FEATURES : WHAT’S IN STORE

What’s In Store? – Outlier

By Andrew Craig

Published October 15, 2013

Abe Burmeister and Tyler Clemens of Outlier

Photo: Rose Callahan

Abe Burmeister and Tyler Clemens of Outlier

Abe and Tyler in their Williamsburg studio.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Abe and Tyler in their Williamsburg studio.

Outlier has expanded into six rooms in the building. This is the main office where design and fulfillment takes place.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Outlier has expanded into six rooms in the building. This is the main office where design and fulfillment takes place.

Orders are packed with a thank you note accompanied with their iconic swan logo stickers.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Orders are packed with a thank you note accompanied with their iconic swan logo stickers.

"Unfashion" on the left, fashion on the right.

Photo: Rose Callahan

"Unfashion" on the left, fashion on the right.

Recurring shapes in the studio.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Recurring shapes in the studio.

Technical and performance fabrics are an integral part of Outlier. Here Abe thumbs through their swatch library.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Technical and performance fabrics are an integral part of Outlier. Here Abe thumbs through their swatch library.

Inside the stock room. Outlier's <a href="http://shop.outlier.cc/shop/retail/air-forged-oxford.html" target="_blank">Air Forged Oxfords</a> on the right nearly sold out less than 24 hours after it was available online.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Inside the stock room. Outlier's Air Forged Oxfords on the right nearly sold out less than 24 hours after it was available online.

Tyler and Abe shows us their archive room filled with prototypes and one-offs.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Tyler and Abe shows us their archive room filled with prototypes and one-offs.

A sign outside their studio.

Photo: Rose Callahan

A sign outside their studio.

Outtake of Abe Burmeister and Tyler Clemens on the roof.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Outtake of Abe Burmeister and Tyler Clemens on the roof.

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Outlier’s conceptions is a testament to the uniquely serendipitous moments that life sometimes offers. Abe Burmeister and Tyler Clemens wanted to design a new breed of functional, smartly styled clothing that could stand up to exhausting bike rides as easily as a desk job or night out without the need for a shower and change in between. Neither had any design experience.

Abe wanted to make pants; Tyler wanted to make a shirt. They had to look good – slim, modern, minimal – but more importantly, they had to work. They had to handle Abe’s Williamsburg-to-Midtown commute without tearing like jeans or wool pants, but still look office appropriate. They had to be water- and sweat-resistant, so Tyler wouldn’t have to change every time he got caught in the rain or worked up a sweat riding into the East Village.

When they first set out to solve their problem by buying some new clothes, they quickly found out that nobody was making the clothes they needed — and that the only solution was to make it themselves.

Abe did artistic and informational work, while Tyler worked in retail. Which, as it turned out, worked perfectly when the two finally met and formed Outlier. With products in-progress, the two shared a favorite coffee shop, but never crossed paths; they only met through happenstance. Though before long, they were scouring fabric trade shows for materials to conceptualize new and better designs, initially for bicyclists, and then more broadly for any kind of life in motion.

“We looked at it more like a hypothesis than a business plan,” Tyler says. The venture was entirely self-financed, and began as a humble side project while both continued their respective jobs. It wasn’t long, though, before Outlier quickly gained popularity with their first product: The OG Pants — a tailored pair of trousers made from their unique core fabric that repels dirt, water, sweat, and just about anything else — which they still produce a version of today. Now, though, Abe and Tyler have gone far beyond either’s original ambitions to offer a full line of classically styled wardrobe staples with a breath of fresh air: unique technical fabrics, carefully re-thought construction, and, most importantly, a sense of adventure.

The Scout:What were you guys doing before any of this started?

Tyler Clemens: I was working at a record store in the East Village. At the time, record stores were going out of business, and I presented to them the idea of selling things online. We did, and it actually took off in a way that no one thought it would. A year later, we were shipping 250 orders a day. At the time, though, I wanted to learn more about clothing and design, so I started working at a custom suit and shirt maker. I was working there for a year before I started Outlier — though I kept doing both those things while we were starting this.

Abe Burmeister: I had an animation company for a while, then I moved to artistic work and then information design — big data kind of stuff, which was a lot of sitting at a desk and staring at graphics. When we started, my main client was on 41st and Madison, and I would be going back and forth between the Garment District and these high-tech venture-funded offices, which was like jumping back and forth 100 years in time.

The Scout:So how did you meet?

Abe Burmeister: We got lucky. A barista at the café I always went to, right by my house here in Brooklyn, figured out that we were doing the same kind of thing; I was making pants and he was making shirts.

Tyler Clemens: One day I was in there when it was raining, and the barista offered me an umbrella. I said, “No, that’s ok — I’m testing out this shirt.” She asked me what I was talking about, and I told her that I wanted to see if I had succeeded in making it water resistant. And she told me that’s exactly what Abe was doing and that we should meet, so she gave me his e-mail address and we were in touch the next day.

The Scout:What were the individual pieces you were doing?

Tyler Clemens: I was biking in every day to Manhattan from Williamsburg, and I wanted a shirt that would handle sweat and be cleaner after a ride so you don’t have to change constantly. I was trying to find a new performance fabric and apply it to traditional tailoring methods.

Abe Burmeister: I just wanted to go buy a pair of pants. I was destroying all my jeans, and when I had to dress up I couldn’t ride my bike for fear of destroying my nice wool pants. I figured I’d go shopping, then come home and be done, but I couldn’t find anything. I finally found a pair of shorts in a great material, but the company didn’t make them in pants — so I decided I had to figure out how to do it myself. There’s a little kiosk at 39th and 7th for fashion information, so I went up there and asked how I could do it. From there I just started digging into the Garment District.

When I first started out, I was taking outdoor clothes and trying to make them more presentable. I figured that the most expensive thing in outdoor stores would be the best of the best — and it’s not. We realized really early on that there’s an entire world of really incredible fabrics that no one’s using because they’re too expensive for their business models.

The Scout:What do you attribute your early success with the OG Pant to?

Tyler Clemens: It really didn’t have any substitutes at the time; there was no one else making a pant like that.

Abe Burmeister: We also caught some really good breaks with press, all of a sudden we had this traffic coming to us which spread to other blogs. The first year we were really a “bike to work” company, which was intentional to limit the design challenges. It resonated well and made a good story. I think people spend too much time looking at their screens; you need an outlet, and the freedom of getting on a bike does that. But there was a certain point where it started to feel really constraining — people would say, “Your pants look so cool, but I don’t ride a bike.” Well, so what? So we expanded our focus to the broader idea of combining the technical with fashion.

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