Are Self-Heating Coats The Next Big Outerwear Trend?

By Ana Colon, 14th March 2016

(extract from full feature)

The desire for function to catch up with (stylish) form is resonating elsewhere in the fashion industry: In London, Emel and Aris is carving out its place in both the luxury and the tech space with its own range of self-regulating warming coats. Its outerwear is equipped with an inert lightweight polymer that produces far infrared (FIR) heat energy, which doesn’t overheat. They’re made from luxe cotton and cashmere-blend Loro Piana fabrics, and are treated to be water-repellent and wind-proof.

The brand rolled out four jackets for pre-order in a Kickstarter campaign on Friday, and the company plans to debut its own e-commerce in August. “Originally, I wanted to launch with four coats for women and four coats for men,” Rana Nakhal Solset, Emel and Aris’ founder, tells Refinery29. Instead, she decided to tighten the focus to two styles for each category in order to get them just right. Within a day, the brand’s Kickstarter was already more than halfway to its goal of $99,386. By the end of the crowdfunding campaign’s first weekend, the goal had been surpassed.

Emel and Aris isn’t the only name peddling the concept on the crowdfunding website: Ravean, a company that makes heated down jackets, raised $1,330,293 in pledges in two months on Kickstarter. (Its original goal was $100,000.) But Ravean’s jackets are outdoorsy and performance-oriented, in contrast to Emel and Aris’ more polished, work-apropos aesthetic.

Solset’s original concept for Emel and Aris was to create a beautiful, luxe product that integrated heating technology. (The lightbulb moment, she says in a promotional video for the Kickstarter, came from a conversation with her 6-year-old son.) While she acknowledges that there are plenty of heating systems in existence, Solset’s is distinctively wireless, save for a short cable in a hidden pocket, which connects to a small battery that powers the warmth. The internal heating panels are then “seamlessly integrated between the lining and the outside fabric of the coat and concentrated on the upper part of the body,” Solset says. That way, the coats are lightweight — so lightweight, in fact, that the wearer might not be able to pinpoint where the technology is housed. That, plus the ability to turn the battery on or off and adjust the heat level on a coat, makes the toppers suitable for milder climates, too.

From initial inception to final product, Solset says the smart coats came together in six months. The process involved an array of prototypes, extensive testing, and revisiting design concepts. The issue with nailing the overcoat’s formula, she explains, wasn’t the technology — it was getting the exact right cut and detailing. (The only major adjustment Solset made to the design involved the placement of the coat’s heat panels.) Besides a pre-e-comm mode of selling coats (and, of course, fundraising), Solset sees Kickstarter as “a forum to ask questions and challenge my decisions.”

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