Most innovative men’s apparel brands

June 2020

What are the emerging brands that are gaining a foothold in the market by challenging the traditional functional clothing?

As we have already discussed in one of our RECENT ARTICLES radical change across the industry is precipitating not only a green recovery but also innovation in textiles. We have seen an uptick in new and emerging brands, which merge exceptional performance with street appeal to produce crafted garments that are engineered with superior technical fabrics, innovative manufacturing technologies and meticulous attention to detail. Therefore, in our dictionary it got its name as Urban Performance brands.

Upstarts look to men's performance to carve out a niche and gain a foothold in the market by challenging the traditional functional clothing. These brands are sometimes even called the next generation due to their radical approach to textiles, science and technology driven innovation. They experiment with garments and technologies that anyone has ever experimented in the clothing industry. A brand worth mentioning here is Vollebak that has made its Full Metal Jacket from copper as the first step in developing intelligent and disease-resistant clothing, and that is only the beginning of the new revolution. Another exceptional characteristic of these brands are that sustainability is very high on their agenda. With technology and innovation, these forward thinking brands seek not only to protect man but the planet as well. A notable brand in this area is RAEBURN that incorporates 4R’s in their ethos: RÆMADE, RÆDUCED, RÆCYCLED and RÆBURN.

Astonished by their different approach to fashion and countless innovations introduced to the field, we look at some of the rising stars of urban performance brands that have chosen to challenge the industry.

BYBORRE, founded in 2010, Amsterdam

BYBORRE is a textile innovation studio working on the frontiers of material development, functionality and aesthetics through engineered knits. Over the past six years, they have worked with clients such as Nike, Adidas, Wings + Horns and The North Face. Signature to BYBORRE are the innovative hand-rendered techniques that, through direct interaction with their circular knitting machines, give the studio full creative freedom to play with patterns, colours, and textures within their fabrics. Designing from the yarn up allows BYBORRE to discover new possibilities both within their own collections and for leading brands. The archetypical clothing pieces in the studio’s own label tell an important story about the relationship between material and machine, along with introducing a new approach to fashion where process and product are equally important.

RAEBURN, founded in 2009, London


RAEBURN, the eco-fashion house, is known for making garments out of sustainable or recycled materials. Christopher Raeburn has established his eponymous brand with responsible and intelligent fashion design for a global audience. The RÆMADE ethos in particular has pioneered the reworking of surplus fabrics and garments to create distinctive and functional pieces.

A COLD WALL, founded in 2015, London

Nike x A-COLD-WALL (
Nike x A-COLD-WALL (

A sartorial response to London street culture and the zeitgeist of Britain's working class, Samuel Ross launched A-COLD-WALL* in the fall of 2015 to reflect hegemonic disparities and youth expression in contemporary fashion. The directional aesthetic of Ross' men’s ready-to-wear line is informed by his studies in both graphic design and illustration, and creative work alongside Off-White's Virgil Abloh. His distinctly multidisciplinary vision is present in handcrafted graphic t-shirts and reversible French terry hoodies. Pairing logo-printed pullovers, lounge pants, and hooded jackets, A-COLD-WALL* is the curated product of unconventional tailoring and streamlined design.

MARCELO BURLON County of Milan, founded in 2012, Milan


Designer, DJ, Argentinian-born Milan resident, and cultural impresario Marcelo Burlon launched his County of Milan line in 2012. Burlon’s ethos: Think Local, Act Global. A pure expression of the moment, Marcelo celebrates the liberating, exhilarating joys of contamination. He is the great officiator of a thrillingly contemporary melting pot. What started with a line of printed t-shirts has since exploded into a streetwear line closely linked to his nightlife roots. Boasting Burlon’s signature pixelated diamond logo, men’s hoodies, graphic t-shirts, beanies, and luxe sweatpants combine the comfort of sportswear with the underground luxury of modern clubwear, in a bold monochrome palette of black, white, and red. High-contrast digital photographic prints kick casually austere streetwear to the next level (Retrieved from

STONE ISLAND, founded in 1982, Italy


A devotion to extensive research and continual experimentation has been at the forefront of Italian menswear label Stone Island’s design philosophy since its inception in 1982. Founded by Massimo Osti and now helmed by creative director Carlo Rivetti, the brand’s offerings speak to a range of 80s and 90s subcultures. Casual and utilitarian-inspired designs are crafted using complex dying processes and textile treatments developed in-house. Innovative pieces including pixel-reflective nylon metal jackets, Tela polyester coats, and ultra-light hooded down jackets showcase the label’s acute attention to detail. Collaborations with brands including Supreme and NikeLab Stone Island have garnered a following within streetwear audiences.

