Although met with massive amounts of praise, the athleisure trend of the 2010s managed to fall short. Maybe it was the questionable athletic capabilities of said apparel. Or perhaps it was the emphasis on leisure which suggested that the men and women of today didn’t care as much about what they wore, or how they looked, in comparison to how comfortable they were. What we often forget is that fashion and its standards are reflections of both time and place. At the heart of athleisure was a demand for functionality in an on-the-go era. What today’s climate calls for is an easier transition from an afternoon meeting to late-night outing, with no time in between for outfit changes.
What arose in recent years is what Donrad Duncan, Principal Designer of Engineered For Motion, likes to call “active elegance.” Founded in 2014, EFM designs clothing from the top down, working their way from traditional menswear concepts like expert tailoring and construction techniques to sportswear-style garments that ultimately help men move better. As leaders in the industry’s shift, their hope is to show consumers that it’s possible to look good, feel good and get around easier while maintaining a sense of sophistication.
“The modern man is active and wants to accomplish more in a day than ever before,” Duncan told me. “At EFM we design our garments to meet his needs through fabric technology and design details that cater to an all-day lifestyle.” This includes anything from catching the bus, hopping on a flight or grabbing a cup of coffee — taking into account the priorities of any active man which shifts between lifestyle, grooming and wellness.
A native of Jamaica, Duncan grew up amongst the Blue Mountains, born into a family artisans, tailors and craftsmen. His fascination with tailoring led him to New York, where he received his degree in fashion from Parsons School of Design. Already an expert in garment construction, Duncan went on to assist in the launch of an apparel line for Victorinox, and later became the owner/designer of MA.STRUM—a military-inspired menswear brand.
The opportunity to travel to Italy, be a part of the MA.STRUM team and work alongside legendary Italian designer, Massimo Osti, shaped much of Duncan’s fashion philosophy. Osti granted Duncan access to his exclusive fabric archive, where Duncan witnessed new materials being invented, experimented with and developed everyday right before his very eyes. Today, Duncan is the only designer to have ever been granted Osti’s archive license, putting EFM at the forefront of the apparel industry by combining revolutionary fabric technology with luxury concepts.
While EFM’s garments are made for the future, they’re also an ode to the past — incorporating elements of architecture, industrial design and classical music. Duncan explained, “I draw inspiration from many areas. To me it is about observing as much as possible and then creating the collection to sit parallel with our current way of life. The point is to have a feel for our moment, and the inspiration for that can come just as easily from a hip-hop song as it can from re-working a WWII field jacket.” Within their collections you’ll find innovative takes on blazers, shirts, shorts and trousers made from performance-enhancing materials, meaning they serve an explicit purpose and are literally engineered for motion.
“Fabric and garment technology is a big part of our design process,” Duncan said. “We do a lot of [research and development] and work with incredibly advanced manufacturers and mills to create textures, finishes, and custom lightweight and breathable fabrics. On the production side, we use new methods like ultrasonic joining and seamless knitting to reduce the volume and bulk of our garments to make them easier to wear and travel with. In another way, we are always aware of what devices are important to our customer, and thinking about how to incorporate the needs of personal tech into our clothing for maximum benefit.”
For EFM’s SS/18 collection, mesh was used in a number of different applications including overshirts, bomber jackets and blazers. What makes mesh a unique material is that it provides an element of texture, translucence and the fabric itself is relatively lightweight. In the collection you’ll notice both traditional, athletic-styles of mesh reminiscent of basketball jerseys or gym shorts and air-mesh most often seen on sneakers. The primary prints also included geometric and camouflage patterns woven onto luxe jacquard. Jacquard is sturdy enough to maintain the garment’s shape and silhouette, but allows the user freedom to move.
The designs themselves, while technically sound, express a certain level of creativity and imagination on behalf of Duncan. Interior pockets are sized to specifically fit smartphones, eyeglasses, passports or wallets in order to maintain EFM’s clean-lined aesthetic, while details such as reflective tape on the rolled hems of shorts make the transition from boardroom to bike route that much easier.
“Luxury used to mean you had to change clothes multiple times a day depending on what you were doing. Not anymore,” Duncan said. “Luxury does not have to be stuffy or uncomfortable. Everything we do at EFM is precisely to take the elegance of luxury garments and re-engineer and update them for functionality and movement.”