All around fashion, the outdoors are in. But in terms of sheer hype, one outdoors brand has risen above the rest.

In less than a year's time, Vancouver-based Arc'teryx has gone from gorpcore subculture star to one of the hottest brands on earth. Long associated with mountain athletes, the line's Archaeopteryx fossil logo (known by fans as the "deadbird") has now become a tastemaker talisman on streets—and social media timelines—all over the world.

In the span of a week at the beginning of December 2020, the buzz surrounding Arc'teryx was crowned by the announcement of two blockbuster collabs: one with Jil Sander+ (due out in October 2021) and one with Palace (arriving December 10, 2020). To listen to the comments, these tie-ups were a watershed. What was once the purview of elite mountaineers (or at the very least, the rich kids at the ski resort) was climbing a new route. Arc'teryx wasn't just the fashion crowd's performance brand of choice—it was actively choosing the fashion crowd.

Some read the news as cynical market-chasing: the commercial extension of a once-proud niche gearmaker, trading the needs of core customers for filthy lucre on a path that leads to ruin.

Look no further than, Arc’teryx’s very own Design VP, Dan Green, to hear how the brand has traditionally dealt with fashion: “We’re not overtly fashionable, and we’re not following micro trends.” An interview with Hypebeast from early 2020 points out the fact that Arc’teryx intentionally doesn’t collaborate with others, or stray too far its design function-first design principles.

Noting all that, it’s obvious that part of the buzz around these fashion collaborations isn’t even about the resulting gear, it’s just about the fact that Arc’teryx is even doing them in the first place.

I think that's fair. But I also think it's much too harsh.

Arc’teryx may be more novel and underrepresented with the fashion crowd than say, The North Face or Patagonia, but it’s been neither niche nor purist for decades.

As the outdoors industry Arc'teryx epitomized has shifted underneath it, there’s a simpler, although less self-indulgent answer, as to why it’s changed strategies:

The brand named after an evolutionary link between birds and dinosaurs might simply be… well, evolving with the times.

Tags: canada, beams-plus, beams, jackets, arcteryx-alpha-sv, jil-sander, palace, off-white, virgil-abloh, techwear, gorpcore, hiking, skiing, outdoors, outdoor-clothing, veilance, arcteryx-veilance, arcteryx