White Mountaineering Spring 2012--The lonesome, crowded vest Our wants for technical gear always seem to outstrip our needs. Little chilly out? DOWN PARKA. Light drizzle? HELLA GORE-TEX! For most people, a trip to REI can address the desire to be overdressed with regard to the conditions, but for the true tech-spec-design-ninjas, Japan-based brands like White Mountaineering, Visvim, and Nanamica are quickly becoming standards. White Mountaineering designer Yosuke Aizawa started the line in 2006, and draws inspiration broadly from design, utility, and technology. His background working with Junya Watanabe often comes up in discussions of his line, partly because Watanabe’s recent menswear similarly subverts menswear tropes with color and play. Although it’s not alone in doing so, White Mountaineering incorporates native and primitive influences in its garments. But rather than sourcing solely from traditional makers, the line applies those influences to thoroughly current designs and manufacturing processes. The production pieces, therefore, don’t look rustic, but instead like what a sherpa might wear in a movie made in 1985 and set in 2050 (I’m working on a script). Although there are changes from season to season and year to year, White Mountaineering consistently checks off references to technical gear current and past, but in one-of-a-kind patterns and prints. This print is based on an old wallpaper pattern. Some of the outerwear uses treated shirt fabrics. The spring 2011 collection for the brand is as expansive as the American west it mines for material. The number of patterns, fabrics, and details that Aizawa puts together is frankly amazing; previous WM seasons were similar in range. There are print-based tshirts, washed denim, knit shorts, cardigans, technical outerwear, wraps (prefer not to be called “men’s skirts”), aprons, boots, sneakers, socks, hats, bags, etc. In some cases the blend is more appealing than in others. A print based on vintage wallpaper works well in tanks and crewnecks in a thermal-type corded fabric; but a workboot that uses cowboy-boot leatherwork seems oddly proportioned. But no matter the design, the detailing is pitch perfect--the laces on the boots (and some of the sneakers) are braided leather. Western details abound. White Mountaineering is unafraid of odd proportions. Roomy hips, cropped trouser legs, and other unusual cuts differentiate White Mountaineering from other, more streetwear-oriented lines that interpret some of the same sources. These designer idiosyncracies may make the line a little more difficult to work into a standard wardrobe. White Mountaineering seems to look its best when styled with loads of other White Mountaineering gear. More knit shorts! There's other creative takes on bottom halves--wrap/skirts and aprons. From a technical perspective, the spring collection is more concerned with blocking rain and wind than pure cold. White Mountaineering used Pertex Shield and eVent fabrics in outerwear that is meticulously taped to keep it impermeable to what you would rather not have permeate. There is also some waxed cotton in the collection--it seems that instead of waxing heavyweight canvas as you might for a winter jacket, White Mountaineering waxed shirting fabrics to make light but still water resistant pieces from natural fibers. The panels on this jacket sublty mix many fabric patterns--twill, herringbone, and more. White Mountaineering is available at Context, MAAS and Stacks, Odin, and Haven.