We speak to Reine Barkered of Elevenate to discover what it takes to design the ideal jacket for freeride; taking his ideas from concept to production.
You are standing on a mountain ridgeline, looking down the corridor of your dreams. You take your time getting ready; there’s no hurry. You’ve been waiting long enough for this moment. You reach inside your chest pocket for your phone and take a selfie to treasure the moment. A gust of cool air whips upwards through the rock cleft and showers you in the lightest spindrift, each flake catching the late afternoon sunlight. You zip up the collar of your jacket, tighten the baffles against the elements. Stomp your skis and drop in.
The last thing that you will be thinking about, the last thing that you should be thinking about, is who designed that jacket. At that point in time, you just want it to work. You want it to fit, protect you against the elements, give you all the freedom of movement that you need, and if there happens to be some convenient pockets to store a phone, lift pass or snack, all the better. Now, it should also look good ideally, and it will need to cope with the rigours of use year after year. It takes skill, knowledge and experience to design a garment that ticks those boxes, but what does the creative process look like?
From pro-athlete to co-designer
Reine Barkered could have been that guy on the ridgeline, although his idea of a dream line might be a little more extreme than yours or mine. He has been Freeride World Tour Champion and won multiple competitions over the years. Now in his early forties, he’s starting an additional stage to his career, with Swedish ski apparel company Elevenate. We are chatting via a video call about what makes a good jacket, and how he became involved in the design process for Elevenate’s new Pure 100 jacket; their limited edition technical freeride jacket.
“Two years ago I was talking to Elevenate about sponsorship, but I also asked if there was anything else I could do with the company. Fortunately they needed a Community/Team Manager, so I took on the role. I’ve always given my sponsors product feedback, but it kind of grew with Elevenate and I ended up having a big input into the design of the Pure 100. I worked with Sara [Rönngren, designer and co-founder of Elevenate] to create a jacket that is tailored specifically for freeriding.
“We already had the Pure jacket in the line-up which is an incredible back-country ski jacket, so it gave us the opportunity to create something truly specialist. I had a long list of things that I wanted, based on my years of practical experience – but not much design knowledge. Sara brought many years of design/product experience and know-how with her. That meant I could concentrate on the ‘want’, and Sara worked her magic to create a product that was ready for the market. She really did the heavy lifting.”
The perfect jacket
I’m intrigued to know what makes the perfect freeride jacket in Reine’s eyes. What has his years of experience taught him?
“I don’t think that it’s rocket science; at least until you dig into the details. The first thing I wanted to focus on was the fit. A longer jacket works well for freeride, and I’m a little taller than average, so it has always been a bit of a bugbear of mine. You also need to make sure that the jacket gives you plenty of freedom of movement; whether that’s for tricks or just the right layering, or both. I have often found that jackets are too restrictive around the neck, so we opened up that space but made the collar slightly higher to compensate when it comes to keeping cold drafts out. Finally, I wanted to add chest pockets. When most free-riders carry their avalanche transceiver in their trouser pocket, it's useful to keep your phone on your chest. We added a mesh liner pouch to stop your phone from bouncing around. Oh, and we placed a chest pocket on each side, so it works for left-handers too. Don’t want to leave anyone out!
“For me, the hardest stage of the process was early on. While I could come up with a list of things that I’d like, it was much harder to visualise what it might look like. That’s where Sara came in, as she turned ideas into sketches, then technical drawings. She told me what would work, or the knock-on effects of one decision over another.”
The one decision that was a no-brainer though was using GORE-TEX technologies for the shell membrane. “
“There is a Swedish proverb that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. We get our fair share of bad weather, so we need to make sure our clothing is ready to perform in the worst the elements have to offer.
“Nothing works as well as GORE-TEX fabrics when it matters. It’s all we would trust for durable and reliable performance. We have had great feedback about the standard Pure jacket, which uses a flannel-like backing to boost warmth and comfort. There are always some areas that you have to learn to compromise on when it comes to design, but this was a line in the sand.”
From sketch to snow
A concept drawing is obviously far from the end of the process though. It took around two years for Reine, Sara and the team to go through the full development cycle.
“For me, things got really exciting when we received samples. The jacket really came to life. There are certain things that you learn only once you’ve got a product in your hands. I think we went through three or four iterations at this stage; really honing down on the perfect fit and features.”
And as the jacket edged closer to a final production run, there was the all-important question of colour.
“We are a small company, and this jacket was only going to be made in a limited run, so we only had one colourway option. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’m a very stylish guy, so I leant on Sara a lot for this decision. But I love the outcome. I like the muted tones of the jacket and the flashes of bright secondary colour. It looks great in photos; and that’s all important for freeride.
“The jacket has just gone on sale, ready for the 2023/24 winter, so we will see how it goes. I’m really proud of it, though, and I’m looking forward to using it in my own adventures. I’m stepping away from competition this year, but I’ve some ideas for trips and documenting them, and the Pure 100 will definitely be the first thing I pack.”