New UK Brand Dannah - Made In Scotland From Girders...
Kick-ass, meticulously-designed outdoor gear is the mission for UK start-up founder Rich Dannah. That and Scottish-made waterproof shells...
Dannah is the UK's newest outdoor brand, a focussed start-up business that's built on 20 odd years of outdoor design experience amassed by eponymous brand founder, Rich Dannah. And while it's not quite made in Scotland yet - read on - that's where its roots and possibly some of its future lie.
We just reviewed the brand's first product, the Dannah Alpine Jacket, but to get a better idea of where the Dannah's coming from, we dragged Rich and his dogs out onto our local Peak District hills for a walk and a chat about his new business.
Twenty Years Experience
The first thing you need to know is that even though the brand is new, Rich himself is anything but a newcomer to the outdoors industry.
Since graduating with a masters in performance clothing design, he's worked for some of the most respected names in the outdoors industry including Mountain Equipment, Rab, Sprayway, Montane, Craghoppers and Peak Performance. He even had a stint at Umbro where he helped design the England international football strip.
'Who wants to be stuck at a desk gazing endlessly at a monitor he asks, as we potter across a sun-lit Peak District edge'
Now though, he's fully focussed on his new venture. So what's it all about and what makes it different?
Some of it is down to a perfectionist desire to produce outdoor clothing without compromising on the details. Not regardless of price, he says, but without cutting corners on the small but important details as well as the big ones.
And the other big draw for him is actually getting the chance to get out into the hills more. Something, believe it or not, that some outdoor designers seldom do. Who wants to be stuck at a desk gazing endlessly at a monitor he asks, as we potter across a sun-lit Peak District edge. Too right.
The Name On The Jacket...
It must be kind of nice to be wearing a shell with your own name on it, but the process of creating it took roughly 12 months and a lot of hard work. The fabric is a completely unique, bespoke material, based on a microporous Porelle PU membrane which is produced in Norfolk.
It's completely waterproof and very breathable and manufactured with impressive thoroughness. In turn, the membrane is laminated to two other materials, one Chinese and one Japanese in the Far East to give the optimum balance of breathability, waterproofness and durability.
Encased In Plastics
Then there's the cut. It's as good or better than anything else out there and was designed with the aid of a 3D mannequin - the same process that England football strip used - created by coating Rich himself with a quick-setting plastic compound painted on by his partner. Because people are three-dimensional, not flat drawings.
The unique hood was similarly developed around a mould of a head and was a mission in itself. Rich realised that many walkers and climbers simply didn't know how to adjust hoods, so he set about creating one that requires minimal input, in effect, it should 'just work'.
How? First the face opening isn't oversized like many, so you don't need a lot of facial opening adjustment. Second, both adjusters are on the rear of the hood. You simply put it on then pull on the righthand one until it's snugly anchored to your noggin.
Ad that, essentially, is mostly it. You can, if necessary, also snug up the face opening using the lefthand cord, but it's not often really necessary. And having used it, we'd say it's a very, very good hood indeed. And also very simple to use.
Sweating The Details
Something else on the hood epitomises Dannah's attention to detail: the mouldable plastic peak stiffener is made from an extensively worked plastic that doesn't crease, returns to the same shape after crumpling and, crucially for mountaineers, is still flexible at temperatures down to -30˚C and below.
'A versatile waterproof jacket that suits UK mountain use and can do anything from classic hill-walking through to technical alpine mountaineering'
And that's just the start. The zip-pulls are again custom made and are wedge shaped in all directions for easy glove use and include a subtle curve to match your thumb shape. The cuffs are neat, subtly shaped for just a modicum of extra coverage at the back of the hand.
The pockets, says Rich proudly, have been designed so if you use them as hand-warmers, your hand sits in a Goldilocks 'just right' position. And the twin internal pockets work a little like Napoleon chest pockets once your smooth-flowing Vislon main-zip is undone. And finally he had to find the right factory to make it. Again, not as simple as you might imagine.
The outcome, Rich hopes - and we reckon he's right - is a versatile waterproof jacket that suits UK mountain use and can do anything from classic hill-walking through to technical alpine mountaineering. It's also, he reckons, well up for, say, occasional kayak use or on the bike if necessary.
What's Next For Dannah?
Along with the new Alpine Jacket and matching waterproof overtrousers, Rich has merino baselayers available direct from his website, but there's plenty more to come.
Next products off the Dannah production line look like being a lightweight, artfully-cut Polartec gridded fleece mid-layer and then a version of the waterproof jacket made in Scotland - and yes, you read that right, Scotland.
It'll be similar to the Alpine Jacket, but in a different fabric and using more mountaineering-friendly Napoleon-style chest pockets. The factory is Gore approved, so no quality issues there, and as far as we know, it will be of only a select few waterproof outdoors jackets to be made in the UK.
Made In Scotland
It won't unfortunately, be cheap - probably around £450 compared to the £320 Alpine Jacket - but that's the penalty of UK manufacturing compared to the Far East and, in a nutshell, graphically illustrates why the vast majority of outdoor kit is made abroad.
There's plenty more to look forward to as well. Soft shell trousers with a tough sort of vibe, maybe some sort of active insulation top and, somewhere down the line, a properly bombproof mountaineering shell of the type you can drag over abrasive crags and damage the rock rather than the fabric...
All of which sounds good to us and we'll be watching avidly to see what Dannah does next. If it's as good as the Dannah Alpine Jacket, it should be well worth waiting for.
Dannah outdoor clothing is available direct from dannah.uk.com