Since launching in 2008, Outlier has gone from being one of the most innovative and exciting makers of active apparel, to one of the most innovative and exciting makers, period. They’re one of the few contemporary clothing companies where the execution is consistently as good as the idea; their forward-thinking, performance-driven clothes are great on paper and on the body. Their products are bold and idiosyncratic, yet still wearable and uncomplicated, and, above all, they always serve a purpose. So, no matter what your (life)style, you can still appreciate / benefit from / be inspired by / love what they do.
Cofounders Abe Burmeister and Tyler Clemens recently took some time out to answer a few questions through email. Here’s what they had to say.
Well Spent: Outlier began as a solution to a problem (that problem being a lack of pants one could be active in, but still wear in non-active environments). Is problem solving still the driving force behind your products? If not, what is?
Abe Burmeister: Yes, problem solving is absolutely core to what we do. We are always thinking about what we can make better. We are constantly iterating and refining our existing products, and when we think about what to make next it’s always framed as making something better or different than the options available now.
Tyler Clemens: We’re definitely focused on making clothing that enhances and makes our life better, so problem solving is a key element to that. But to expand on this, we also want to experiment with new forms and ideas and not be locked into one particular way of thought. So we develop experimental products that are released a few times a year which allow us to explore outside our boundaries and learn without constraints.
Outlier fans have an almost cult-like devotion to the brand. Did you ever expect such a fervently loyal fan base?
AB: When we started we were just happy to sell a few pants! Everything since then is just a wild snowball ride.
TC: I think we both had the discipline to not expect anything and take it one step at a time. That said, we’ve got great customers and their feedback and interaction with us has been a guide for how we can improve on what we do.
Because your fanbase is so loyal, it seems like almost every product you release sells out within the first week. Do you ever worry about loosing new customers due to not having enough inventory? Have you considered increasing production?
AB: First off, this isn’t really true. Some releases definitely sell out very quickly, but there are also ones that develop a lot slower. A good example is our Soft Core Bomber, which is a really fantastic product we released last fall but we still actually have a couple left of in stock.
It’s a tricky balancing act. We want to make enough so that everyone who gets our emails has a chance to buy the new stuff, but we don’t want to make so much that we are stuck with inventory we can’t sell. We’re a small company so we have to be careful managing risk. We want to take risks with our products and push things as much as we can, but to offset that we need to be careful with our production volumes. If we make too much of a product that no one buys we’re over, so we step carefully and think hard about which risks are worth taking.
As for new customers, we do try to have some core products in constant stock. Things like the Slim Dungarees, Ultrafine Merino T-Shirts and New Way Shorts (during the spring/summer) should always be available so there is always a way to get a good taste of what we do.
TC: Broadly speaking we are increasing production quantities on almost all our products. But like Abe said, we need to manage risk. It’s very expensive for us to make our products, and having too much sitting on shelves would be a problem. For other brands and industries, often times they can over produce because the opportunity cost of losing a sale is much greater. Unfortunately, this type of model leads to the wasteful over production of goods and the endless cycle of sales to get rid of stale product. That’s not something what we want to do or be a part of.
In the last few years, I’ve noticed a handful of new brands that are offering some very similar products (almost too similar). Do the copycats bother you, or is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery?
AB: To quote Omar from the Wire, “it’s all in the game yo, it’s all in the game”. Thankfully no one has come at us as ruthlessly or stylishly as Omar yet!
You guys are self-professed fabric nerds. Have you discovered any new textiles that you’re particularly excited about?
AB: Yes, but we aren’t going to talk about them before we release the products that use them! As for stuff we’ve used a bit already, we’re super excited about merino blends like our Merino/Co shirting fabric and also the non-woven Ultrahigh Molecular Weight Polyethylene stuff we’ve used in some bag collaborations is really amazing stuff and we’d love to work with it more.
TC: Absolutely and more and more we’re getting the opportunity to work closely with our suppliers to create all new compositions and fabrics. Merino/Co was a development that we worked with Global Merino to bring to market. Previously there was no one else that we knew of offering these type of shirts. Similarly our Air Forged Oxford was also developed from scratch and we went through a few rounds of fabric and mill trials before we got it right. We’re always digging and striving to innovate so stay tuned for more.
You have weekly open studio days, in which you invite the public to come and try / buy Outlier products in person. Have you ever thought opening an Outlier store?
AB: Sure for an hour or two, and then as soon as we realize how much work it would be we go right back to focusing on online stuff!
TC: Yeah, we’d have to step wisely with this one.
Lastly, tell us about some of the new Outlier products coming our way this summer.
AB: Nothing that we can talk about publicly, but July is traditionally a time were we do some of our weirder and riskier experiments. Best way for people to keep up is by signing up for our mailing list or hanging out on our subreddit.
For price and purchase info, visit Outlier.