FUNCTIONAL CLOTHING LAB
[INTERVIEW]
FUNCTIONAL CLOTHING LAB
[INTERVIEW]
When we saw this brand for the first time at the Outdoor by ISPO this summer, we were glad to find out a new concept in our industry. PATRONACE is a new brand from Munich founded in 2018 by Bastian Müller. The company makes clothing for everyday use in conditions of constant movement, whether it is a city or its surroundings. In addition to clear functional characteristics such as breathability and water repellence, the brand is notable for its GRDXKN® technology. It is based on 2D screen printing, inserts of which form a protective layer in case of falling.
PATRONACE has already been awarded by EUROBIKE 2018 finalist as a Startup Of The Year, as well as the ISPO Brandnew 2019 finalist in the «apparel» category. We contacted the founder of the company to learn more about this new phenomenon.

Interview : Ignatius Chan.
Answers : Bastian Müller.
Photo: Philip Kottlorz, Bastian Müller, Natalie Weinmann.
[Hi there, Ksenya! Tell us about the idea of your project. You say that you want to create "something that does not exist. And what exists does not meet the needs." How did you come to DIY?]

Back in the school days I started making things that I needed but I couldn't find in the store. My dad is a jack of all trades; perhaps, I inherited some of it. Dad sewed ski jackets and pants for me and my brother, cause it was impossible to buy them. Half of the furniture in our house was made by him, so for me it was always a good solution: you need something — do it yourself. As for my current view: it is not that I want to create something that does not exist — I do not want to create what already exists. And I feel that that's where my strength and talent lays — in the invention of new, hybrid, things that are at the junction of existing forms.

When something does not exist, you cannot know that you need it, but I like to think about stuff that doesn't exist, but possibly could. However still, the starting point is not in finding such a form, but in solving the problem. Simple tasks have long been resolved by clothing, but there are plenty more smaller ones, those are the ones I am trying to solve. For example: your ears are cold, your throat is cold, and the back of your head is hot, when you ride a bicycle. My solution is a hybrid of headband and bandana. It sounds vague in words, but if you look at the photos, it becomes clear.
[You've spent several years in the US. How does the materials market work there and how did you enter it?]

The MYOG community in US is very large, so I thinks it's a reason why they have a lot of small online stores that sell functional fabrics and hardware. Make Your Own Gear is a small offshoot of DIY, it covers much more precisely what we are talking about here. DIY is about absolutely any object made with your own hands: from a candle to a whole house. MYOG is purely about equipment and gear (clothes, backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, etc.). All those small fabric shops I found through links in posts and articles of different MYOG'ers. Many of these stores were founded by people who needed the fabric themselves, who bought something like ten rolls from the manufacturer and sold the surplus. There is also a favorite one in MYOG community: "Ripstop by the roll". They produce their own ultra-light and durable fabrics as well as selling fabrics from other manufacturers: mainly for tents, hammocks, down products. I love their materials, for example, the white translucent fabric of my windbreakers is theirs.

In clothing industry it is very difficult for small companies to get access to materials, even more for enthusiasts, but it is still easier to do this in US rather than in Europe.


[All your projects use different materials: Tyvek, DCF (aka Cuben), EtaProof / Ventile cotton and other technical fabrics (membrane, downproof etc.). Which one of them did you like the most and why?]

I love all materials! Each material is suitable for a specific project, where it best fulfills its role. But, for example, the above named Tyvek – to me it seems that it is not really suitable for creating clothes. It is charming: this texture and purity of white color attracts designers and I did not avoid this fate. However, it easily gets dirty, it gets wet quite quickly, and it also breathes poorly. So I did not find an ideal application for it in my work. EtaProof cotton also fascinated me at first, but it is so dense that it breathes very poorly when it's wet, like a standard membrane fabric. At the same time, it has a stretchability close to zero — it is heavy and becomes even heavier when wet, and if the temperature is below zero, it does freeze because of the moisture absorbed by the upper layer. And then the entire product becomes kind of rigid. Sure It has its own application, maybe it is urban jackets for spring/autumn, that would be worn by a person who does not sweat much and does not walk under the icy rain.
Or Dyneema Composite Fabric — this fabric is ultra-light, durable, and waterproof. I love it. After I found that it shrinks over time — especially on the top of the backpack, where it is heated by the sun — I can not consider this a normal property of the fabric. The backpack should not shrink during wear, it is very noticeable next to the zipper – the zipper becomes wavy, because the fabric has shrunk by about 5-7%. This is understandable, the fabric was not created for backpacks, it was created for the sails of racing yachts.

Developers had very different requirements. Tyveκ was also designed for house insulation. So I have no complaints about the manufacturers, there are just fabrics with a lot of hype around, but they are not as perfect as you would expect.

Now, with the Schoeller fabrics I never have any problems. They are perfect! All the fabrics produced by them (which, by the way, happens right in Switzerland, according to the strictest environmental standards) that I manage to get, I use only for my best and tried designs.

Two favorite fabrics at the moment: Membrane 10 tafetta by RBTR (very light and delicate to the touch downproof, windproof fabric) and Micro-Double-Ripstop Nylon – downproof fabric with a matte texture from Schoeller (got it recently, reverently looking at it, not daring to cut it yet).

[Who inspires you?]

