Like many things, snowboarding is just cooler in Japan. The powder is lighter, the lodge food is better, the hot springs and après even outdoes the best the West has to offer. And now, with the discovery of Burton’s Japan-only AK457 line, we can officially add outerwear to the list (no surprise, considering Japanese outdoor brands like Snow Peak, Montbell, and Wander, etc have been coaxing rent right out of my pocket for too many years to count).
Quietly launched in late 2017 exclusively in Japan, AK457 was developed for “mountain enthusiasts,” not just snowboarders. The brand was born in the backcountry, and refined in the studio, aiming to appeal to winter recreationalists of all kinds—so long as they like snow. We support a cereal approach to outdoorism here at Field Mag, so this non-specific identity jives well at FM HQ. The epic design helps too.
With legendary designer Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment Design acting as creative director, there’s no doubting the validity of this rare Burton sub brand. Fujiwara’s pedigree of collaborating with the biggest names in fashion and sportswear (he is the H in HTM after all) over the past two decades is unprecedented. As such, it’s no surprise this collection of softgoods is as thorough, functional, and stylish as it is. Though it is a pleasant surprise to learn Fujiwara himself is an avid snowboarder and nature lover. Certainly makes me view his previous work with Nike, Jordan Brand, Converse, Levi’s, Carhartt WIP, and NEIGHBORHOOD with a new lens.
As with all projects involving the multidisciplinary imprint that is Fragment Design, AK457 products feature a clean and refined aesthetic with technical materials and proven functionality. While the colorful outerwear does well to draw the eye in photographs, pragmatically I find myself more drawn to the LW Jacket, a fully taped Gore-Text Pro 3-Layer design with sizable patch pockets on the chest and a stowaway hood.
Additional apparel standouts from the 2020 line include the matching Packable Down Jacket & Down Shorts—a hyper packable DWR coated 600-fill RSD goose down kit—and Micro Fleece Jacket, a sleek, tech-driven mid layer made with Polartec PowerGrid.
The lightweight 32L Guide Pack rounds out the highlights, boasting an outer shell of X-Pac 700D ripstop nylon and essential backcountry features like an easy access pocket for shovel and probe, vertical board carry straps, an internal metal structure for distributing heavy loads, and plenty of pockets and lash-on points.
From the looks of it, you may be able to buy these items directly online, though if you’ve ever limped through an oversees order attempt on a similar site, know this may be easier said than done. Regardless of availability, we’re just happy to see the Big B innovating in a way the Vermont-based brand hasn’t done stateside in many many years (shout out the original Errolson Hugh-designed AK line).
Also, shout out snowboarding. Shit’s fun.