It’s safe to say that RubyHornet has been down with Penfield for a minute now. Between their stylish, functional outerwear, and constantly evolving menswear line, the brand is quickly becoming a cult favorite over here. We thought it was time to reach out to our friends at Penfield and get their story straight from the source. We asked them to give us a rundown of the brand and their products, then picked their brains on a few select topics regarding the menswear world. This year, Penfield celebrates their 35th year, and we got a taste of what’s gotten them this far, and what will continue to keep Penfield at the center of attention moving forward. Rest assured we’ll have a preview of Fall/Winter 2010 coming to you soon. Until then, hit the jump for the interview.

RubyHornet: Penfield was founded in the 1970s in Massachusetts, give us the story of how it evolved into what the brand is now?

Penfield: Harvey Gross started making down jackets and outerwear under the Penfield brand in 1975 in Hudson, Massachusetts. Penfield was also one of the first brands to pioneer the use of Polar Fleece which had just been developed by Malden Mills in their factory, not far away in Malden, MA. Penfield became well known for their high quality, simple, functional designs and also established a strong following overseas, particularly in Japan and in the UK. Since then Penfield has established a presence in markets around the world. Penfield continues to build on those same principles and to make clothes that can be worn and relied on in the widest range of conditions and environments; fashion, function and reliability ‘for life in the open’.

What do you think about the recent resurgence of workwear-inspired pieces popping up in nearly every brand’s collections?

Penfield: We really try to focus on what we do best – fashion comes and goes but for us what’s important is to make things that people can rely on and get great use from for many, many years, classic pieces that won’t be out of place wherever you take them and whatever you wear them with.

Penfield Interview

RubyHornet: What inspires Penfield when designing a season of goods?

Penfield: We have an archive of Penfield designs going back 35 years, as well as a very extensive archive of vintage pieces from the early 1900’s up until the present. But we don’t just look back – a lot of our time is spent looking at new innovations, new fabric developments and construction techniques. I think that marriage of the best of new and old is a strand that runs consistently through the collections. For example the 60/40 fabric that was developed in the 70’s was revolutionary and technically advanced at that time – but it still has a high level of functionality and looks as good today as it did back then.

RubyHornet: Recently the brand has been employing specialty materials, i.e. Hudson Wax, on several pieces. Explain how these materials and pieces came to fruition.

Penfield: With our Hudson Wax fabric we took an old fabric technique and improved on it for the 21st century with better function and performance but still retaining the characteristics of a classic wax in terms of how it looks and feels, as well as how it will age and take on that patina of a time tested friend. Similarly for our 3 layer Black Bear fabric we used the modern techniques of making 3 layer bonded fabrics but used a 100% cotton outer layer, treated with a Durable Water Resist coating. The end result is a fabric that looks and feels classic and natural on the outer face but with the high performance of a modern, technical seam-sealed fabric on the inside.

Penfield Interview

RubyHornet: From your perspective, what direction is menswear headed? What about outerwear?

Penfield: Penfield has 3 distinct collections within the line, Classic (what it sounds like), Trailwear (heritage inspired) and Black Bear (contemporary/technical). Of course at the moment Trailwear is getting the most attention – I think this trend is very strong but fashion is always moving forward and we can’t just look to the past – when it does then we have these other components to our line which are also very important to us.

RubyHornet: Penfield’s Women’s outerwear line is always strong, but we must ask, where is the apparel?

Penfield: We are extending our women’s categories – you’ll definitely see more over the coming seasons and there are some exciting things in development.

Penfield Interview

RubyHornet: What’s next for Penfield? Can you give us any hints on upcoming collaborations, special projects, or events?

Penfield: For FW10 we worked with Rag & Bone again on some special pieces (men’s and women’s) as well as two Gitman Bros. shirts, two Stüssy Anniversary pieces, and some specials for Edifice, United Arrows and Nano Universe in Japan.

Do you feel there is a signature Penfield item, or if you were to pick one piece that really serves as the anchor, what would it be?

Penfield: It’s got to be the Summit Jacket – admittedly is has evolved over the years with some fine tuning to detail and fit but it really is a jacket that sums up what we are as a brand – super functional and warm but not overly tech – just the right amount of detail but not more than you’ll need. It looks great wherever you wear it and it’ll last you a lifetime.
Penfield Interview

RubyHornet: What are some of things that go into the creative process of coming up with new pieces? How much of it is internal and vs external and studying fashion trends, consumers habits etc?

Penfield: The archive is a valuable tool and a good starting point, but equally there will always be a big part of the collection that is totally new and experimental. One example of how we have to respond to changing consumer habits is the effect of climate change – with warmer Fall months and later Winters we are making more lightweight down items and insulated layering pieces.

RubyHornet: Many brands rely on celebrities, musicians etc to sell and market their clothes? What’s Penfield’s take on this? It seems the brand has not too much importance on co-signs as other brands.

Penfield: It’s not something we chase after as it’s not what Penfield is about, but equally we are happy if high profile individuals choose to wear Penfield and we’re fortunate to have a good following from the world of music and acting. This Spring we re-released the original Pac-Jac which was a signature item for Noel Gallagher in the 90’s with Oasis.

Look for the latest collection from Penfield to hit stores this September. Thanks to Chris @ Penfield for the interview. Check out Penfield’s website and follow them on twitter @PenfieldUSA.