Nature as a problem solverNature as a problem solver


October 25, 2017

4 min read
Words & Photos: Helene Ravlich

Portland, Oregon-based Rebecca Ward is Icebreaker’s inspired – and inspiring – Head of Global Apparel Design.

Having held this role for the past three years, Rebecca has played a key part in developing some of the brand’s most compelling collections, using some of today’s most innovative tech fabrics. This makes her the perfect person to talk to about Icebreaker’s Affinity Thermo — a versatile new mid-layer that takes natural performance to the next level.

How do you begin designing a new collection for Icebreaker? How does the process kick off?

Our inspiration always starts with the natural performance and provenance of the chosen fiber, and New Zealand’s merino wool is simply the world’s best performing fiber. It naturally protects us in all conditions through its thermoregulation properties. When designing and developing the FW17 collection we were hyper focused on the layering system that excels in all conditions, and helps you to perform in a variety of cold weather activities, including everything from adventure travel and winter hiking to alpine skiing.

Thermo design details
  1. Design details: Zip neck collar for temperature regulation.

The Affinity Thermo was inspired by a love of the outdoors.”

What was the inspiration behind the new Affinity Thermo?

The Affinity Thermo was inspired by a love of the outdoors. Design details and lines support the varying elemental conditions wearers may find themselves in, and the material combination of the thermoquilt adds a beautiful texture. We intentionally placed the quilting where it’s needed most for warmth, range of motion and layering. The design and colors make it versatile enough to wear as a mid-layer on the mountain, après or just in your everyday life.

The thermoquilt fabrication
  1. Naturally born to perform at it’s best in the midst of your wildest adventures.
The design studio
  1. The design studio, located in Portland.
Who was it designed for?

The Affinity Thermo was designed for our Core Adventurer — someone whose passions and hobbies permeates their everyday life. When designing for the Core Adventurer, we always seek balance, and carefully consider the look and details, as well as the technical fit and comfort. The Affinity Thermo is a perfect example of this — it combines the coziness of merino and quilting with the refined placement of line and stitch, making it effortless to layer up.

Can you tell us about the new fabric innovation involved?

The new fabric innovation is the thermoquilt jacquard technique that adds loft and lightweight pillows of air within the pattern. These act to hold in the warmth generated by the body to protect the core. The bonus is that visually it’s quite beautiful, especially in this season’s heathered colors.

  1. Design details: textured face fabric with flat back provides optimal thermal properties of trapping heat.

"Natural performance is the ultimate idea to draw inspiration from, and can be found in all forms in the world that surround us."

  1. MADE TO ENDURE. Naturally born to perform at its best in the midst of your wildest adventures.
Was it easy to test out? Or did you need to trial it in specific activities or conditions?

We test all of our new technologies and products in the conditions our customers will wear them in. We really are our harshest testers. We send new pieces to our team around the globe and gather up all the feedback and refine any details, fit or function necessary. Our goal is to give our customers the best possible experience.

What are the key features of the new blend?

The new blend highlights the natural performance of our merino wool. The Affinity Thermo is lightweight but wonderfully warm, it stretches and moves with the body, and it’s durable enough to wear with your gear or throw on with jeans.

What does natural performance mean to you?

Natural performance is the ultimate idea to draw inspiration from. Mother Nature is both the best designer and problem solver. Natural performance can be found in all forms in the world that surrounds us.

The essence of merino wool’s natural performance comes from the sheep itself. The sheep grows this magical fiber to protect itself from the harsh winters of New Zealand’s Southern Alps and also to stay comfortable in the spring and summer when it’s quite hot.

Lastly, I am inspired by solutions that come with consciousness for the planet we live on. Nature doesn’t waste; merino wool is a sustainable and ethical fiber. This makes our design approach more purposeful and human.

What are three words that you think describe Icebreaker’s design aesthetic?

Simplicity, versatility, longevity and purpose. Sorry that’s four, but these are the design principles that guide us in every decision.

Lastly, what does nature mean to you?

Nature evolves, reacts and solves constantly, it is a constant source of inspiration.