It’s a wild, wild world out there when it comes to active wear. Considering the impenetrable mountain of waterproof coats, or the indecipherable technicality of outdoor gear, not getting lost in the abundance of brands and designs is a mean feat. One brand that stands out, however, is G-LAB. Founded by Björn Gericke in 2003, and based in Düsseldorf, the brand combines the functionality of outdoorwear with an unreservedly cool aesthetic. Initially set up as a design agency, G-LAB has evolved into becoming a unique brand, notably in terms of its use of design, technology and textile, filling a niche in urban wear that had been left unoccupied.
When G-LAB established itself as a fully-fledged brand in 2007, Björn Gericke was keen to create something different. Before then, G-LAB had designed predominantly for clients in the world of motorcycling, namely for the likes of Harley Davidson and Scorpion. “Obviously, motorcycle apparel came to mind, because we had been doing this all the time, but the market is niche, and there’s not a lot of style in the market. The functional side is more important.” On the flip side of the coin was a wealth of fashionable jackets, which, however, remained merely cosmetic, and hardly functional. It was when Gericke noticed that people started wearing outdoor, active wear as city apparel that the idea for the signature G-LAB jackets came. “That’s when we decided ‘let’s go fashion’, with all the knowledge we have in terms of engineering a product, and with all the functionalities we know about.”
Gericke asks a simple question. “In everyday life, why do we rely on good-looking fashion jackets, with no functionality?” The process of introducing a touch of practicality, it seemed, was fairly self-evident, but no one had thought to put it into production. “They don’t take advantage of all the technology which has been developed over the last 20 years. Everybody still had the old-school approach. Why not merge those two things and take advantage of the high-tech materials in everyday life?” With G-LAB, functionality and fashion collide. “Merge those two things and we give an added value to the good-looking fashion jacket and make it a more versatile piece. No matter where you go, if you have your G-LAB with you, you’re set, you’re well protected and you look good.”
Working against the hegemony of overly bulky, parka-type jackets, the G-LAB designs are as functional as they are technically sound. “The core of the brand is the technology and the functionality in it,” states Björn Gericke. “I took all of the high-tech and put in on the inside, but on the outside, I worked with traditional design and elements of craftsmanship.” Keeping up with the constantly evolving world of sportswear is a priority when considering the technical quality of the brand. “There are different levels of technologies, such as making a jacket waterproof and breathable,” he explains. “We go to the highest level, which is a two or three layer construction.” The fabric, as a result of this design, is at the heart of the G-LAB jacket. “Creating or finding the perfect fabric is at the very heart of our business, this is something that we’re always working on.” When the brand launched into production in 2007, sourcing the right cloth suppliers and establishing working relations with factories was crucial. “We work with different material suppliers, fabric suppliers, and try to create a functional product with them, and try to improve that, over and over again. Every year we have improvements, even in carry-over styles.” As the core of the jackets’ architecture relies on the fabric, this technicality dictates, to a certain extent, the design process. Keeping the construction secluded is the key. “From the outside, it looks like a normal piece, so you don’t see all the technical gimmicks on the inside, but you still have all the functionality.
Despite the technical intricacy, the outer shell remains understatedly cool. “One of the big things in our collections is not to have a big logo on the jacket, to keep a certain level of understatement in the product,” states Björn Gericke. “I like things to last, I like good quality; a certain level of understatement is a kind of luxury.”
The sleek, understated aesthetic of G-LAB is what constitutes its strength. Signalling its origin with nothing but a signature orange tab on the inside, the G-LAB jacket is a versatile piece that can find its way into most wardrobes. “We’re much more open to who’s wearing us, because we don’t put a stamp on it,” Gericke explains.
The ideal G-LAB candidate, Gericke tells us, needs to have a positive outlook on life. “Someone with a young mind, a sporty mind,” he ventures, before adding, “Someone who’s optimistic about life.” In terms of A-List clients, G-LAB counts Brad Pitt and George Clooney amongst its list of jacket owners. “If Gerard Butler or Bradley Cooper were to wear my jacket, I would love that.”
So, what comes next for G-LAB, we wonder? Björn Gericke has certainly placed his ambitions high and shows no sign of slowing down. With stockists of the likes of Harry Rosen in Canada (the second strongest market, after G-LAB’s home turf, Germany), Breuninger and Sachs Fifth Avenue, the future certainly looks bright. “We’re still young,” Gericke hastens to add. “With the fashion line, we’re going into our fifth year. I want to expand that, and consolidate it to make it more stable – we’re at a very good pace, but we’re still young.”
Gericke plans to expand on the philosophy of the brand. “I think it’s important that we stick to our DNA and to our core.” Gericke wants to continue exploring and expanding on the functionality, which constitutes the very roots of the brand. “There always has to be a twist – where we merge the technology, the heritage with the fashion aspect.” With hopes for a monogram store and an expansion into the British market, Gericke explains that the brand is at a good place. And with 2015 marking the launch of the first spring/summer collection, it’s safe to safe to say that G-LAB is on a fast–track.