The Indelible Thread Of CORDURA®: Meet The Maker Part One

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Sometimes it takes a village to build a garment. Once the seed has been planted, there are several factors that must come together in order for the initial concept to evolve into finished product. Collaboration is key and each stage of the “build” requires a different area of expertise, but it all comes back to creating lasting, timeless product. As a follow-up to last season’s collaboration with Alex Valdman to launch their Combat Wool™ line of fabrics, CORDURA® approached Michelle Rose, principal designer for Struktur Studio and co-founder of the creative conference, Struktur Event, to create a capsule called the CORDURA® + Struktur Studio Collection. The goal of this latest partnership is to highlight the softer side of durability as CORDURA® extends their Fashion / Function portfolio.

With a background in creative, technical apparel design and management that spans small athletic and yoga companies, as well as large outdoor brands, Michelle saw that there was a big gap in the market for contemporary, lifestyle-meets-performance apparel, especially for women. This thinking was totally aligned with the CORDURA® brand’s mission to push the boundaries between traditional durable fabrics and the development of comfort-inspired materials. One thing led to another and after a series of brainstorming sessions, the two companies came together to launch the CORDURA® + Struktur Studio Collection. With a little help from the bonding experts at Bemis and several cut-and-sew innovators from Youngone, the gloriously design-driven collection was born.

Q. Can you tell us a little about the concept of the collection?
A. The CORDURA® + Struktur Studio Collection is a capsule collection of clothing for the modern woman. On a high level, my direction came from the beautiful soft armor of fencing, kendo and japanese archery. I’ve always been inspired by martial arts and the functional clothing that revolves around the different styles. I felt much more comfortable in a gi than in daily clothes and loved the idea of figuring out how to bring comfort into daily wear. Now with the current athleisure trend, it’s really easy to bring this influence to modern apparel. At the ground level, I was very inspired by the latest generation of CORDURA® fabrics and seeing how I could pair them with ultramodern construction techniques and details. Clothing right now feels either very techy or very natural. I love both and wanted to play with ways to merge the two in the fiber mix of the fabrics, trims, construction and style.

Q. How did you start working with CORDURA®?
A. Cindy McNaull, INVISTA Global Brand and Marketing Director, and the CORDURA® brand were early sponsors and supporters of our Struktur Event conference. Through working together on that project, we had lots of conversations around design and the process of working with designers. I had been leading a team working on women’s outdoor and activewear when Cindy showed me a collection of new super soft Fashion / Function fabrics, including CORDURA® Naturelle™, Ultralite, Baselayer and Canvas. I was so inspired to do something with them, so we started brainstorming about what a new direction of women’s outdoor could look like utilizing these amazing fabrics. It really just evolved organically from there.

Q. What kind of CORDURA® materials are you working with?
A. I had access to choose from a great variety of new and innovative CORDURA® fabrics. I ended up being inspired most by the natural fiber blends and looks. Nylon and cotton with just the right amount of LYCRA® fiber are the main drivers of the collection. All three styles are sort of hybrids with five fabrics across the three styles. The fabric’s high-strength nylon fibers were originally developed for the military and workwear sector, and by integrating new innovations, they were able to offer  a great balance of long-lasting performance and next-to-skin comfort.

Q. Why did you choose to highlight three pieces in this collection?
A. For Spring ‘16, I wanted the collection to be anchored by a great hybrid pant that paired a soft, but technical CORDURA® Naturalle™ woven with one of their new soft knits. The pant needed to be a modern universal fit that could be worn in various ways and work for different body types.

Next I wanted a super chic, but very easy to wear top, which was heavily inspired by the beautiful CORDURA® Baselayer, a military-inspired, sweatshirt-like fleece fabric. It just felt so cozy, like something I wanted to live in everyday. A clean kimono sleeve, sporty hem and high side vents inspired by the Vietnamese Ao Dao give the loose fitting top a slightly sexy feel, but it’s so easy to wear.

The jacket was the last challenge. The two-tone melange CORDURA® Naturalle™ ripstop fabric was a no-brainer for me to use from the moment I saw it. It’s hydrophobic on the exterior and hydrophilic inside, repelling harsh weather elements while wicking away perspiration. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I wanted to make a layering piece that fit well over the top and pant. I gave it a shorter front with a partial drawcord hem and a deep drop tail in the back to work well with pant’s shape. It keeps it modern and loose without looking boxy and shapeless. I made it a pullover anorak because I love anoraks and hardly anyone ever gets them to the market.

Q. How did the idea for using Bemis tape as a design detail come to light?
A. I’ve been working with Bemis films and bonding for over a decade for technical and lifestyle outerwear, and have always wanted to incorporate more of it into sportswear. Cut and bond is such a fabulous and modern medium, a perfect complement to the collaborative vision that CORDURA®  + Struktur Studio wanted to convey. I started to connect more with Jessica Hemmer after her involvement in Struktur Event this past year, who designs all kinds of new applications and techniques for Bemis adhesives and shows them in a way that is easy to translate into new ideas. We decided to introduce several different adhesive concepts, including sew-free construction, exterior overlays and decorative techniques. For example, we utilized line-bonding techniques to create really soft seams, and Bemis’s EXOflex overlay that really complemented the ultra soft CORDURA® apparel fabrics. We also used iridescent overlay films to create a great textural pattern that also serves as enhanced abrasion resistance in the right places on all three pieces.

Q. How did Youngone come on as a cut-and-sew partner on this project?
A. Youngone was the last and incredibly key partner to join the collaboration. They have been far more than a cut-and-sew provider. Rick Fowler and the team in Vietnam were major collaborators in making our vision come to life far beyond our expectations. We picked Youngone to develop this CORDURA® + Struktur Studio capsule collection because we knew they had the expertise and equipment to handle the complex combination of knits and wovens, as well as the laser cut and bonding techniques we wanted to try on these new fabrics. We didn’t have much time to create this collection, and knew we needed someone who could understand where we were trying to go. The Youngone team got it right away, which basically eliminated a lot of back and forth communication that would normally take months and several protos. They were also very excited to work with the new soft touch Fashion / Function CORDURA® fabrics, so the pairing just made real sense.

One thing that really became apparent to all involved is what an inspirational collaboration this has been between four amazing groups, CORDURA®, Youngone, Bemis and Struktur Studio. The excitement and positivity that was generated while building this collection shows through in the energy of the pieces. It’s what people feel, but are often not able to put their finger on. In martial arts we call it Chi, Ki, IImu or internal energy. Without it, it’s all just surface with no substance. A paper tiger.


This article was originally published in RANGE Magazine Issue Three.