Next level collectionNext level collection


November 14, 2017

5 min read
Words: Helene Ravlich
Photos: Icebreaker

Working out of Icebreaker’s design HQ in Portland, Oregon, Bryhn Ireson is the Global Merchandise Manager for Icebreaker’s socks and men’s apparel lines, but his reach goes much further than that. Described in-house as a “one man bridge between business, market research, design,   development”, Ireson was the person we turned to when we wanted to know more about the newest addition to the Descender family, the Descender Hybrid.

What’s the inspiration behind the new Descender Hybrid collection?

The inspiration comes from functionality, and helping a certain type of adventurer to perform better. Whatever kind of sport they’re into, we’ll help them stay warm and active. A lot of fabrics keep people warm when they’re not moving but then, when they do move, they overheat and have to stop and change layers. We wanted to provide the “just right” moment of not too hot and not too cold, breathable but protected. The Goldilocks spot – that place between warmth and breathability.

testing fabric in southern alps
  1. The Southern Alps are the perfect testing ground for our new fabric technology.

We wanted to provide the “just right” moment of not too hot and not too cold, breathable but protected.”

So it wasn’t created with a specific athlete in mind – it’s a pretty universal collection?

The Descender Hybrid is designed to be versatile, but it’s also really focussed on the more aerobic, cold weather pursuits. This could be backcountry skiing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing… the types of activities where people experience a combination of working really hard and also going downhill, or gradually slowing down. If I had to pick one I’d say backcountry skiing would be the pinnacle application for the Descender, or mountaineering in places where you need to stay really ventilated on the uphill. It then gives you protection for when you’re cooling down and the wind comes up, so you don’t have to waste valuable time stopping to pull a shell out of your bag.

testing just right moment
  1. The Descender can hold it’s own during both the most technical and active persuits as well as campfire downtime.
southern alps lake wakatipu
  1. The Descender keeping the crew warm, in it’s natural environment in the Southern Alps under Tooth Peaks. (Lake Wakatipu)
Who has been testing out the the fabric for you? It sounds like it needed a pretty rigorous workout to get right.

We have a wear-test programme that involves our staff trying out each garment, as well as our brand ambassadors who are professional and high level athletes.

Because of where we are in the season here in the US we sent as many garments as we could to New Zealand. It was the perfect time of year to test an insulated garment there, as opposed to Portland, Oregon where we’ve had record highs all August!

How do they give you feedback?

It’s rigorous! The wearers rate the garment & give feedback on the fit, the function, how comfortable it is, the level of warmth… even how much it stinks after multiple days’ use. We really isolate the questions we ask, to get what we call the “big truths” about the product, rather than just subjective opinions.

long day in southern alps
  1. The Descender after a long day in the Southern Alps can last well into the evening.

"We really isolate the questions we ask, to get what we call the “big truths” about the product, rather than just subjective opinions."

What can you tell us about the new fabric innovation?

The garments are made up of a combination of totally new fabric, and fabric that’s not totally new for us. The majority of each garment is made from our Descender fleece, which is mainly merino in composition but has heat-trapping channels on the inside to help regulate your temperature during high-exertion pursuits like skiing, climbing or running in cold conditions.

The Descender Hybrid rates really highly in terms of warmth-to-weight value, and in terms of clo value, which is a measure of thermal resistance (warmth) and super important to fabric tech nerds like me! This means that for a really lightweight collection, it offers a tremendous amount of warmth. We then added another layer of insulation via our amazing MerinoLoft fabric, and a protective nylon woven layer across the shoulders. It’s the perfect balance of protection and warmth, with breathability and performance.

What three words would you use to describe Icebreaker’s design aesthetic?

I’m actually going to give you four words, because we’ve put a lot of time into working out what those words are and we really believe in them. They are: simplicity, versatility, longevity and purpose. We strive to put these design principles into every garment we create.

Lastly, what does nature mean to you?

Nature to me means a return to a simpler state for humankind – a return to the earth and a connection back with that. The more technologically connected we become, the more I see nature as the ultimate antidote to our lifestyle.