Trendsetter 2018 / Industry Q&A

Industry Influencers

Design, Product Development & Textile Innovation

Where is inspiration found? What textiles are intriguing? How does good design take shape? To find answers to these, and other queries on materials, we went right to the source: the talented individuals profiled here. Their responses are creative, thoughtful and occasionally surprising. In other words, just what we’ve come to expect from our Trendsetter candidates. For this, our 7th Annual Trendsetters feature, we also take a look at Trendsetting Places and report on Trendsetting Product Categories. Combined, our Trendsetter coverage provides a birds-eye view on how the active/outdoor market is evolving in new and exciting ways. For example, you may not be aware, but scoby are coming!  Read on to find out why.

LAEL WILLIAMS
Manager
Fabric Research & Development
Canada Goose
The best advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now is:

When I was 14, I went to go see an agent because I wanted to become an actress. After telling me that I couldn’t be an actress because I was too introverted she gave me some advice that has stuck with me and has become a mantra: ask questions, lots of them.

A material solution I helped bring to market is:

Technical Cashmere.

My favorite pair of jeans is:

Vintage men’s Wranglers, they are too big for me and I only wear them on weekends, but I love the outline of the previous owner’s wallet on the back pocket.

A brand I admire outside of our industry for smart out-of-the-box innovation is:

Corcrete, which is a lightweight composite material made of recycled cork, cement and bamboo and can be used in a variety of applications such as furniture or countertops.

The textile I’m currently intrigued with is:

Bio Leather, I have been toying with the idea of growing my own scoby at home.

When looking for inspiration I seek:

Problems that I can help solve.

An ideal blend of function and fashion (percentage-wise) in most cases is:

100 percent function / 100 percent fashion.

Good design is obvious when:

It functions and looks good while doing it.

The biggest change in material sourcing I’ve experienced thus far in my career is:

The transition from Naturals to Synthetics and vice versa.

I waste time by:

I don’t like to waste time, life is too short, but you might catch me fly fishing every now and then.

SUSAN COSTA-WALSTON
Founder/Designer
Lily Trotters
When looking for inspiration I seek:

Brainstorming with other designers. Two creatives are better than one, and we can really help each other to think about and look at a challenge differently.

An ideal blend of function and fashion (percentage-wise) in most cases is:

80/20; 80 percent function because the basic construction of a product is the most important, it has to really work; and 20 percent fashion, but I prefer the word ‘design’ as good design defines not just how a product ‘looks’ but also how the product is made.

The best advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now is:

No matter the artistic challenge, be it a photo, a graphic, a painting, a room or even a sock design, it all boils down to the basics of composition — balance, focus, proportion, etc.

A brand I admire outside of our industry for smart out-of-the-box innovation is:

Soma Water.

My favorite pair of jeans is:

Lucky Brand, Sweet Boot Cut.

Good design is obvious when:

Good design is obvious when something is really beautiful but looks so simple. There is typically a much higher concept behind what many don’t see. It appears effortless, like the way an elite athlete can gracefully execute the most difficult activity and make it look so easy.

I waste time by:

Playing with my dog and sidekick, T-bone! He’s just so dang cute. His face and chubby rolls receive tons of ‘cute aggression’ and are a frequent and welcome distraction from my long ‘to-do’ list.

JENNYKA WASSERMAN
Marketing & Development
Nishat Dyeing & Finishing
An ideal blend of function and fashion (percentage-wise) in most cases is:

I love fashion, so I’m probably not going to pick it off the rack unless it speaks to me. That being said, it won’t leave my closet if it’s not functional — so it’s 50/50 for me.  As I get older it’s more important for me to find both. I’d rather buy a few quality pieces that will last and serve a purpose rather then a trendy piece that’s not made well, or just isn’t me.

The best advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now is:

From an early age I think I was exposed to many different cultures, growing up in NYC in the 80s, it was a true melting pot with so much street style going on. My mom is from Norway so there was always this different perspective on dressing from her, and my dad grew up in the South, in Mississippi, and worked in the Home Furnishing Textiles area. So there were all of these cultures and worlds colliding. They all taught me not to conform, and just be your person.

A material solution I helped bring to market is:

At Nishat Dyeing & Finishing we have been trying to bring more technical fabrics into the market, that don’t look stiff and blatantly technical. We have been using Cordura and blending it with Cotton in much lighter weights, then we traditionally did. This has led to some really beautiful soft fabrics that are still super durable. They work great for both the Outdoor Industry, as well as Lifestyle brands.

My favorite pair of jeans are:

I’ve been obsessed with denim since I pulled on my first pair of Wranglers as a kid.  Currently my favorite pair of jeans is Madewell Boy Jean, cropped, with just a little bit of destruction and ZERO stretch.  

When looking for inspiration I seek:

Ulla Johnson. I just love her whimsical designs, soft fabrics, and her prints make me want to go hiking in the prairies!

Good design is obvious when:

You can’t take your eyes off of it, but you’re not sure why. It’s a very natural attraction.

The biggest change in material sourcing I experienced thus far in my career is:

Stretch for men! When I started in this industry 20 years ago it just didn’t exist. Now everyone has added stretch to their men’s lines. Personally I like a little stretch for comfort, but I can’t wait for the Power Stretch in women’s to go away.

