PUMP-UP ARTIFACTS

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A few things have caught my attention over the last few days. All eyes should be on Paris right now, but the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City is where the innovation really lies. This year it’s all about North Face’s evolution of their existing avalanche tech — the Modulator ABS attachment for your rucksack that deploys an air bag — and strange hybrid Meta-Rocker boots from HOKA ONE ONE that would probably generate excited paragraphs if they hit the catwalk. Everybody’s grasping at decidedly non-retro wearable technologies these days, but NuDown’s use of air as insulation, with a handheld, stowable pump to increase or decrease the garments padding to determine your personal warmth has resulted in a collection of pump-up climate controlled outerwear. I had no idea that inflation insulation was even a thing, but reviews on serious equipment sites have been positive. The current Squaw Peak jacket looks a bit fashion in its utilitarian eccentricity, but the 2015 offerings like
the Mt. Tallac Jacket and Mt. Whitney Vest look a little more accessible in their line art — heat-sealed shells that bulk up when the going gets tough? Very interesting. The fact these come equipped with RECCO’s electronic communication system is proof that they’re not made for a Starbucks outing. It isn’t the first air coat I’ve seen (didn’t Final Home create something similar and, as Matt Kyte pointed out to me, Acronym did something similar with GORE-TEX Airvantage thermal adaption), but it’s a joy to see such defiantly progressive things being put to work in some extreme conditions.

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I have no idea what Future Artifacts is, but it launches soon, is based in London, will probably involve printed matter, exhibitions and a physical store. Plus it’s a REAL GOLD and Ditto Press collaborations. Their pleasantly vague website has excellent 8-bit looking A’s and R’s too, which helps.

While we’re talking type, the prospect of a project that investigates the origins and cultural status of that mysterious b-boy typeface that’s not quite old English, not quite gothic, just iconic and always appealing on a shirt or sweat, is an appealing prospect. Heated Words is all about finally answering some questions that everyone who ever paused a VHS or stared at that Biz twelve for a long time as a reaction to the olde world, yet strangely right for the time lettering on display. The site to support Heated Words is in its infant stages, but that Charlie Ahearn Doin’ Time in Times Square film is an absolutely essential watch.

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Alex Olson’s Bianca Chandon line revels in a certain gloss meets grime, near-mythical old-NYC house and disco aesthetic — as was anticipated after the talk of Fire Island photo books during a Transworld interview — and I’ve been impressed by the quality of the gear. Of course, wearing some of this iconography could earn you a G-check if you get caught slipping with these logos and names on your back so it’s well worth doing your homework (not least because the topics are fascinating moments in underground culture). At the moment, everything is getting a collaborative capsule collection created to cash-in on the Supreme wave, but Bianca Chandon’s Larry Levan pieces are smartly done — air brush art captures the era of his decade-long reign at the club and the legend’s own choice of garments, another shirt lists some Paradise Garage classic remixed by him and theres even a Larry Levan pro-model too. It’s a throwback to an influential amyl-scented, Peech Boys and T-Connection soundtracked world. Two other Paradise Garage veterans, David DePino, and Joey Llanos, were involved to consult on graphics and the charity where a portion of proceeds would go (Gay Men’s Health Crisis). Nicely played on Bianca Chandon’s part, rather than simply re-appropriating without renumeration — a depressing aspect of the current appetite for parodies and homages.

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