October 24, 2023

5/20 2:44:41 UTC
The Shell: The Piece That Started It All

It’s the reason we started the company: We got impatient. 

We wanted to go out and do all the things. We wanted to bring stuff with us — whatever we might need. Yes, even in the rain. We wanted to get out there, do it and look good doing it, in our home city, or in wild, unspoiled and scenic spots at the end of the world. 

Think of it like solving for X. We were solving for the perfect outer layer. There’s a perfect equilibrium where “everything you want to do outdoors” meets and conquers “all eventualities,” and that’s where we wanted to be.

Over the years, we’d plugged various shells, parkas, and other outerwear into that variable spot. All failed us on some level. If they worked, they looked awkward. If they looked good (and most of them did not), they didn’t work — especially their hoods! 

After several rounds of prototypes, we revisited the old-fashioned military snorkel hood, which works perfectly to keep rain, wind and cold off your face (especially important if you’re wearing mascara and on your way to work). To solve for its shortfall of obstructing your peripheral vision, we added snaps to the sides, which could be folded back when cycling. 

However, perhaps because we were prototyping in red (we couldn’t get any other Pertex 3-layer during the pandemic), we were shocked the first time we folded the hood forward. We experienced it as a gesture of resistance to a life lived “under his eye” and realized that we had designed for a need we hadn’t yet articulated: the need to be unbothered! If that strikes you as unfriendly, then you’ve probably never been cat-called on the street. Even so, there may be times when you feel introverted or need space, and if so, you can wear the hood folded forward into what we call “f*ck off” mode. 

Early prototypes of our Shell were in red because that was all we could get our hands on without committing to thousands of yards of fabric we weren't sure would work.

Beyond the hood, we designed the Shell to function as part of a layering system, to be worn on its own when it’s hot, or over an insulation layer, yes, even our Puffer, when it’s not. Think of it as a deconstructed insulated down parka — one you can take apart when it’s warmer or layer together when it’s not. If you’re really moving — doing snow sports or biking for example — we made it breathable, so you could wear it over something like our Light Fleece. 

Although useful, pit zips sound disgusting and look ridiculous when open. So we redesigned them as side zippers, both to dump heat and allow you to dial in your desired silhouette. Dialing in your silhouette also means you could wear it throughout your pregnancy without having to buy a new raincoat. Or maybe you just think an a-line looks nicer with your skirt or kilt.

Prototyping our Shell in a stunning natural park in Porto (which just happened to be adjascent to our solar-powered factory).

Putting it on, you will notice that because of its removable panel, you have the ability to zip it from either the masculine or feminine side. Didn’t know zippers were gendered? Then enjoy learning about how its two-way zippers reject not only gender and class bias, but the normalization of militarism!

Finally, entire books have been written about the degree to which half the human race has been deprived of pockets. Why stop with zippered inner and outer pockets, when you could attach a removable bum bag to the front? It turns out that this removable bum bag can be worn cross body or around the waist (with additional customizable straps) too.

This jacket did not magically appear, but does any idea? What started as a sketch launched us on a nightmarish journey through Covid-era supply chain disruptions. All the time spent prototyping in red, gave us time to develop a particularly strong crush on a Sprinter Van which inspired the jacket's ultimate color, “forest black.”

It also sent us on an amazingly wonderful journey to our solar-powered factory in Porto, which happens to be adjacent to stunning natural parks where we could test our seam sealing under a waterfall. Porto has also been perfect for post-prototyping vino verde debriefs and swimming off the next day’s hangovers at Alvaro Siza’s seaside Leça pools. If you want to trace our journey through Porto, you can do it here

Appropriate, then, that the Shell’s journey into this world perfectly mirrors that of the company. Challenging, exhilarating, and absolutely worth it, and we hope you’ll think so, too.