Ana Andjelic is a strategist who works with modern luxury brands.
In 2008, Abe Burmeister and Tyler Clemens, founders of Brooklyn-based men’s fashion brand Outlier, set out to build a brand based on “radical quality.” (Considering today’s Zara-dominated fashion landscape, it’s a thoroughly refreshing thought.) That involved remaining as committed to innovation as they were to their values, culture and community.
The quest led them to constant experimentation with materials, as well as with the processes involved in the development, production and distribution of apparel. The result: a line of affordable, attractive clothes made of high-quality technical fabrics. Each minimalist, function-driven piece embodies the sense of freedom that comes with unrestricted movement in the city.
Here, Clemens share how they’re navigating the fashion industry in their own unique way.
“The world doesn’t need more stuff” is a popular opinion today. Would you agree?
We have two key things we consider when developing a product, both of which relate directly to “less stuff”: One, does it already exist on the market? If it does, we don’t need to make it. Two, can the product take the place of multiple objects in a person’s life? For instance, we make pants that are clean and rugged, so our customer needs fewer pairs. A layering piece that has a wide temperature range of comfort is similar: Suddenly, you only need one layer where you once needed two. And of course, when you make things that are durable and hold their value, fewer replacements are necessary.
Outlier was born out of desire to create pants that are comfortable for biking in the city — but it’s evolved. Who is your customer today, and how to do you continue to give them what they want?
When we are developing stuff, it’s hyper product-focused: What does the product do? What makes it different? Does that difference make a difference? Then we try and figure out how to communicate the product as clearly as possible, in ways that help our existing customers understand it and also bring in new customers. Ultimately, it is the customer’s choice if they want to follow us on our journey. We’ll take the time to explain what we are doing, but we’re not going to let last year’s customer prevent us from making next year’s products amazing.
You have a very clear brand aesthetic on Instagram, and movement is a big part of it. What’s driving your content?
Using organic motion is extremely close to our core, but we like to change it up. Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time on finding powerful locations to shoot in, both in our backyard and around the globe. Ultimately, the biggest guide to our aesthetic is letting the product lead. We’ll do whatever it takes to create the imagery that can communicate the power of the product clearly and succinctly.
You once mentioned that making the best products means using the best materials, and that the best materials come from the best supply chain. To what extent can brands control the supply chain?
We source from both a traditional luxury fashion supply chain and from an outdoor industry supply chain, and the differences are quite striking. In the outdoor industry, there is a big commitment to the environment, with Patagonia taking the lead and brands like North Face following suit. Those brands represent a big chunk of the market, so their suppliers react. For instance, when they committed to sourcing only Bluesign-certified materials, they pushed the industry quite effectively. Luxury brands can really learn from them; they have the power influence change.
Some of the most successful brands today have figured out that, in order to stay culturally relevant, they have to put forward a set of values that will attract a community around them. Has Outlier established a community?
We have a super vibrant community on our subreddit. It represents a particular super-committed, intelligent and articulate subset of our customers. Reddit is a pretty wild place, and it’s text-only; images only exist as links, so it’s a pretty counterintuitive place for a community to emerge around a clothing brand. But we’ve always made particularly information-rich clothing; there is a lot to learn about, so what we make translates surprisingly well to a text-centric environment. It’s a pretty amazing resource for a brand to have; it’s a direct, real-time and relatively unfiltered channel to some of our most committed customers.
It’s pretty unique and it really came about by accident: We saw lots of traffic coming from other subreddits and just made our own as an experiment. It all snowballed from there. It’s grown to the point where we pretty much launch our products there. Obviously, they go up on our website first — but if we want to have any control over the announcement on Reddit, we need to get it on there at the same time. Wait a minute or two, and someone will beat us to the punch.