Senior Director of Advanced Concepts Greg Grenzke and Senior Designer Brylee Gingras take the Empire Marketing team Behind the Design at the Arc’teryx Design Centre in North Vancouver BC.

We had the opportunity to visit Arc’teryx back in March of 2022. Our tour of their Head Office, Design Centre and even one of their manufacturing facilities, known as Arc’One, was a behind the design introduction to the brand. Many people in the industry told us that Arc’teryx makes some of the best outerwear in the world, if not the best. However, we needed to see it for ourselves and talk to some of the designers to see if all the hype was warranted.

Arc’teryx Equipment launched in 1989 in North Vancouver and has grown to be one of the most sought-after outdoor product companies, and for a good reason. Whether it’s the products’ quality, durability, weather resistance and advanced technologies, it's amazing warranty and repair program or it’s unique style and craftsmanship, you know you get what you pay for when purchasing an Arc’teryx garment.

While in Vancouver we interviewed some of the senior design team at Arc’teryx to find out more about the brand, product development, learn about the brand’s presence in the snowboard industry, its various product lines, its sustainability efforts and much more. Check it out below.

Hi Greg and Brylee! You have these impressive, albeit hard to understand job titles, can you tell us more about what exactly it is you do at Arc’teryx and how long you have been with the brand? G: I've been at Arc’teryx for about eleven years now. Since I've been here, I've worked on our technical apparel in our climbing category, I’ve been involved in footwear since we launched the category, and I was also overseeing all outdoor product design at one point as Design Director. Today, I'm the Senior Director of Advanced Concepts. Brylee and I have worked very closely since she started at Arc’teryx! B: I have been at Arc’teryx for more than eight years. I came on as a Design Assistant on the Snowsports line, which used to be called Whiteline. In my time here, I have moved around from snow to climb to hike and I've kind of done a full circle. Now I'm a Senior Designer for our Snowsports line.

Your snow sports category is by far the most popular for snowboarders. Can you tell us a bit more about the line? B: That’s great to hear because our snow line is specifically designed for skiers and snowboarders alike. It really came about in 2001 and the idea at that time was taking our best-in-class materials/constructions and bringing them into the snow sports world. This is still our ethos today. If you were to compare a climb specific jacket to a snow specific jacket, there's going to be notable differences; the big ones being articulation specific for ski and snowboarding, pocketing, snow specific features and of course aesthetic and fit. If you were to try on an Arc’teryx snow jacket, you would probably notice the Freeride fit is a little bit roomier, with additional length in the body. You would notice snow specific features, such as RFID pockets for lift passes, powder skirts, and internal dump pockets for gloves/mitts. Another thing that’s different on the snow line is the colouring. Our team does a great job of using unique, bold colours, as well as colour blocks that you wouldn't see in other categories. G: In Snowsports and Freeride we still really focus on timelessness. Freeride might be a bit more progressive than other categories in our line, but we still want the Snowsports line to look modern and relevant in five years or even 10 years. Our products are an investment, and we want that investment to provide value over time.

What are your biggest influences and inspirations when it comes to creating products? B: As designers at Arc’teryx, we are influenced by the activities that we design for. Being able to test products firsthand, and being inspired by the problems that we experience, is the biggest influence for me and many other designers. Another inspiration is our athletes. We have an amazing roster of snowboard and ski athletes. They're using our products in different ways, giving us feedback, comments, and recommendations. We value our team’s opinion, as it is essential for inspiration when it’s time to design products.

Can you give us a brief overview of the process of creating a new product at Arc’teryx? G: Building off what Brylee said, having a user's point of view and understanding what problems we are solving for. These are the foundations of creating a new product. As for the actual creation process, most of it starts with the materials which are the backbone of our products. We’re always looking for new and improved materials or construction ideas. We listen to feedback, find the best material for our needs and design the product from there. Once we have a material, we typically run everything through traditional lab tests like tear strength, abrasion resistance, waterproofness, etc. After the lab tests, we send wear tests into the field, as this is where we really see how the materials/constructions perform. We really do lean on our athletes for that because they are living in the products almost every day.

Can you elaborate on what products go through before entering the market? G: Lab testing is a big part of the process, and there are so many different types of lab tests. How does colour hold up over time in UV light, abrasion resistance, wear and tear, waterproofness, how well are fabrics bonded together when laminated, breathability, durability, etc. Then we listen to the feedback of people who tried the products, to make the next one as good as it can possibly be. B: There's nothing more inspiring for me than getting a text or call from an athlete about a certain prototype they're wearing. We take their feedback and keep iterating the product until it's ready to put on the market.