I waste time by:

Reading cooking, design and lifestyle blogs like Eyeswoon, Food52, and spending way too much time on Instagram following some of my favorite brands.

TRENT BUSH
VP Apparel
Black Diamond Equipment
When looking for inspiration I seek:

The best inspiration for me doesn’t come from the apparel industry. I try to immerse myself into technologies, innovations, and ideas from outside of the apparel industry, and apply them to my work.

The textile I’m currently intrigued with is:

The Nuyarn merino wool yarn structure, and the ability it allows to experiment in totally new ways, independently controlling all attributes of the textile including performance, durability, weight, and aesthetics.

The best advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now is:

Don’t follow or do what everyone else is doing. There are no rules and there are no limits. The only boundaries are self-imposed.

The biggest change in material sourcing I’ve experienced thus far in my career is:

When localized, domestic USA material sourcing and production expanded offshore in the late 80s/early 90s. It created a lot of new challenges, but opened a world of possibilities.

A brand I admire outside of our industry for smart out-of-the-box innovation is:

A little obvious, but Apple: They go beyond shifting the paradigm of what technology-driven consumer products represent, giving us the tools to create our way out of our own boxes, all while creating a true culture incorporating technology, creativity, art, music, and lifestyle in equal parts.

My favorite pair of jeans are:

It’s a little self-serving, but it’s our new FORGED Denim because we took all the best attributes of all the favorite denim I have ever owned, distilled into exactly what Black Diamond users need.

A material solution I helped bring to market is:

There have been many over the decades, but recently introducing the performance apparel industry to the technology platform of GTT and specifically their Breathable Water Protection, proving transformative performance gains and huge sustainability gains are not mutually exclusive.

Good design is obvious when:

Good design outcomes are obvious when the complexity of factors that went into making a good finished product are NOT obvious. Behind the scenes, the simplicity of a great design is rarely simple in process.

An ideal blend of function and fashion (percentage-wise) in most cases is:

That’s a tough one because I don’t really believe you can separate function and fashion, because the best styles always incorporate both for optimal physical and mental performance. Feeling good IS functional.

I waste time by:

Exploring the surroundings wherever I find myself, in the non-stop cycle of inspiration, design, development, testing, sales, and marketing functions of my work. I live for this, whether lost in the biggest city or at the most remote locations.

HEATHER VAN HELVOORT
Design Director, Head Designer
Women’s Outdoor Lifestyle, Aventura
A brand I admire outside of our industry for smart out-of-the-box innovation is:

Stella McCartney. In addition to her approach to sustainability (she’s gone above and beyond her mission of “respecting the environment and working with nature instead of against it” by using recycled/re-engineered materials, sustainable fibers and a strong Fair Trade policy), she continues to innovate in both the fashion and sport arenas. Her Ultraboost sneakers with Adidas are especially cool – she uses Parley Ocean Plastic yarns, which takes waste from the ocean and repurposes it into yarn. The designs are sleek and comfortable, and reduce your carbon footprint.

The best advice I got at an early age that shapes my creative thinking now is:

Think big. If you have a grand idea, try your best to make it happen and make it the best you possibly can. You can always “water it down” later.

A material solution I helped bring to market is:

As an eco-friendly company, we are always looking to source responsibly. As a designer, I look for fibers that are eco and feel luxurious at the same time. I’m pretty proud of our recycled polyester blends.

My favorite pair of jeans is:

A dark wash pair of mid-rise skinnies from Lucky or Hudson.

An ideal blend of function and fashion (percentage-wise) in most cases is:

90 percent function, 10 percent fashion. Comfort and ease should be paramount. When you feel good in your clothes, you look good, too.

The biggest change in material sourcing I’ve experienced thus far in my career is:

I love that we’re now able to trace a garment back to a farm. Organizations like GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) provide chain of custody certification from harvesting raw materials to finished goods. How cool is that?!

When looking for inspiration I seek:

I live to explore — different cultures and their surroundings, nature in all its glory (mountains, forests, water), architecture, food, music.

Good design is obvious when:

It’s effortless, yet thoughtful. Good design shouldn’t be overly complicated; it should come organically.

DAN ABRAMS
Co-Founder
Flylow
A material solution I helped bring to market is:

Intuitive Perm Fabric.  We tracked down the laminate manufacturer making electrospun membranes that are waterproof and air permeable and combined the membrane with stretch twill and a woven backer. The result is the most waterproof stretchy air permeable membrane.

When looking for inspiration I seek:

1970s surf movies. Those guys were not in it for money. They were seeking a lifestyle. The products had good appeal but were functional first.

The textile I’m currently intrigued with is:

CiClO. It is a synthetic textile technology that renders poly and nylon biodegradable in active landfill.

My favorite pair of jeans is:  

Levis 504 Commuter Jeans.

Good design is obvious when:

The product does not look like it is trying too hard to be anything.  It is just awesome.

The biggest change in material sourcing I’ve experienced thus far in my career is:

The evolution of 3 Layer fabric to be lighter and softer while having more protection than stretch wovens.

I waste time by:

Nothing is a waste of time when you own your time.

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