The North Face Fuse Uno Jacket
MSRP: $399; available Fall '14
Technical shells are often built with multiple fabrics. The shoulders tend to feature a more durable, waterproof material because they come into contact with moisture, backpack straps, skis, etc. The underarm fabric, on the other hand, tends to be more breathable because that's where you need to vent off extra heat.
This variability is great, except that mixing and matching fabrics requires seams. Seams wear out and can let water in. The process also adds weight.
To try and get around these problems, The North Face recently released the Fuse Uno jacket, which is cut from one piece of material. Designers spent years building an origami-like pattern which folds together, only weighs 350 grams and requires 40-percent less stitching than a comparable jacket.
But that's not even the best part. You'd think that because the jacket is made from just one piece of material it couldn't offer the kind of variability you get from mixing and matching fabrics. Not so.
As the company wove the sheet of material they changed the yarn mid-way through so the jacket could still offer two kinds of fabric. The upper section is built from a 40-denier yarn mixed with Cordura, which adds strength. The lower section is also 40-denier, but without the Cordura. When the pattern is cut out and sewn together, the section with Cordura lands on top and protects the shoulders and other high-use areas. The non-Cordura section makes up the lower part of the jacket.
The North Face won't say what's next, but the possibilities seem wide open for this technology. Instead of just making a one-piece jacket with variable material strength, they could also make a one-piece jacket with variable breathability, or stretch, or all of it combined.