Hybrid Life

UNIQLO with Ayumu Hirano

UNIQLO is proud to present the Hybrid Down Parka, based on the signature jacket we developed with Ayumu Hirano, one of our Global Brand Ambassadors since last November.
Working his way through the skateparks and the slopes, Ayumu embodies the “hybrid life.” How is this reflected in his personal uniform?

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Lighter, Easier

Did you just see that? Look how high he’s flying! How many times did he just spin? The moves Ayumu Hirano brought to the halfpipe in the finals of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang seemed to defy the laws of gravity. If you slow down the videos of him spinning through the sky, his gyroscopic motions prove so complex they’re hard to grasp. Working together, we developed a signature parka for him to wear at competitions. Creating not simply a jacket, but a tool that would enable his traversal of alternative dimensions, while helping him to soar higher than ever.

In August 2018, Ayumu arrived at our first meeting instilled with a sense of purpose. His goal was clear: he wanted something lighter, that made it easier for him to move. For the world’s top athletes, even a few grams can make or break a crucial moment. Without delay, we analyzed the jackets he had worn thus far in his career. This was not going to be as simple as thinning out the insulation. A light jacket stops being your friend when the snowy wind begins to blow. We needed to make something both warm and light. After considerable trial and error, we came up with the idea of tapping the technology created for our Ultra Light Down, a similar concept. In Ayumu’s jacket, down warms vital areas like the back of the neck, the lower back, and the stomach, while the sleeves, hood and waist have been left as uninsulated as possible. Working from the perspective of a general clothing retailer, and not a manufacturer of clothes for snowboarding, we arrived at an eccentric “hybrid” style that uses down selectively, in a way that no one else had ever tried.

Additionally, we removed a total of fourteen extras Ayumu deemed unnecessary, like the snowskirt and pit zips, achieving a 30% reduction in overall weight. With the help of Toray Industries, we developed a light, tough shell material for the surface of the body. We also taped all of the seams, making the jacket waterproof. The parts of the shoulders where the board rests when carried have been equipped with double raschel cushions, for a jacket that can stand up to the halfpipe.

With the core features in place, we had countless conversations with Ayumu about the design and the fit, and kept coming back to the topic of classic outdoor brands, and the idea of a baggier style. This vision would appear to be at odds with the goal of “Lighter, Easier,” but Ayumu elaborated: “I want to feel like I have room to play around inside the jacket.” With this in mind, we widened the body and the cut of the arms. The big flap pockets on the front make the jacket a hybrid not only in terms of materials, as a combination of down and synthetic insulation, but also in terms of design, blending elements of classic and high-tech outdoor clothing.

We finished at the start of March. Ayumu showed up at a ski slope in Aomori, where he zoomed around in his new uniform. This jacket was designed specifically for him, but this fall, we’ll make a consumer version available to the greater public. We hope you’ll slip one on, just like Ayumu.

Ayumu Hirano
Born in 1998 in Niigata, Japan. A pro snowboarder specializing in the halfpipe, Ayumu won two straight silver medals at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics. In May, he won his first national title at the Japan Skateboarding Championships, spurring expectation of him skateboarding in the Tokyo Olympics. Since 2018, he has been a Global Brand Ambassador for UNIQLO.
1. Down
Down is warm and light, but doesn’t stand up well against moisture or abrasion, causing many to believe it to be poorly suited to extreme use in the snow. In our hybrid down, the back of the neck, the lower back, and the stomach, which ergonomics tells us perceive warmth most acutely, are lined with premium down. By applying the same surface treatment used in our Ultra Light Down, we were able to eliminate the down packs typically used to prevent feathers from poking through, creating a significantly lighter product.
2. Synthetic
The sleeves, waist and hood, areas where range of motion and resistance to abrasion are essential, incorporate synthetic insulation. What makes our insulation different is the use of a performance cotton whose tiny microfibers boast the triple abilities of resistance to impact and abrasion, exothermic properties, and lightness. After extensive conversations with Ayumu about the amount of insulation, we thinned it down wherever and however possible. The result is lighter and easier to move in than the pro-grade jackets of the past.

Photography by Kazufumi Shimoyashiki, amana inc.(X-ray)
Text by Kyosuke Nitta

Hybrid Life Around Town

Detail
Detail

Photography by Shunya Arai, Styling by Shinichi Sakagami,
Hair & Makeup by Yoshikazu Miyamoto, Editing by Kyosuke Nitta

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