more in a day. All while expanding comfort zones. That's the versatility we're talking about.
How do you interact with the adidas athletes in apparel development?
We're the athletic brand in the outdoors. Terrex is for the athlete. So the interaction is really close. We have athletes like Don Bowie or Alex Luger, who are very product-focused. They have that conceptual thinking and give us highly qualitative and constructive feedback. For us it's important to understand what these guys do: They go from relatively low altitude to relatively high altitude. And they go quickly. Traveling through temperature zones from 25 degrees to minus 5 degrees. But they don't want to change their clothes all the time. So you have to understand what products they need during their activities in those environments. Then we can build products that support them in whatever they're doing. So versatility is the key.
What is the most important part of your work... finding the best fabrics?
Actually, we ask ourselves what we can do apart from using new fabrics. What we do is to engineer products. In all our pieces, we've done the best we can in terms of construction. For example, the Terrex Skyclimb top has no tangible seams, it feels completely flat. The hems and the cuffs are bonded so there are no seams and no stitch lines. Seams, cut lines and stitching are always a point of abrasion on your skin, but also for external abrasion from a rucksack or jacket.
So the best garment would be made out of one single piece?
That's what we try to do. For our Terrex Agravic tee we've taken a 110-gram fabric, a merino wool polyester which is the best lightweight base layer fabric that we can get — and engineered the pattern to make it the most comfortable piece there is. One piece of fabric with only two seams. And the seams are taken away from any abrasion point, from the shoulders and the hips. It still has perfect arm lift, it still fits really close to the body... and it looks pretty cool.
You're working closely with the adidas FUTURE Team. How's that collaboration?
There's a small team in Herzogenaurach, a larger one sitting in Portland, and the relationship is really good. They have been testing our Terrex down blaze jacket to see how many benefits the baffle construction gives in terms of warmth. Every baffle is slightly oversized on the inside. That means that the stitch lines are covered when you wear the jacket. By this you don't get any hot air escaping, which gives you a warmer product for the weight. Or a lighter product with the same amount of warmth, because we can trap more heat inside. The adidas FUTURE Team is testing these things, they have the machines and can prove that what we've done makes sense.
What comes first — testing in the lab or testing in the field?
We do it at the same time. If you can prove it in a lab it doesn't necessarily mean that it works in the field. And vice versa. Sometimes you can feel differences in the mountains but you can't replicate that in a lab. So we do our testing in conjunction.
Are there also ideas that have been proven by the adidas FUTURE Team to make no sense?
That can happen. But if you have an idea … try it! No matter how stupid it is. That's the principle of evolution. Our nature is designed through millions of years of trial and error. So don't predict! Try and don't be afraid to fail.
Apart from the athletes and their activities: Is nature your main source of inspiration?
As a designer your eyes are always open. You never switch off. You're always trying to understand construction. You're always looking for inspiration. Everywhere and anywhere. You look at trees. You look at cars. You look at bikes. You look at electronics. Something that we tried to really do for the Spring/Summer 2015 collection was to embrace the space. We tried to get rid of unnecessary seams. Products that fit and work... but the construction is invisible.
What are your favorite products?
I love all of them... they are all my children!
Any special children in the family?
Well, we have some shorts that are under 70 grams, durable, water-repellent, wind-resistant — one of the lightest shorts on the market. For running, for climbing, for biking … whatever. And the Terrex Skyclimb top makes me very proud because it does enable athletes to do more. I am super-stoked that we managed to realize the concept of the different heat-sealing baffles. For me that is a game changer. I often compare it to the trolley bag.
The trolley bag?
Look... the suitcase existed for hundreds of years. The wheel for thousands of years. But it took some bright spot in the mid-90s to combine these two things to a trolley bag. That's so easy. But it makes it different and totally new, more convenient and more performance orientated.
Do you expect more innovations like this for the future?
Can't tell you (laughs).
Can you give us an impression?
Okay, clothing has been made the same way since humans started making clothes. Even back in cavemen times they stitched furs together to create cloth. Today we're sitting here in this room wearing stitched garments. So the construction has to change. Now we bond it. That's new. But is that the smartest way? We engineer products with fewer seams. Is that the best way? Or is there a completely different way? I think there is. We just need to find the way to make it work in production.
Maybe one day we'll produce our clothes in something like a 3D printer?
Could be something like this...