Last week I met with Mike Weiss, an outdoor industry veteran and one of the founders of Ilk Outerwear together with his girlfriend, Emily. After watching Emily struggle to find apparel that offered form as well as function to match her San Francisco lifestyle, the two set out to create a women’s outerwear line that offered the best of both worlds.
It was inspiring, to say the least, to hear Mike talk about wanting to create a brand founded on multi-functional pieces for women. Yes, there are brands such as Outlier or even Levi’s who do a great job with functional fashion, but to be honest, the focus for most of these companies is on menswear, with women as a bit of an after thought. Ilk is trying to change that, by starting with a completely new take on one of your wardrobe staples (though you won’t admit it)—the cardigan.
The Hepburn is not your grandma’s cardigan that you only dare to throw on over your pajamas for lounging around the house. I tried the piece on when I met with Mike and it fits more like an incredibly well-tailored blazer than an actual sweater.
Made from a nylon face fabric with a New Zealand merino wool liner, the Hepburn not only keeps you warm but is wind resistant and won’t pill. The best part—when the cardigan gets dirty, simply throw it in your washing machine on cold, then either tumble dry on low or hang to dry.
Thumbholes come in handy when riding around town in cold weather. They are sewn into the seam so that for more formal occasions, you can roll back the cuff into more of a blazer look. Large pockets are angled so they don’t add bulk when you throw your phone inside and internal buttonholes enable you to slide your headphones through to listen to music as you walk, run, or ride the subway. The custom oversize horn buttons add a nice refined finish.
Mike and Emily don’t want to stop at the Hepburn. Ilk is on a mission to make timeless pieces that adapt to your everyday lifestyle. The company plans to follow the BetaBrand model and use crowdsourcing to both validate and fund multiple new product ideas.
For $150 over on Kickstarter, you can be styling in your own Hepburn next spring. The cardigan comes in 4 sizes and two colors (black or charcoal), with an expected delivery date of June 2015.