This Futuristic Brand Is Obsessed With High-Tech Fabrics (& Actually Looks Good, Too)

Sometimes, we run across a brand that doesn’t fit neatly into a single category (or two), and instead takes a very hybrid-happy approach. Take, for example, ONU: it’s a melange of activewear, outdoor performance gear, and travel staples (and, perhaps, even office-ready threads, depending on your work environment). Or, as the brand terms it, "EveryWear." The label takes an obsessive approach to fabric development, with cutting-edge new materials preceding, and informing, the subsequent designs.

But the aesthetic certainly isn’t overlooked: Each collection is whipped up by a different designer, with consistently sleek, Matrix-y sci-fi vibes. The talents tapped by the brand’s founders, Thomas Moon and Paul Lee, have day jobs at other brands, and ONU is a side hustle, essentially, and a chance for young designers to play around with high-tech fabrications that, in some cases, aren’t yet being used elsewhere.

Ahead, Moon and Lee explain more about the development of the brand and talk us through the technological innovations behind the brand’s first three collections. Because you, too, could soon be wearing clothing crafted from fish scales and Tencel-powered cashmere…

What were you up to before launching ONU?
Thomas Moon:
"I had originally started out doing surf, snow, and skate graphics out in California…I left California in 2004 and came to New York to start a new part of my career. I spent most of my time in branding and ad agencies. Since then, I’ve worked on a variety of projects, ranging from the corporate, for clients like Chase, Unilever, and Verizon, to the creative, for brands like Warner Brothers Music, Nike, and Jaguar. During this time, I always had side projects that I created for myself and making non-performance performance apparel was one of them."

Paul Lee: "I was in corporate finance in the film and music industry in Los Angeles, working at major players like Warner Bros. and LiveNation. I left the corporate world and saw the growth perspective in Asia as a new opportunity, so picked up and moved to Hong Kong to pursue my MBA. Halfway through the coursework, I found the right strategic backers, met Thomas, and then we founded ONU together. Beyond my corporate experience, I’ve always been a student of the art of business, so was always tied to the public markets outside of my regular 9-to-5."

ONU Funnel Neck Pullover, $225, available at ONU; ONU Ceramic Leggings, $125, available at ONU.

How did you come up with the concept for ONU?
"As someone who spent four to six months out of the year traveling and doing sports, I wanted to minimize not only what I had to carry but the process of travel: like checking in bags and carrying items you don’t end up using. That basically meant finding garments that were durable, easy to clean, and interchangeable from sports to day to day activities. Eventually, out of frustration with what the market was offering, I was creating my own garments. And here we are today."

PL: "I have developed a reliable and future-forward network of manufacturers and material producers. Spending time in this space allowed me to notice that innovation and thoughtfulness are often sidelined for speed and cost reduction. This is due to inefficiencies and under-communication in the supply chain, from fabric-dying, construction, design, and the final product. What I wanted was to create a brand that would be involved in different aspects of manufacturing throughout the creative and operational process, in order to work together and find synergies across departments, versus merely have singular departments executing one thing. And after meeting Thomas our different visions were surprisingly complementary; that’s how ONU as a company and brand was created."

ONU Laser Lace Shorts, $125, available at ONU.

What truly sets ONU apart in an already-crowded market of "Jack of all trades"-touting brands?
"As time progressed, ONU began to evolve from personal realization to a stronger focus on innovation. Innovation could mean a variety of things: maybe it’s a new fabric, or way of constructing a garment, or a custom zipper head designed for better ergonomics. That being said, we aren’t the only ones in this space trying to put out everyday performance wear. There is a niche community of brands that have started to push the envelope in terms of what’s possible for the consumer market. As the market beings to adopt more brands like ours, not only does this spark a new sense of curiosity, but it creates greater variety and avenues for what is possible.

Where we are truly unique right now is our ability to invent and create new textiles that aren’t currently in the market place. We have fostered collaborative relationships with our vendors and they are eager to create alongside us. Though we are a start-up company we have access to an amazing network that believes in our vision and is helping us beyond just the garments themselves. Some of the things we produce might seem gimmicky or odd, but what we want is for people to be curious about their garments, and not just expect things from them."

ONU Breathable Rain Coat, $495, available at ONU.

Hardcore Cashmere:
Behold, "Synthmere," a material ONU used in collection one. It’s comprised of a cashmere core, wrapped with Tencel and nylon strands that amount to a stronger, more-breathable, quicker-drying form of cashmere.

ONU Synthmere Long Sleeve Cover-Up, $275, available at ONU.

Rain Gear, Retooled:
The second collection includes a water resistant but antimicrobial fabric that’ll keep you warm, even in wet weather, per Moon and Lee, thanks to a blend of cordura and merino-nylon fibers.

ONU Funnel Neck Pullover, $225, available at ONU.

Wearable Fish Scales:
The brand’s third collection, which will be out this July, uses a fabric containing fish collagen peptide amino sourced from recycled fish scales. The purported benefits? Protection from UV rays, moisture management (a.k.a. perspiration gets wicked away from the skin), moisture regain (so it has a moisturizing effect on skin, and is also supposedly well-suited for sensitive skin), heat management (the fabric supposedly cools on contact with skin), a silk-like sheen. Oh, and it’s also apparently deodorizing, anti-microbial (as in, it won’t stink), and anti-static. That’s a tall order, no?

There’s also a jade particle-infused fabric in the mix (pictured above), which has heat-dissipating, cooling capabilities via low thermal conductivity. Translation: a jade-packed garment could stay cooler than your body temp, for a longer period of time. Plus, it purports to be anti-microbial and sweat-wicking. As for the forthcoming collection, it’s meant to channel air and light; that cool print is a"cobogos" pattern found in modern Brazilian architecture.

ONU Funnel Neck Pullover, $225, available at ONU; ONU Ceramic Leggings, $125, available at ONU.

ONU Ceramic Leggings, $125, available at ONU.

ONU Merino Tank, $75, available at ONU.

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via Refinery29


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