As we expand our range, it can be hard to keep up with what’s best for what purpose. Nick talks through your choices, and how we created them. This week – jackets.
I admit that I love jackets the most. I should love all my children equally, but I’ve always owned too many jackets, and Emmalou (the excellent missus) has always been driven nuts by my taking over the pegs in the hallway with dozens of prototypes, tests and various year’s of Harringtons, Blazers, Softshells, etc.
Maybe you guys are the same, because jackets are what we sell most of, and what we are perhaps best known for, certainly until we expanded our range so much this last year.
One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is “Which jacket should I buy, I’m not sure of the difference?” Here’s an explanation, and some background behind my/our decision making.
I’m the person who begins a brief for any new garment. I spend months, if not years, thinking about different jackets, and I have a bank of designs and concepts that we’re still using, from before I launched Vulpine.
The first step is to indentify a problem. I’ll use our new Ultralight Thermal Quilted Jacket as an example.
The problem here is that we haven’t made a deep Winter jacket until now. The closest was the Softshell Jacket, which is a great outer layer, but is too ‘all season’ for a freeze. It needs lots of layers.
So next, what essential Vulpine aspects of that jacket need to apply to it. Most importantly, we are not a fashion company, making transient fluff, this jacket will have to WORK. And it must work for cycling, and life off the bike. Therefore it must have performance characteristics (to be identified next) and style, so that it looks great too, and not too ultra sporty.
The tricky part of riding in very cold weather, is being warm enough at a stop, or low pace, but not frying when riding hard. We want you to arrive at your destination feeling good, whether it be breaking through cloud cover in the Atlas Mountains, or breaking the top on a creme caramel on Portobello Road. So this sucker has to be breathable.
Next up, Winter is wet and horrible, so this jacket needs a degree of rain proofing. Notice I say ‘degree’. The more waterproofed a jacket is, the less it breathes. This is improved by using higher quality technical fabrics, but there’s no such thing as a perfectly breathable fully waterproof jacket. Any brand that says this is lying. Period.
So with the Ultralight Jacket, we choose a fabric that could handle drizzle, fog and spray, but not persistant heavy rain. Comfort in varied conditions was paramount.
Next up, this new jacket has to work for cycling. Weight affects your speed, and comfort. Many jackets for Winter conditions are made from thick heavy fabrics. We wanted something gossamer light, and we knew then that quilting was the way to go.
So next, the choice between feather down, or synthetic fill. Well, activity means that this jacket was going to need to be washed regularly. A fashion jacket can be dry cleaned occasionally. This would take relative abuse. So we wanted an easily washable, quick drying (post-washing, or post-torrential downpour) fill.
And with our knowledge of the materials out there, we knew this was a job for Primaloft, who have a superb reputation in outdoor sports. Primaloft is so warm we don’t need to use much, so the jacket is extremely light, as we’re using less, it breathes well, plus we chose highest grade Primaloft Gold, which is breathable in itself.
And so it goes. From here we have a base. In the design we add in everything that makes it a jacket with all that famous attention to detail, like tough gripping shoulders for bags, that also take the brunt of the weather when riding, a rear pocket, waterproof windproof zips, a high comfy neck, stow pockets, a low cut back, etc…
Then we get samples from prospective factories, judge which have interpreted best, then do long periods of Research and Development through testing (wearing, washing, abusing, questioning, etc) and further iterations with further samples until we’re bang on. Then we choose colours and make it. Bingo, the Ultralights are already sold out in some sizes and colours. We did a good job on them. We (well, back then, just I!) started that job back in 2011.
If you’re busy, here’s a super quick summary:
Ultralights – Thermal for cold to freezing weather, lightweight.
Softshells – For mild to cold weather, windproof, lots of storage and features.
Original – Rainproof, all season, breathable, loads of features.
Harrington – Rainproof, all season, breathable, stylish.
Blazer – Shower proof, warm to cool weather, smart, stylish.
Ultralight Quilted Thermal Jacket & Gilet
Very lightweight garments with light rain proofing for use in cool to freezing conditions, dependent upon pace ridden.
As described above, this is for deep winter riding at pace into the countryside, or city wandering in cool weather. A number of us have been sitting around in Vulpine Central Command in them for the last year, when the temperature drops, even in pretty good weather. They’re just very very comfy. The first ever sample was nicknamed by Jools and I, The Gilet of Happiness, and we fought over it for months!
