Outlier’s Abe Burmeister and Tyler Clemens deliver their best interview yet.
Where the Nikes, Adidases, and even Under Armours of the world are complacent, Outlier picks up the technical clothing slack.
NEW YORK — Here at Lean Luxe we hold a deep sense of fascination with Outlier, and as silly as it might sound, we regard co-founders Abe Burmeister and Tyler Clemens as the Willy Wonka-esque duo of the modern luxury space. Quite simply — and we mean this in a good way — they vibrate on an entirely different frequency from that of the rest of the sector.
They’re very much driven by finding solutions to problems that simply haven’t been addressed by existing brands. Where the Nikes, Adidases, and even Under Armours of the world are complacent, Outlier picks up the technical clothing slack. Yet for every strong product that has broad versatility, they’ll surprise us with a completely unexpected experiment like a modern assassin’s technical trench coat. And to be sure, their deliberate, anti-fashion production cycle (they release products as the idea strikes, rather than sticking to seasonal collections) allows them to do this better than anyone.
You’re given a full taste of Burmeister’s and Clemens’s thinking here in a conversation with Maekan’s Eugene Kan (a former Hypebeast founding team-member). We’ve broken it down for you, but trust us when we say this is a longread that’s more than with your time.
On shedding the reputation of being a biking brand. “Cycling was a trap,” said Burmeister. “It was for the first year, very helpful and it was very deliberate… intentional. We focused on one problem set. If you focus on too many problems, you’re juggling too many balls. Then we got the point where people loved our pants but didn’t want to wear them because they didn’t bike. If we wanted to expand past it, we had to move past it and kill it. We don’t shoot on bikes, we don’t talk about bikes. It was needed [but], it was tough and it was painful.”
That said, they’re just as opposed to being labeled a lifestyle brand. “We don’t see ourselves as a lifestyle brand. We don’t focus on it too much. Apple doesn’t care who buys it, they focus on making the best possible product. You can do whatever you want with it. It’s not like if you buy it you’ll look like a surfer or the hottest skater. You buy Outlier to open the range of your possibilities. We’re not selling an identity or way of life. We let you choose your own life. You can do what you want and the clothes will follow you and work.”
Outlier’s three point philosophy on creating for “movement”. “Each Outlier product often has three touch points in design: Body Movement — How clothing handles movement such as cycling or running for a train. Liquid Movement — How clothing handles elements such as sweat, rain and dirt. Social Movement — Moving between social spaces and how one interacts in an office versus a coffee shop or a park.”
On the benefits of avoiding wholesale: “When you’re in that system, the best brands find their own hooks and angles but they can’t do performance without pushing the price. We decided to route around that [and] use higher-quality materials and go straight to people. Our stuff is not the cheapest but we deliver value. Some people confuse value and price. We want to give the best product for the price. We try to make sure there’s incredible value. If you’re buying a $200 pair of pants, you’re getting way more than what you’re buying down the street.”
On experimentation and the Wonka factor: “We’re trying to make stuff that resonates and persists. But some things are quick experiments. We play around with Outlier Public Prototypes that’s only on social [media]. It’s super fast and loose, and we can experiment and take risks and we don’t have to worry about it messing up the collection. We can do 30 [pieces of a run] and put it up on Instagram and our subreddit.” What other brand does this?
On focusing on the long game. “In a series of stark words, Abe and Tyler nod in unison: ‘It’s painful when you’re running a brand. People don’t understand the act of creation. It’s an insane amount of energy. It’s not just a burst of energy, it’s a sustained push.’”
Extra credit: Some good travel sense from Burmeister. “I’m a big believer of half-bag travel. If you travel with one full bag, what do you do if somebody gives you a book or a gift? I don’t believe in wheels because it slows you down. It speeds you up in the airport but slows you down [outside the airport].” No argument from us.