There is no such thing as bad weather,
only inappropriate clothing.
Sir Rannulph Fiennes

This is my Pathologically Detailed Review™ of the Aether Fall Line 2 Rain Jacket. It was purchased on March 5th, 2014.

The review covers my selection criteria, my thoughts about the style and design of the jacket, the overall customer service and shipping experience and how the jacket performs in various weather conditions.

My Rain Shell Requirements

Thu 06 Mar 2014 02:25:21 PM EST

And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
Genesis, vii.

My primary requirement for a rain shell (other than the obvious, that it keep me dry when it rains sideways) is that the zipper not jam on the inner flap when the jacket is being zipped-up. To date, this has been the single greatest cause of my grief. Surprisingly, this simple requirement is something that most clothing companies have not solved.

My secondary requirement would have to be garment longevity. I would rather not buy a new jacket every season to keep up with the latest fashion style. I prefer to wear a "classic" style for several years (10 years is a reasonable amortization period for me). It's also important to me, how the garment fabric wears over time at the shoulders and waist where a backpack or messenger bag typically rubs against the garment.

It-would-be-nice-ifs include:

This jacket will be evaluated on the above criteria.

Choosing a Brand

Columbia, Patagonia, North Face, Arcteryx

Thu 06 Mar 2014 02:46:15 PM EST

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety.
Antony and Cleopatra, Wm. Shakespeare

Past Jackets

My first hooded nylon rain shell, which I still have, and wore a few days ago when it was unseasonably warm, is made by Columbia. I bought it for about $100, about 15 years ago in the sports store by the food court at the Eaton's center (it might have been a Sports Chek at the time). The one thing I hate about this jacket is that the zipper gets caught in the inner flap when I start to zip it up. After 15 years the hood-adjustment cord has lost its elasticity but otherwise it's still in good shape and it keeps me dry.

About 10 years ago, I bought a nylon shell jacket (no hood, with breathable mesh lining) from Patagonia, which I also still have, but don't wear, because the zipper is broken/jammed. I keep meaning to return it to Patagonia (they have a store on King Street, near Mountain Equipment Co-op I think) so the fabric can be recycled, but I haven't gotten around to it.

According to my 10 year amortization rule, it was time to buy a new jacket.

Choosing Aether

Based on previous experiences, Columbia and Patagonia were out (I was temped by Patagonia a few months ago, with some lovely postcards I received in the mail showcasing their new products and a sale on the previous season's merchandise); then I remembered the broken zipper.

I think I first saw an Aether advertisement a couple of years ago (it was probably on Dappered.com but I can't be certain). I clicked on the ad and landed on their website. Their design aesthetic appealed to me; the photography reminded me of my love for solitude. I saw their ad again (I think it was a full-page), last Fall in the New York Times Sunday Magazine (I am behind in my reading by about 6 months, so it was likely an early Spring issue; I should note that I first saw a J. Crew ad in the very same magazine, and have been a happy J. Crew customer for several years).

Logo on the side hip.

Secondly, Aether's branding on the clothing was subtle; the Aether logo is embroidered on the bottom-left hip and is only visible from the side. My Columbia jacket, on the other hand, has a large Columbia logo in raised lettering on the front chest. I find it tiresome seeing logos on people's clothing— L.L. Bean, North Face and Columbia are notorious for this visual assault.

Third, I considered Arcteryx jackets (it's a Canadian company based in Vancouver) but they also have a prominent logo on the front and I have seen the brand around— that's just too ubiquitous for me.

Finally, I have not seen anyone wearing Aether clothing in Toronto and I cherish that uniqueness.

Out of Stock/New Stock

customer service

Fri 07 Mar 2014 11:55:41 AM EST

I feel so cold, I long for your embrace
— "Every Breath You Take", Sting

Aether webpage for the Fall Line 2 jacket.

In early February I re-visited the Aether website with the intention of purchasing a rain shell and after deciding on the Fall Line 2 jacket, I noticed that the size I wanted, Size 1 (Small), was out of stock; Large and Extra Large sizes were in stock.

I emailed customer service via their web form and received a reply the next day from Tamme asking whether I wanted to be placed on a waiting list to be notified when new stock (which would arrive soon) would be available. I agreed.

