The art of collaboration is in the happy meeting of minds, methods and materials. Nigel Cabourn – the charismatic British designer known the world over for his utility-inspired clothing – has spent the last 40 years crafting a recognisable look of wide-legged, cotton drill pants rolled up at the hem and worn with workwear jackets in shades of olive, khaki or navy. But, he says, ‘collaboration allowed him to do things he couldn’t do’. For A/W 2017 he has created a collection of 20 unisex pieces with the Swedish activewear brand Peak Performance, available at Mr Porter from next month.
Back in 2015, Cabourn was invited to talk at the Swedish Fashion Council Seminar. It was from there that the idea of a capsule collection sprung. ‘I already knew that his whole label was built around his personal archive of over 4,000 military and activewear garments,’ Sofia Gromark Norinder, head of urban design at peak performance says, ‘but I didn’t know that he wanted to do a skiwear collection!’
The collection features a camouflage parka with a fully working rucksack in its back
Drawn in by Cabourn’s effervescent, concept-led approach, Peak Performance set a meeting. Cabourn knew immediately where to find inspiration: ‘I’m always looking for vintage and I love museums so when I went to Stockholm I was so excited to find The Swedish Army Museum. I saw some of the most amazing ski patrol uniforms there and I wanted to bring together the idea of the British and the Swedish ski patrols in the mountains.’ A parka with a full working rucksack in the back, used by the Tenth Mountain Division in America during WW2, sums up the mood. ‘It was a combination of taking a bit of British and American vintage and combining it with what Peak Performance stands for,’ he says.
Peak Performance was founded by four friends in 1986. Today its offices are set in an old warehouse building by the Stockholm archipelago and, every Friday, staff are encouraged to do something active at lunchtime. ‘Either you run or you go to the gym or in the winter you can go cross country skiing. We have a big field close by,’ Norinder says.
‘A lot of testing happens with all of the garments we make. On the pants in this collection we had to reinforce the hems because the guy who tested them totally wore them out by the time the season was over.’ She adds, ‘Today, people don’t just want to look good - they are constantly bringing sport into their everyday lifestyle, which is something we have really thought about.’ This is Peak Performance’s first ever collaboration: a fitting partnership between a pared-back, urbane silhouette and technical resilience.