“Best of both threads,” they say in their marketing material. Sure, sure, I thought, I’ve heard it all before. But damn, this particular hoody I saw sure was sexy.
So I dove into the website. This new California-based company, ArchiTec uses Polartec synthetic face material, with a merino-wool interior layer for its hoody. Hang on a sec, this might get interesting … made in the US, ZQ-certified sustainably/ethically sourced New Zealand wool, lifetime warranty. Hot damn, who are these ArchiTec people, anyway?
A little digging and turns out ArchiTec makes a bunch of other cool apparel, too. I know one of the founders. Years ago he was an early evangelist at Chrome messenger bags. You know the ones, with the old-school seatbelt buckle on the shoulder strap? Yeah, those bags! They’re everywhere now. Justin Seale had started with Chrome in Denver, then moved the brand out to San Francisco, where we reconnected for a winter. We saw a couple shows, rode around the city, but then I’d lost track of him.
Boom, and here he is, on to the next cool thing, ArchiTec’s apparel line, featuring Polartec’s peerless synthetics and merino wool’s inimitable capacities. For now, ArchiTec makes three tops and one bottom, but with more products planned for the future.
Down to brass tacks: I picked out a cool-looking hoody, the “Aysen,” and begged for a tester. Justin, always the cheerful face back in the day, remembered me and granted my wish.
I partner with Rab when mountain guiding, so I don’t often do apparel tests any more, but for a modern take on the time-tested qualities of merino wool, I was psyched to try it.
Justin and his team partnered with Polartec, using the company’s expertise to marry the durability and wind-resistance of a nylon outer with the odor resistance, moisture management, and warmth of merino. The Aysen sounded like a versatile piece.
I rock climbed, Nordic skied, hiked, and traveled in the understated gray hoody, over the course of several months in Chamonix, Switzerland, and Italy. I intentionally left the piece unwashed, just to see how long I could go without it stinking—more than a week, it turns out. Good, the perfect hoody for a trip or hut-week in Canada.
The face material protects the garment from abrasion on rock and the occasional bushwhack, though the Aysen does feel premium enough I wouldn’t want to annihilate the thing on a three-hour descent from a Vegas rock climb. Mine is still handsome enough I could wear it to dinner with the in-laws and not raise any eyebrows for looking too “outdoorsy.” To the contrary, the thing looks urban chic.
I’ll be watching ArchiTec for upcoming products. I might even snag a few of their merino T’s for travel wear and down days. Gorgeous stuff, well crafted, sustainable brand ethos. I’m loving my Aysen so far.
Rob Coppolillo is an internationally licensed mountain guide and the author of three books. For the moment, he lives in Chamonix, France, with his family, but rumor has it they’re moving to Seattle at the end of summer.