My inspiration is familiar to everyone: rain, cold, wind, heat, sweat. All of them are pushing me to create new clothes that would cope with them, so that I do not need to think and I could just go about my business in the rain or in the scorching heat. Of course, I guess, the question implied some other designers, which I follow. Honestly though, I don't follow anybody at all. I do not boast about it, like, I am so on my own. I just don't feel the need to know what others are doing. However I'm not really in a vacuum. For example, I love Patagonia: they always have interesting solutions. I like the Japanese brand Descente: some of their technical details are just a cut above everything I saw. Or recently at the airport I came across a store of the Swiss brand Mammut: their attention to detail and high-class design were impressive. I can not be inspired by existing designs though. For me they are not the starting point. I can respect them and be glad that someone came up with cool solution. All my creations originate from within myself, and I honestly admit that I am proud of it.

[You have been followed by many DIY community members, as well as "big fishes": for example, Taka Kasuga (Veilance), Chris Trimby (Ark Air). Did you get any offers of cooperation from anyone?]

No, no "big fishes" yet.
["...in the future I want to add a platform on which people could post their problems. Because the essence of my design is problem solving...". Here's the question about the community: how would you implement the solutions to the shortcomings?]

The question is — what kind of community do you mean? "Techwear"? MYOG? I am concerned about a global, universal community. My vision of the future of clothing production, and generally any production, is that there will be an aggregation of needs of scattered-across-the-planet individuals, and the development of clothes will be tailored to the specific needs formulated by the community. Humanity voices its needs — designers and manufacturers create the required product. How it should be done? Well, we already have the Internet, so theoretically this is already possible. We only need to form a group of activists who will start the whole thing and gain a critical mass that will turn the whole industry upside down. I don't have any specific recipe. Everyone who would be interested – reach out to me!


[Why for the people with similar interests, in our case, "techwear", it is often not enough or permissible to be satisfied with what the market offers?]

It is quite permissible, probably. It's only that the market doesn't offer what we are looking for. Each person has its own requirements and vision, and I can't say for others. The market doesn't offer me what I want, mostly because I wish for very strange things. However I am totally ok with that — I create those strange things for myself.

[It is easy to notice the fact that you tailor all things for yourself, based on personal needs in the first place. Those products are extremely limited. How much experience do you have in producing models on mass?]

I really have no experience in producing a large number of models in different sizes yet. Since last fall though, I began to collaborate with a pattern maker, who helps me deal with this. We convert patterns of a finalized model in my size into a digital format, and she grades it. For example, I am already offering a 'windbreaker with detachable sleeves' in five sizes and three heights. Down-filled apron now has three sizes. Down-filled shorts will also appear in five sizes soon. So this issue is being solved right now. I will start mass production when demand exceeds my physical abilities to sew products one at a time. In the meantime, it's too early to think about it.
[For many tech-brands, the lineup is represented by unisex models. Unisex instead of male and female models is harmful or rather useful?]

It is possible only when the silhouette of the garments is very loose. In truly functional clothes, such a silhouette rarely works. Women and men have basic anatomical differences, which, alas, cannot be ignored. And it would have been so terribly convenient! On average, men have significantly wider shoulders, and more narrow hips, than women, even with the same waist circumference. Even if we ignore the fact that women also have breasts, the difference in hips and shoulders already influences enough the garment construction. So in my understanding, unisex is almost impossible. Only if the progress of textile science reaches such heights that the fabric itself will be adapting to the shape of the body, but so far this has not happened: males' clothing shall be designed separately from females'.




[Continuing the theme of unique prototypes: in your blog, each of them has been honed for a specific task. Recently, many famous people have shown solidarity with the ideas of conscious consumption, reduction of production, and as a result - the transfer of collections to a year-round format (i.e. instead of AW and SS). Does universal things have life or uniqueness is everything?]

Universality and uniqueness are not mutually exclusive things. If you mean 'versatility vs. narrow specialization', then both approaches can be combined. Universal things can be produced in larger quantities and cover the needs of most of humanity in basic weather conditions; and narrowly aimed things can be produced by small brands in small quantities, and they will complement the basic wardrobe. If you look at the seasonality of collections and the structure of clothing production in general, it is structured so for a slow production: collection gets pre-ordered by stores in a year, or even year a half before the season, so that fabric manufacturers can produce the necessary quantity, deliver it to overseas factories, cut and sew and finally send it to all retail points for the season. However this seasonality model has long been violated by the giants of the fast fashion industry. They are not tied to two collections per year. Therefore, I see no need for small brands with local production to become attached to this structure. At the same time, it is impossible to deny that in summer and winter different things are needed, so it is impossible to completely erase the borders and do 'uniseason' things. This is the same story as with unisex - there are real differences that cannot be ignored.
[DIY is now far from what it used to be. The industry has advanced a lot; individuals can sometimes represent entire small brands. What in your opinion is industry moving to and where will it come?]

The world is getting fragmented into ever smaller pieces. One person has much more opportunities to create something unique without the need to adapt to a large team structure. Therefore, each can become a separate piece, the unique facet of our increasingly complex world. Wide access to information and communication allows you to find your own narrow niche, interest group, your pack. I hope that the clothing industry from a global giant will turn into local diversity. To make the purchase process more like what it was through the whole history of mankind before industrialization: when you need shoes, you go to the local shoemaker, and he made a model for you. 'New shoemaker' will use other tools: a 3D scanner, a 3D printer, a laser, etc. And even the shoemaker himself - he will only virtually 'live on the next street', but in fact he will be on the other side of the earth and will only create a blueprint / assembly plan for your unique pair of shoes, which will be assembled in the local branch of the 'global decentralized production bureau'. A human approach equipped with technology is how I would like to see a new production model.