Impossible Game: An Interview with Outlier’s Abe Burmeister

We recently caught up with Abe Burmeister, founder of Outlier clothing. Outlier stays true to its name by marching to the beat of its own drummer. They bend conventional notions of what urban clothing looks like and how it should function in everyday life. Daily life turns out to be a demanding and diverse set of requirements driven by a series of environments: relatively inactive home life, an active commute, in and out of the office, wherever the night takes you and everything in between. Outlier calls itself “The Future of Clothing” and — to a small company like ours that’s out to change an industry — a mission like that is downright inspiring.

What was the original inspiration behind Outlier?

We just wanted a better pair of pants. One that would lets us ride our bike around the city everyday, regardless of whether we were working, going out or walking in the rain. Once we realized no one was making them we set about figuring out how to do it ourselves, which really meant taking fabric from the outdoor world and making really classically constructed garments.

Why the black swan logo?

A black swan is the symbol of an outlier so once we had the name the logo pretty much followed.

Where does Outlier’s clothing fall on the urban/outdoor spectrum?

Way over on the urban side, we’re a city company through and through. That said one of our core premises is that what you put on in the morning should not constrain what you do with your day, and if that happens to be getting deep outdoors than our stuff is going to work really well.

Do you see yourself moving more in one direction over another?

We’re a New York company, the city is our home.

One of the things that’s immediately striking about Outlier’s aesthetic is its minimalism. Do you see minimalism as the future of clothing?

The clothing industry is absolutely gigantic, the biggest clothing brands in the world have 1% of the market, there is room for austere minimalism and rococo maximalism and a million other ever changing styles in-between.

Where do you see the future of clothing heading? Will we all be wearing Schuller-grade fabric one day or will we be wearing high-waisted wool trousers as the future looks in the movie, Her?

Predicting fashion is pretty much an impossible game, only constant is that it’s going to change and change again. But it’s our hope that the underlying fabrics will keep getting better and better. We just worry about making amazing stuff that we want to wear every day.

Some of your photoshoots are in pretty incredible outdoor destinations, like Iceland. How do you decide that a particular product warrants a trip like that and where to go?

Wish I could tell you. It’s a big group process, obviously we look at photos and talk about various places we’ve visited, and then we talk about what we are making and what we want convey. But how that all gets distilled down to booking tickets to the next location is a pretty amorphous process.

Does your team ever go camping or hiking while on these expeditions? If so, what are some of your favorite spots?

It’s all hard work so while we might put quite a bit of milage in, it’s nothing like proper hiking or camping. As far as locations we’re drawn back to a few, Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty in Utah, and various places in the Mojave come to mind. And of course in our backyard we have a deep affection for Newtown Creek, a four mile industrial waterway in the heart of New York City. A hundred years ago it was the absolute center of American industry, and now its almost a wasteland. On weekends or after hours you can wander around it for hours and see less people than you do on a lot of hiking trails, while touring the ruins of a lost America.

You’re hangin’ out after a long hike or bike ride, what are you listening to and what frosty beverage is in your hand?

Right now? Probably Ben Frost, Nas or Popcaan

Lumbersexual – a fad or here to stay?

Just some media bullshit, the better you can ignore stuff like that the healthier you are.

Right on! Thanks for taking the time to give us a peek into what makes Outlier tick, Abe. Like getting to know other clothing labels we love? Check out our journal on Blood & Bolts here.

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