Words by Jill Macdonald. Photos by Ange Percival and others.
In college, Design Manager Tanya Hall had a tough time staying interested in her studies. Then she discovered climbing. Switching to product design, there was a direct correlation between hands and mind. The Atom SL is the superlight version of her iconic Atom LT design.
Although it may not be surprising to learn that some of our designers found college environments challenging, (sitting still and being inside), it wasn’t for a lack of interest, discipline or method. Tanya Hall, apparel design manager for our Arc’teryx Essentials collections, was one of those students who simply needed to link input with output. “As soon as I realized I could make things to help me climb, hike or ski, I understood that a career in the outdoor industry was what I wanted.”
Design is not a wide-open pursuit. It’s easy to think that is anything is possible, but in practice, it’s not. How materials behave during construction – can they be stitched or laminated to other materials, will they accept colour dyes, how are they affected by temperature; these are all factors that can eliminate or alter the course of product development. Hall appreciates the guidelines that are the Arc’teryx principles of design. Function and minimalism are what you see – clean, simple, efficient.
“Ideally, you will not notice your clothing,” Hall explains. “Nothing should interrupt your experience of being outside, engaged in whatever activity you enjoy.”
How does she accomplish this? Through hands-on time in the mountains and in particular, rock climbing.
“I love the mental focus, the discipline. Climbing allows me to put everything else aside and be fully present in the moment.”
For a person dedicated to her work, Hall’s climbing accomplishments are noteworthy. Quietly is how she goes about crushing the local crags, pushing her limits. Leading, falling, picking herself up and overcoming obstacles “My biggest improvements happened when I started shaping my vacations around climbing destinations. Multiple days are the key to understanding and progressing.”
This is how she tests her designs as well. In her words, this is the Arc’teryx process. “We emphasize function and simplicity, drawing on our own experiences and knowledge to create products that are intuitive, simple and easy to use. I think of longevity, sustainability and genuine value when designing for myself, and I apply the same approach to my assignments.” The Atom LT is an smashing example of Hall’s output using this methodology.
The Atom SL is the superlight version of her iconic Atom LT design. Knowing who she is, it doesn’t come as a shock that this understated summer insulation piece has become a kit essential for anyone doing mountain travel. “The Atom LT has a great balance of function, versatility and aesthetic. The insulation provides warmth, the fleece side panels offer air permeability while providing a svelte silhouette; it functions as an outer layer or as a midlayer depending on the weather conditions. The SL functions in an equivalent way, for its intended season.”
It’s tough to get much out of her that is not humble, or matter of fact. She works hard, she has clear goals, she doesn’t waver. “Sure, my work is very much about control and guidelines, but I’m always looking for better solutions, or a way to use a fabric that I really like. I try to imagine how it could work in the mountains, for what activity and what kind of person. There is creativity within that.”
She has already accomplished one rockstar design, a gamechanger in the lightweight insulation category. That is a career milestone. If the goal is to provide tools that allow people to realize their full potential, where does she go from here?
“Personally?” She laughs. “I’m learning how to climb trad.”
There is far more to her than she lets on.