NEMEN, founded in 2012, Italy

NemeN Evolves Garment-Dyeing Techniques for SS20  (www.
NemeN Evolves Garment-Dyeing Techniques for SS20(www.

Leonardo Fasolo launched NemeN with Fabio Cavina in 2012 having honed his craft at Stone Island and C.P. Company. Drawing on the formula laid down by Massimo Osti throughout the late 20th century, the label utilises cutting-edge technology to create military-inspired outerwear and separates. Each piece is handcrafted in Italy after extensive research in a process that can require multiple treatments and take weeks to complete. Signature features include 3D pockets, cap-like structured hoods, camouflage colour palettes and Acid Dye finishes.

ACRONYM, founded in 1994, Germany

Acronym's Uncompromising Focus on Function  (
Acronym's Uncompromising Focus on Function(

ACRONYM was founded in 1994 by Errolson Hugh and Michaela Sachenbacher as an independent design agency, with a focus on the fusing of style and technology in functional apparel. The Munich-based brand is known for its highly-innovative and versatile designs that often utilize a monochromatic palette. With little or no marketing, ACRONYMS’s projects speak for themselves, such as the Analog MD Clone Jacket -- named as one of TIME Magazine’s coolest inventions of 2002 -- and collaborations with KHS Tactical Equipment Germany, the manufacturers for the German Special Forces. The brand’s uncompromising focus on function caught the attention of Nike’s eye when it commissioned Hugh to oversee the reintroduction of its ACG (All Conditions Gear) line, by redefining sport utility garments for the city.

VOLLEBAK, founded in 2016, London


UK based Vollebak is on a mission to take on the outdoor industry through the use of science and technology and provides a space to design and develop highly unusual adventure gear that stands up to extreme conditions and performance challenges. Each style is built to perfection, following rigorous testing by athletes, adventurers and scientists and while some more futuristic styles are available via a waiting list only, a collection of men’s key pieces are available to buy online.

Iconic pieces include the Relaxation Hoodie, designed to enable ultimate recovery from extreme challenges, as well as their 100-Year Hoodie, which is constructed from a material five times stronger than steel to last the wearer for the rest of their life, while the 100-year pants are made from a material so tough it was originally built to enable the military to walk through fire.

VEILANCE, founded in 2009, Vancouver

Veilance SS20  (
Veilance SS20(

Veilance is a sub-brand of Arc'teryx Equipment, conceived to explore the design of a system of minimalist modular layers in response to varied urban environments and combines material innovation with leading-edge garment engineering and construction.

To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, Veilance received a new brand identity, as well as launching the Fast and Light capsule collection, which includes wool pants, shorts, shirts and jackets made with GORE-TEX SHAKEDRY™ technology. All pieces are lightweight, packable, and highly breathable, which extends the range of activities the wearer can comfortably do, allowing seamless transition between high output activities and everyday use.

OFF-WHITE, founded in 2012, Milano

Nike + Futura + Off-White SS20  (
Nike + Futura + Off-White SS20(

Off-White is an Italian luxury fashion label founded by American designer Virgil Abloh. Conceived of as a bridge between the worlds of streetwear and high fashion, designer Virgil Abloh's Off-White explores concepts of branding, the zeitgeist, and the expression of youth culture in the contemporary moment. Abloh translates timely inspirations ranging from the graphic lines of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House to typography and emotionally significant prints in his ready-to-wear collections, all with the goal of providing a wardrobe that reflects luxury as it is lived today.

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