Far Out Future: Looking Forward with Polartec’s 2016 Apex Awards

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The 18th annual APEX Awards were developed 20 years ago to recognize the best uses of Polartec fabrics. Much of the award recognition has been given to outdoor industry innovations, but the brands and uses have expanded well beyond the outdoor industry. In 2016, the award celebrates diversity of use across all sectors from outdoor athletics and action sports to fashion and lifestyle. Championing futuristic and innovative ideas, Polartec will debut a cyborg-themed campaign, featuring all 13 winning pieces in urban outdoor environments.

We spoke with Global Product Director Michael Cattanach to learn more about Polartec’s advanced materials and history of technical innovation.

Q. What is the main idea behind the APEX Awards?

A. The APEX Awards are our way of rewarding people who create something genuinely special with our materials. We love putting cool products in the hands of smart designers to see what they can do. They’re constantly surprising us.

Q. What is the most common design problem you’re trying to solve?   

A. We consider ourselves experts at warmth without weight. That made Polartec fleece great in the first place and people still come to us asking to make things lighter, but with no compromise in performance.

Q. Tell us about the Polartec Alpha material used by several APEX Award winners.

A. Initially, Polartec Alpha was our solution for the U.S. Special Forces. They needed something that could be worn all day, but stay breathable when they were working hard. It’s a replacement for fiberfills, and in the consumer space, we see variations in usage wider than we ever imagined, including garments for exercise. We never thought someone would make a jacket for running built with an insulative product.

Q. What are the latest innovations in waterproofing?

A. Anyone can make a waterproof product, but we want to make something comfortable to wear. Polartec Neoshell is a 100% waterproof fabric, but unlike some of the competition, it’s also completely breathable. You can blow air straight through it. That means you can use it for high alpine activities, but also for fast aerobic activities like cycling and running.

Q. How closely do you develop forward-thinking new products in collaboration with designers?

A. Throughout our history, we’ve worked with some of the biggest brands out there, but we also love to work with the new guys, the little guys, the Kickstarters to find out what their challenges are. We believe we’ve got the best engineers in the world here at Polartec. They’re never content with what they have, and work with brands to think of something new to help them stand out. It’s no accident the Apex Awards campaign this year looks futuristic and innovative. Those are the things that Polartec wants to be known for as we continue as a company.

This article was originally published in RANGE Magazine Issue Five.

xx Nina Stotler