Form Following Function for 50 Years

General / People / Places / Products / August 18, 2011

Are the new X1600 workpants from Swedish manufacturer Blaklader a stunning work of art?

Hardly.

But are they an evolutionary work of functionality that finds its art in utilitarian genius?

Absolutely.

Most of that genius is the result of 50 years of focus groups and customer suggestions, carefully incorporated into Blaklader’s corporate culture and marketing efforts.  New products are not necessarily brand new, but the result of suggested tweaks, alterations, new fabric, added pockets or improved wear areas.

The X1600 seems as battle-worthy as the Air Force’s venerable B-52, itself in service since the 1950s.

The company sells about one million pairs of these heavy-duty cotton twill and nylon cordura workpants every year.  Since entering the U.S. market six years ago, sales have risen steadily from about a thousand pairs to 100,000 pairs each year.  The stylish X1600 workpants retail for about $125, though some less robust models sell for as little as $50.

Their secret weapon is extra durability.  “If you’re on a roof all day, you’ll go through a pair in about a month,” said Marcus Carlberg, president of Blaklader North America.  “But you’d go through about six pairs of jeans in the same time frame.”

Some in the trades — the carpenters, plumbers and electricians, even do-it-your-selfers — wear them for a year and a half.   “We make the workday better for any worker,” he said.  “The garment we make is not for the guy in the office.”

The X1600 is workplace Darwinism at its most creative.  It offers knee pad pockets for outside access with no straps, a utility pocket that replaces a tool belt or apron, back pockets doubled over and lined with cordura, triple-stitched seams, angled corners so screws fall to the corner for easy access, and detached pockets on the side so a tool swings out when its owner drops to one knee, avoiding a critical jab.

These are serious pants, Carlberg asserts, and not for the weak-kneed masses.  “Our traditional competitor is the blue jeans,” he said.  “When they’re not good enough for leisure wear, they become workpants.  Our product replaces jeans and tool belts.”

They are, it would seem, a triumph for our blue collar brethren.

For more on Blaklader, go to http://www.blakladerusa.com/

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Michael Welton




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