Helly Hansen: an outerwear concept
Helly Hansen’s background is something of a standard for the industry. We’re not generally talking about fashion, but the very specific business of making utility-first clothing.
Though it may not be obvious in the era of Supreme and The North Face collaborations, winter wear was all about a proverbial arms race. Every brand was trying to make sure it was ahead of every imaginable curve. Science and fabrics were brought together constantly, each major name trying to find the sweet spot of outerwear design. The long and productive history of Helly Hansen proves that it was, in fact, no exception.
One of the advantages that an outerwear provider can opt for is that of experience. Specifically, few would know better about equipping yourself against the bitter elements than a captain at sea. That just happened to be the background Helly Juell Hansen and Maren Margarethe, his wife. Off the back of their many years at sea, the pair started producing heavy-duty winter gear, including oilskin jackets and trousers. Their manufacturing technique involved taking durable pieces of coarse linen and soaking them in linseed oil. A pioneering method, this allowed for every garment to come with elite insulation and warmth profile.
To say this was an innovative process might be underselling it. In 1878, just one year into production, the garments prompted the Paris Expo to award the Hansen brand it diploma of excellence. Fast forward five years and the sea-faring couple have sold over 10,000 pieces. What’s more, their oil-based technique was now an industry standard. As much as this must have pleased them, the company needed to move forward. As the brand moved away from the 1800s, so did the market’s trend. Oil-based outerwear was on its way out, which meant something more advanced was to take its place.
This marked the perfect opportunity for the Hansen brand to essentially bring about a new industry standard: the 3-Layer System. The brand went ahead with a thin piece of translucent plastic that would accompany waterproof coats. The production numbers skyrocketed to 30,000 pieces per month. Hansen continued to advance, even bringing about the Fiber-pile, a fleece developed in 1961. This piece was extremely popular among outdoorsmen and laborers as it kept them well protected from the cold but was still well ventilated. It’s that sort of design philosophy that leads to the modern Helly Hansen brand name we know today.
Protection from the cold plus a breathability profile, that’s what led to the introduction of Helly Tech and H2Flow. We can see the same design motif on pieces such as the Odin Veor Down Jacket and the Dubliner. Each of these comes with a build that shields you away from the bitter cold winds, keeping you warm, but not overwhelming you with insulation. When designing clothing for those who labor on the sea or slope the Alps, there is nothing worth the compromise of pragmatic balance. Helly Hansen has never forgotten that.
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