For a long time, functional jackets were an article of clothing indicative of a German style of dress: tested and practical but not particularly fashionable.
Young, trend-oriented city-dwellers, irked by fellow citizens influencing urban crosswalk scenes with their quirky hiking outfits, have long held the view that wind and weatherproof clothing should remain in the mountains where it belongs. A few years back, even the established brands geared themselves towards outdoorsy clients, which didn’t exactly lend street appeal to rain jackets and backpacks. But this view has long since fallen behind the times. One man with a considerable stake in streetwear recognized early on that a functional jacket in the urban canyons of large cities was no longer a fashion faux pas and that in most cases, even looked good: Jörg Haas has seen the business of functional clothing from many angles over the last 20 years. His collective knowledge and close connection to the materials and various brands has made him one of the industry’s most important consultants.
“I see myself as an intermediary between Gore-Tex and other brands.”
His career began at the turn of the millennium in Munich, although he’s since admitted that that was never really part of the plan. At that time, he was searching in vain for people and channels that shared his interests: design, sneakers, Japan and street art. As a logical step, he founded “Beinghunted” in 2001, an online magazine about those topics, which has since become a go-to source for street style commentary. “I didn’t think that anyone would even read it. As the years went by, I noticed that there was an audience for my content,” says Jörg, who founded Beinghunted at a time when there were neither comparable formats nor supporting systems for publishing content online. Over time, Highsnobiety and Hypebeast developed as new online platforms and surpassed Beinghunted. Jörg, however, does not regret that he did not expand his idea. “If you think about how you now have to publish content on an hourly basis instead of a daily one in order to get the necessary click rates, I really must say that that’s not what I’m interested in doing.”
In 2005, the Munich native was off to Berlin. Here, he opened his own shop to sell clothes by the brands he had written about on Beinghunted. “Among them were Visvim, WTAPS, Burton Idiom, several magazines and Supreme, which I’m particularly proud of,” he shares. From trading out of an apartment, Jörg later moved his concept into a traditional store space and after ten years in retail, he wanted to get back to the beginnings. Today he works from a large studio in Mitte and shares his knowledge and his experiences with the brands that he’s been connected with for years now. “That’s ultimately more valuable for me in both a financial respect and for the brands, which get more from a consultant than from a store that simply pays its bills.”
In his role as a neutral middleman, he consults for material manufacturer Gore-Tex for collaborations with brands from the field of functional clothing and beyond. For that, he can count on his broad spectrum of contacts with brands, people, media and agencies. “I see myself as an intermediary between Gore-Tex and other brands. On the one hand, you have the technology and the know-how and on the other the creative energy and finally the sales market.”
“If a jacket is made for conditions in nature, but works just as well in the city, then it really gets exciting.”
Jörg’s fascination with functional clothing stems not only from his long-standing interest but also from his close friendship with makers of the Acronym label, Michaela Sachenbacher and Errolson Hugh, who Jörg knows from his time in Munich. Their archive and knowledge were a revelation for him: “From that point on, it was no longer about mere consumption but rather the fact that I had the opportunity to speak with the manufacturers and learn more about what was going on behind the scenes and how a jacket was made.”
The production and the development of functional items require more time than conventional pieces of clothing. “You have to set your wits to the function, the material and the processing in an intense way.” By contrast, the world of fashion is moving faster and faster as collections appear in ever shorter intervals and prices hit rock bottom. The slower pace of producing functional clothing seems to be to its advantage: Although the technical materials used are no longer considered to be environmentally friendly in terms of production and disposal, the half-life of the products is becoming much longer, the design is less subject to trends and for that reason wearable for a much longer period of time. Many manufacturers and brands now also offer free repairs or returns for their products with subsequent, professional disposal.
“The conditions and requirements for functional clothing have always been there.”
For Jörg, the translation of functions into the requirements of the urban context is also very appealing: “If a jacket is made for conditions in nature, but works just as well in the city, then it really gets exciting.” The movement of functional clothing into the city is perhaps not due to fashion trends but instead a logical consequence of the climatic conditions in urban spaces: “In the morning, you walk to the bus and later to the subway. During lunch break, you may make your way to a shopping center and in the evening to a social event”. Apart from that, mobility is playing a growing role: We can now travel between continents and climates in no time at all. “The conditions and requirements for functional clothing have always been there”, according to Jörg, who sees manufacturers’ ever growing know-how about materials and processing as an argument for replacing wool coats and waxed cotton jackets with light and weather-proof functional clothing.
A glance at Jörg's favorite pieces
Beyond that, manufacturers are gaining access to new target groups: City-dwellers bound professionally to business wear can now benefit from functional clothing thanks to brands like Stone Island Shadow, Nanamica, Arcteryx Veilance or Acronym, which can be worn with a suit and without the wearer seeming like a parody of himself. Functional clothing labels also work with brands in the lifestyle sector, take the collaboration between The North Face and the New York-based skate label Supreme. “Supreme in particular is very good at pulling pieces from the archives of established companies that themselves aren’t aware of the brands anymore.” Brands that are actually based in the outdoor sector are getting more interesting for young, fashion-driven people, regardless of the actual intended function of the jackets. For that, in his role as a consultant Jörg particularly appeals to fashion-heavy brands, in that the function must be conveyed along with aesthetic and stylistic considerations.
The inner workings of a brand consultant
Two developments can be expected in the near future. The offering of the tech wear sector will be larger. However, Jörg doesn’t yet see the corresponding demand for it: “I see the original function of protection from the weather but don’t currently have the need to incessantly check my pulse or know how many calories I’ve burned.” He sees more potential for that as part of an integrated system: From what you wear directly on your skin to your shoes, different pieces of clothing should work together and do that without the wearer having to look like a field researcher in the polar regions. A great prospect.
Thank you, Jörg, for your time and the deep insights into an industry of which we we rarely see more than its water and wind-proof surface. Beinghunted offers an online shop and an archive that goes back to the very beginnings. Here there’s also an overview of what Jörg’s doing nowadays. You can find him on Instagram here.
This portrait is part of collaboration between Freunde von Freunden and Gore-Tex together we are meeting the industry experts and look into the creative development of functional clothing.