The gilet is essentially a classic bodywarmer, made more performance orientated for cycling. I wear mine for anything under 15c, for dog walks, pub lounging, commuting, the lot. Core temperature is the key to keeping comfortable. If you get the core right, the extremities take care of themselves. I’m quite chunky and run hot, so I found gilets really work for me, as I tend not to get cold arms at all. Its a matter of personal choice really, the jacket vs gilet debate…
Softshell Jacket & Gilet
Tough windproof feature-heavy jacket with lots of storage for use in mild to freezing conditions.
The Softshell was the first garment I designed. A utility jacket that can be used day in day out, with loads of easy storage, but still looks sharp in daily life. Its had absolutely incredible reviews since launch, with it even scoring the highest of ALL jackets in Road.cc reviews.
Its a great outer shell, used with a short sleeve T in mild weather, right up to me wearing it in the snow with three long sleeve merino tops and thermal gloves!
There are pockets at the front, inside and especially at the rear, with a valuables pocket and two big cargo pockets, that can even manage a U-lock.
The jacket is absolutely heaving with features too, with fold-back reflective cuffs for night-time indicating, adjustable hips and neck, magnet closures (velcro wrecks clothing and is naff), rain resistance, fleece inner cuffs, hidden wrist pocket, embroidered logos, water and wind proof zips, and removable high-visibility and reflective splash guard.
The gilet obviously lacks the arms, but retains all other torso features except we removed the storm flap, as rain proofing is reduced by no arms anyway!
Harrington & Original Rain Jackets
Probably the two garments Vulpine is best known for, the Original has been here since day one, and the Harrington 6 months later.
It all starts with the original premise behind the rain jackets I wanted to create for Vulpine, years ago. From decades of riding in all conditions, at all paces, I knew that a fully waterproof jacket sounds great in principle, but is pretty disgusting to wear in practice. Whatever the marketing tells you, a jacket that doesn’t let water in, is not going to let water out. Often riders think that a fully waterproof jacket has leaked because the rider is wet, when actually its simply because they’re basking in their own sweat. The “boil in the bag effect”.
That is really uncomfortable, unsightly, smelly way to ride in rain. A waterproof is ideal for torrential rain or many hours in constant heavy rain. These conditions happen, but are rare. So anyway, I wanted to have the most comfortable jacket, so it had to be really breathable. Warm, moist air must escape, if you’re not going to arrive drenched.
After a huge amount of research, Epic Cotton was the solution. Its a very high quality tight weave cotton with a silicon coating, that you only notice when the rain beads off it. The weave means that air can pass out of the jacket, so it breathes. Its also ideal for Vulpine because its not shiny and crinkly, so it looks great and offers the opportunity to cut tailored lines. So we invested in using it in a big way.
To the differences between the two:
The Harrington has a snap-magnet (addictive to use!) high collar, a covered front zip and no front pocket flaps, with reflective waist adjusters and a rear pocket.
The Original has a more sporty, low collar and magnet front pocket flaps. Now add in features similar to the Softshell, with fold-back reflective cuffs, reflective shoulder strips, wrist pocket with key carabiner, removable splashguard plus adjustable hips and neck.
The women’s version also features an internal adjustable waist-cord, which beautifully pulls the back of the jacket together for a more feminine profile, if wanted.
Oliver Spencer x Vulpine Cycling Blazer
Extremely stylish British tailoring for lightweight multi-season city commuting and meetings, with shower resistance and reflectivity on the bike.
I’ve known Oli (yes, he’s a real person!) for some time, but we’ve perked up each other’s egos when we meet, as we love each other’s gear. I was an Oliver Spencer customer, long before we met by coincidence over dinner. So it was inevitable we’d create something together, and that was this blazer, that launched early this year.
The press attention that our blazer has garnered was nothing short of extraordinary, with articles about our collaboration in The Sunday Times, GQ, Esquire, Road.cc, High Snobiety, Selectism, Mr Porter, The Evening Standard, The Telegraph….it goes on…
Why? Well its Made in England beautiful British tailoring with function. Its seen as a leader in the new “Sport Luxe” trend that’s big in the places where these things matter.
The fabric is Italian, lightweight, crisply tailored and shower resistant if you get caught out.
I have used mine in cool to warm conditions, combining it with a T-shirt on dodgy Summer days, to a shirt and jumper in wintery weather. Its deconstructed, so you can fold it up and chuck it in a backpack, to be used later.
There is hidden reflectivity that you can select on the neck, cuffs and rear tail vent.
That’s jackets. My favourites (though don’t tell) because you can pile the features in and really go nuts on detail. We do love our features.
Next week I’m talking t-shirts, shirts and jerseys. Until then, do email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call (+44) 020 3151 4100 with any questions at all.