How often do you go out to test products in the backcountry? G: It depends. If it’s a completely new material or concept, we would need more time in the backcountry for testing; at least a year. If it's using an existing material, maybe a little bit less time. We are fortunate that we are in Vancouver and have three local mountains near our office. We can go for a few touring laps on Mount Seymour or Cypress Mountain before work for instant feedback on the product!

Do you think Arc’teryx would be the brand we know today if its headquarters wasn’t located in the Coast Mountains? G: Not likely! The reason many of our products even exist is because they were created to help us be more comfortable in our environment here in the Coast Mountains. For example, if you're going into the Coast Mountain backcountry, often you transition through various conditions. You might start below the tree line, hiking through the rain forest. Then, as you continue to push up to the snow line, that rain turns to wet snow. Then, you are up in the alpine where you are more exposed to high winds and colder temperatures. Our local environment really is the best way to know how our products hold up against all the elements. I think a lot of our inspiration comes from all the time that we've spent suffering due to the elements and trying to improve products based on that. So yes, it definitely made a huge difference.

Arc’teryx also creates products for heli guides and mountain rescue teams. What’s the difference between these products and the regular line? G: There are several differences. One of the big differences is the materials we use. Our guide uniforms use materials that must hold up in heavy use situations. It might take an average person 5 years to see the same amount of wear that a professional guide sees in a season. Other features our professional products often include are knee pads, tougher constructions, more durable pocketing materials, jacket pockets that accommodate radios, removable RECCO reflectors etc. Also, colour choice is quite different on our guide gear. To improve visibility most guide jackets have a fluorescent orange hit on the hood. This colour is essential to be able to see the guides on helicopter landings and in low visibility situations.

Can you tell us more about the «circularity» of your products and how you reduce waste? G: One thing that hasn't changed since the beginning of the brand is that we've always believed in designing for longevity. Essentially, we want to make the products last as long as possible. This significantly reduces our impact on the environment as compared to having products that last a fraction of the time. Another big part of our product circularity is repairability. We strive to make our products repairable, especially for the most common failure points. For example, zippers are one of most common failure points on our products, so we ensure the zippers can be repaired or replaced to keep the product in use.

Can you tell us about the Arc’teryx ReBird Program? G: ReBird is our circularity platform which includes care and repair, resale, upcycling, as well as making new products from leftover materials. One of our goals is to reduce as much waste as possible. Ideally when we order materials for a production run, we don’t have any leftover materials, but this is often not the case. We have a line that we call ReCut, which uses those leftover materials to create unique products with limited runs. Another aspect of ReBird is used gear. Basically, we buy Arc’teryx products back from customers, clean it, repair it (if needed) and resell it again. This keeps products in use for as long as possible and out of the landfill. Used gear and clothing is growing in popularity, especially with younger demographics who might not be able to afford a new product, or simply don’t want brand new products. The best part is that ReBird jackets are still covered under the Arc’teryx warranty, which is cool. At the end of the day our goal is to reduce our impact on the environment as much as we can, by using more, keeping product in use for as long as possible, and using lower impact materials without sacrificing performance.

Should we expect new products or technologies from Arc’teryx in the upcoming seasons? B: On the Snowsports side, we're focusing on a touring jacket that you had a chance to check out: the Rush Insulated Jacket. It brings in more breathable insulation in a durable weather protective outer layer. For Fall 2023, we are evolving our Freeride category and expanding our silhouettes to further broaden our offering. Moving forward, we will also have naming conventions for our three categories, so it’s easier to differentiate and know which product is designed for different uses. For example, our Men’s Rush franchise is designed for touring needs, our Sabre franchise is designed with a focus on Freeride, and our Macai franchise was designed around the needs for resort use. On the Women’s side, the Touring franchise will also have the Rush name, Freeride has the Sentinel franchise, and Resort has the Andessa franchise. We're also adding a fun new silhouette called the Theriss. Sounds great! We look forward to these products hitting the market and getting a chance to try them out on the snow. It was a great opportunity to see behind the design at Arc’teryx and we hope that we get the opportunity to get back out to Vancouver soon.