Now that you know what Techwear is and what to look for in each garment, here is a brand list broken down by style.
Note: this article updated on 2/20/14. This article has undergone significant changes since it was first published. If you have used it in a citation for any reason, a link to the original article can be found here: Link via the Internet Archive.
Also known as "Performance Menswear," the term used by Conroy Nachtigall, lead designer of Arc'teryx Veilance. These brands fit very easily into a normal office lifestyle while still featuring new fabrics and treatments, usually for stretch, odor reduction, and water repellency. Most of these brands are not talked about widely in Techwear circles – the exception being Outlier – as most Techwear people aren’t looking for business casual wear. So with the rest of the brands listed here you're taking a certain amount of risk.
"Performance Menswear," essentially established brands producing technical clothing, is in its nascent stages but unlikely to recede. If you're trying to blend in, it's an easy, but usually every expensive way to blend in. For example, the Loro Piana Storm System, a weatherproofing system that high-end brand Loro Piana licenses out. Brands that use it will specifically use the system's name as a selling point; those brands include: Alfred Dunhill, Barbour, Brioni, Brooks Brothers, Canada Goose, Faconnable, Giorgio Armani, Hickey Freeman, Hugo Boss, Joseph Abboud, Luigi Bianchi, and Turnbull & Asser.
Jackets via Aether
An amorphous genre for brands that either 1) focus on technical garments over fashion, but still have contemporary designs, or 2) are focused on making very fashionable Techwear. They are more functional than Casual Tech, less experimental than Techninjas, but still city acceptable. For example, instead of stretch, antimicrobial pants, they will make fully waterproof pants with non-stretching membranes and hidden zip vents. In the first scenario described, a brand reaches into this genere by having some garments extend slightly beyond their the borders of their normal aesthetic or market. For example, Arc’teryx mainline is an outdoors brand, but has some very functional button downs and pants that are designed well. The second scenario is much newer, and slightly risky since their designs are untested - though not as risky or experimental as the genre below, Fashion with Tech Experiments. Examples of this scenario are And Wander and Isaora.
Herno Laminar [1, 2, 3] (No dedicated site)
Triple Aught Design (TAD) – [1, 2]
Uniqlo Innovation Project
Fashion, with Tech Experiments↩
Undercover, pieces from FW09 “Earmuff Maniac” via Men’s Non-No August 2009
A weirdly specific subset of brands that design multiple items a year with technical fabrics and construction. As noted in Part 2, it's wise to be wary when choosing these brands. Function is usually a second consideration to fashion (though sometimes not too far off). When function is considered, it's often to make something experimental or use a very interesting but untested new material. This does not mean these brands create non-functional garments. Rather, they are experimenting and so functionality isn't guaranteed to the degree you expect with technical garments. Many Japanese designers fit into this range.
Herno Laminar [1, 2, 3] (No dedicated site)
North Face Purple Label
Acronym SS-CP1 via their Official Archive
Techninja is a joke word (predating this article) derived from Gothninja, based around the fact that so many Techwear enthusiasts would be happy to just wear black. The brands associated with Techninjas do make a lot a black clothing, but not even close to exclusively. These brands look futuristic and advertise their tech specs prominently. They feature the latest fabrics and treatments (often with brand-specific trademarks), brand-specific modular systems, and high production values when marketing to showcase the technical aspects of their clothes. All Techninja brands have designs that fit in the other genres as well, they just happen to be associated with the Techninja label.
You'll find a lot of very cool features with Techninja brands that you won't find elsewhere. The downsides are that some brands introduce features based on aesthetic appeal rather than pure function, or of questionable need. Visually, a Techninja buyer is heavily invested in the newest releases and is unconcerned if they look a bit like a Minority Report extra. The best-known brands are Acronym, Arc’teryx Veilance, and Stone Island Shadow Project.
FW10 by Christopher Raeburn
Designers pushing things to the next level, but in an experimental way. The Fashion designer’s mad scientist cousin, they flip the script by releasing many unusual garments in small runs with just a few basic salable goods. The functionality can overtake wearability due to absurd designs, hyper-specialized functions, or conceptual functions. Entirely fascinating, but not that great to wear, or even necessarily meant for mass consumption. The best-known designers are Aitor Throup and Final Home. Runway designers like Hussein Chalayan and Issey Miyake also fit here.
Aitor Throup [2, 3, 4, 5]
CP Co x Aithor Throup [1, 2]
FYI Design Depot
Iris Van Herpen
Mary Mattingly (See Wearable Homes)
SISP x Aithor Throup: Modual Anatomy & Articulated Anatomy
Issey Miyake for Reality Lab via Dezeen
Well-known runway designers like Raf Simons and Prada, who usually only utilize technical fabrics and anatomical cut/construction for aesthetic purposes. They will rarely use technical fabrics or techniques for more than a few pieces per season if at all. There are exceptions. Hussein Chalayan and Issey Miyake continue to be conceptual and futuristic. Junya Watanabe and Undercover frequently make Techwear pieces.There are some brands such as Boris Bidjan Siberi, Carol Christian Poell, and Devoa, that deserve mention for incredible patternmaking and focus on motion and anatomical cut.
A message board user noted that even if certain futurist and runway designers are not perfectly suited as "Techwear" in the functional sense, "they are all important to mention because tech evolves by dialogue and the fashion designers pushing the tech are just as much a part of it as the tech designers doing fashion. Sometimes it's the tech side leading (like Arc'[teryx] inventing water resistant zippers) but other times it someone like [Iris] Van Herpen leading when she's doing 3D printed haute couture with MIT fluid dynamics scientists."
For a quick read on major brands’ attitudes and offerings, go to Forbes India.
Athletic and Biking↩
Archive Research Project (Umbro x Aitor Throup) via Swipelife
Sports and Outdoors gear are the origins of Techwear, so they definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. They’re an affordable route to base layers and shells, though the conspicuous branding scares off a lot of Techwear enthusiasts. The best known athletic companies are Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour. The best-known outdoors companies are The North Face, Patagonia, Columbia, and REI.
Adidas Originals by Originals, Kuzuki Kuraishi (aka ObyO KZK) [Google, no dedicated page]
Archive Research Project (Umbro x Aitor Throup) [now defunct]
Columbia Sportswear via Sierra Trading Post
Like I said above in "Athletics," Sports and Outdoors gear are the origins of Techwear, so they definitely shouldn’t be ignored. They’re an affordable route to base layers and shells, though the conspicuous branding scares off a lot of Techwear enthusiasts.
AFP Photo / Issouf Sanogo via AFP Blogs
Military contracts are incredibly important to Techwear. Many of the functional innovations created for the military carry over to civilian design, sometimes within a single company. Arc’Teryx, Patagonia, and W.L. Gore all have military lines or contracts. Oakley and Nike both offer military and armed forces footwear. And many, many Techwear brands have military inspiration. That said, Techwear strives to be urban acceptable, so consider if you want or need to look MilSpec around the city.
Links to stores, companies↩
via the Simpsons Wikia
Most of these stores are well-regarded, though you may incur large customs fees from non-US stores. Note that you should find out if they have added VAT (Value Added Tax – a European tax that is often automatically added) and if so, if it is deducted from the final cost.