The great coat reinvention: the smart outerwear brands that combine fashion with function

Written by Caroline Issa, September 2017

If Uber, Airbnb and Spanx could hijack all that we thought we knew about their respective categories, why can’t someone successfully disrupt the outerwear market? I recently met with two women who have taken their passion for functional luxury and used it to update the classic coat, launching just in time for the new season.

Emel & Aris 

“My son, Mathias came up with the idea,” explains Rana Nakhal Solset, founder of Emel & Aris. “We were going to visit Father Christmas in Lapland and given how cold it is at the North Pole, he asked if I could make sure I packed heated coats. That’s when the lightbulb moment hit: how is it that in this day and age, with all the technology we have at our disposal, the weather can still affect the way we look and what we’re free to do? How is it that heated coats are not a ‘thing’?”

So started Solset’s quest to insert heat technology into two classic coat shapes – the trench and a double-sided cashmere jacket wrap – to create what she calls a “smart coat”.

“Heated clothing has existed in workwear for quite a while now,” Solset acknowledged, “but the technology typically used has a number of downsides which make it hard to incorporate into more delicate clothing.”

She spent years perfecting the wearable technology with a manufacturer who believed in the idea, and found that “inert” technology would be essential to enabling them to incorporate it into natural fabrics such as cashmere, cotton and silk. Sourcing Loro Piana storm-proof cashmere, the coats have the quality and cut that enable them to stand side-by-side with the established luxury brands of today.

Despite having to recharge the small battery pack nightly (I do the same for my Apple watch – initially an annoyance, it soon becomes habit), there are purported health benefits to this wearable technology. The infrared heat it produces stimulates better circulation and collagen production in the body, as well as soothing aches and pains (think of those heat pads you can buy in Boots for muscle injuries).

“I strongly believe that if technology has a place in fashion, it has to have a real benefit,”  Solset shares. “Let the cut and fabric of the clothing take the main stage. The technology should never be a gimmick.”


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