Gripping Developments In Gloves
Standing before Tower Gap, nearing the top of Tower Ridge, absolutely freezing cold, and all I could think was “why oh why don’t we make gloves at Alpkit?”.
Of course, I was wearing gloves… but they weren’t the kind of gloves that you’d want to be wearing when belaying on a Scottish winter route – they were far more ‘affordable’ gloves than that. For me, this highlighted a big hand-shaped gap in our range. Our ‘thing’ is designing and making kit that we want to use for prices that we can afford… we’re people who go outdoors and get cold hands, so why not make gloves?
Time to apply the Alpkit philosophy and design principles to create a range that really encompasses what it means to Go Nice Places and Do Good Things, and helps you do it without getting cold hands.
But first, here are a few photos from Tower Ridge...
A blank slate
‘Intimidating, but well exciting too’ (like all the best adventures?), that’s how I’d describe going from no gloves to a comprehensive range. With a blank slate to work from, we’ve had the opportunity to define exactly what our glove range is. This opened a whole world of possibility, but as the saying goes, a whole world of possibility could end up being too much glove. Okay, let’s focus, refine, and start thinking about the purpose of our glove range…
Start with ‘who’…
We focus on the end use of our products every step of the way, so our first port of call was to ask ‘who will be wearing these gloves?’. Well us, obviously…but also anyone who climbs, mountain bikes, cycles, bikepacks, runs, hikes, mountaineers, swims, paddles… We’re a mixed bunch, but whatever the discipline, we wanted to make a focused and purposeful range to meet the hand comfort needs of outdoorsy people.
The ‘who’ question still left us with a lot of choice, so in the name of moderation we began our range with 4 activities in mind: climbing, running, cycling, and hiking. That said, we’re firm believers that both specialist and multi-activity garments have their own important roles to play within the wardrobe, this range would reflect this by including some multi-activity, ‘take-them-everywhere-with-you’ styles too.
We’d decided what our range would look like, now for the fun bit – features. We started by drawing up a list of ‘non-negotiable’ features for each glove – from the absolute basics (fingers) to those special touches that make products that just work without any effort. With cycling mitts this could be anything from the weight of the fabric to how easy it is to take them off and put them on again, whilst for running gloves you might be more worried about visibility or packability. We’ve got first-hand experience of the activities we’re designing for, and this experience is invaluable at this stage. Our design decisions are informed by experience of using and abusing the garments we’re working on (plus we get to test them – hurrah!).
Testing is definitely one of the perks of the job...
Stick to our principles
The choices we’ve made with the glove range really invoke our philosophy and vision. Take leather choice for example…
Natural product is never perfect, just look at vegetables! Supermarket veg is only a fraction of what is produced because most retailers only sell stuff deemed to be “perfect” (exactly the right shape and size). On the other side of the curtain, there is a mass of wonky vegetables which are wasted or sold cheap. The same can be said for leather, where natural marks on the hide can lead to leather being rejected for purely aesthetic reasons.
When it came to choosing leather for our gloves, we weighed up the pros and cons of using ‘wonky veg’ leather. The fabric may not look quite so pristine, but these gloves are design to take a beating anyway, so maybe not-quite-pristine isn’t so bad after all. By using seconds’ leather, we’ve been able to keep the retail price of our gloves low, making warm hands outdoors more accessible!
Then obsess over the details
The details are important! They’re the bit that we take for granted when we buy a pair of gloves in the shop, but great efforts and expertise have often been invested in getting the details just right.
Think about dexterity… We’ve all worn gloves with big bulky seams that stop you from moving your fingers freely, but when our gloves are dexterous we don’t tend to notice. When we think about how you’ll be using the gloves we make, we’re sure that dexterity is just another one of those essential features that we can’t compromise on. To make sure nothing can interfere with the connection between you and your handlebars, ice-axes, or trekking poles, we worked hard with our manufacturers to reduce the seams down to a tiny 3 mm.
Fast forward to the result
They say it’s all about the journey, but secretly we all want to get to the end and find out what gloves will be available in our initial launch! We’ll be bringing out 8 new products to begin with, including cycling, MTB, running, liner, and fleeces gloves, as well as a waterproof softshell for mixed climbing/ski-touring. As the autumn arrives, there’ll be more to follow ready for Scottish winter routes to be back in season (this time, we’ll be prepared!)