On March 3rd, I received an email notifying me that the colour and size I wanted was back in stock. I ordered the jacket on March 5th around 12:30PM, I received an order confirmation email and a shipping confirmation with a UPS tracking number at 1:17PM.

I noticed that I was only charged $395.00. Where were the duties and brokerage fees and GST?

Just after midnight, I decided to check on my package and saw that the 2.00lb package was scheduled to be delivered the following morning, "Scheduled Delivery: Thursday, 03/06/2014, by 12:00 P.M." I was pleasantly shocked!

As the package crossed the U.S. border at 1:00 AM, the "Scheduled Delivery" notice changed to "Scheduled delivery information is not available at this time. Please check back later." I was somewhat disappointed that I would have to deal with the border people to take care of the duties, and brokerage fees. The Aether website did mention that duties, taxes and brokerage fees for international orders were the responsibility of the purchaser.

UPS Shipping and Brokerage

UPS

Fri 07 Mar 2014 12:41:16 PM EST

The jacket was shipped via the UPS Global Express service, which handles brokerage at the border. For completeness, I have included the activity log below.

LocationLocal TimeActivity
United States4:17 P.M.Order Processed: Ready for UPS
Burbank, CA, United States6:49 P.M.Origin Scan
Sylmar, CA, United States7:18 P.M.Departure Scan
 12:31 A.M.Package data processed by brokerage. Waiting for clearance.
 12:36 A.M.Registered with Clearing Agency. Shipment release pending Clearing Agency review. / Released by Clearing Agency. Now in-transit
 12:36 A.M.Shipment submitted to Clearing Agency, awaiting final release.
Louisville, KY, United States2:00 A.M.Arrival Scan
 2:42 A.M.Package data processed by brokerage. Waiting for clearance. / Receiver's customs broker has been assigned. The shipment is now released to move in transit.
 2:57 A.M.Export Scan
Louisville, KY, United States4:23 A.M.Departure Scan
 5:54 A.M.Arrival Scan
 7:27 A.M.Import Scan
ON, Canada7:50 A.M.Departure Scan
 9:05 A.M.Out for Delivery

Brokerage

Just before 9:00AM, I received a telephone call from UPS. It was a synthesized voice informing me that I had a package and could pay the duties, Goods and Services taxes and brokerage fees ($75) either online (it gave me a URL (www.ups.com/inputpayment) and a PIN number) or to the driver, when the package was delivered.

I chose to pay online, logged in, inputed my CC information and was done in about 5 minutes. The site recommended I print out the final page as there was information on it that the driver would use to confirm my payment; since I was on my iPad I took a screenshot, emailed to myself and then printed that via my laptop computer connected to my printer.

The package was delivered by 10:40AM EST.

As I found out later, the entire printout wasn't really necessary; the driver just needed the confirmation code on the final page, which he input into his UPS keypad, to confirm that the payment had been made.

Very slick, painless and impressive.

Unboxing

Sat 08 Mar 2014 10:21:07 PM EST

Opened package showing contents.

I was expecting a cardboard box containing the jacket packaged in a plastic bag.

Instead the contents of the box surprised me. The jacket comes folded, enclosed in a plastic bag, wrapped in black tissue paper with a large Aether sticker holding the paper closed, packed inside a lightweight Aether-branded nylon tote bag.

There was a black envelope containing forms for returning the jacket. There was also a fold-out brochure titled, The Aether Journal.

At the bottom of the box, there is an additional black Aether-branded nylon garment bag that protects the jacket during the off-season while it hangs in the closet.

Whistle

Aether whistle.

After unpacking the jacket, you notice that attached to the front zipper, using a clever safety pin, is a Aether-branded whistle (I think) hanging on a key-ring from a black, braided nylon rope.

I imagine using this to signal my rescuers when I become lost in the urban wilderness after a day of exploring.

First Impressions

Fri 07 Mar 2014 12:40:30 PM EST

Is ít possible that on so little acquaintance you should like her?
that, but seeing, you should love her? and, loving, woo? and, wooing,
she should grant? and will you persever to enjoy her?
As you Like It, V.ii, Wm. Shakespeare

Fabric

Tailoring of the shoulder joint.

After taking it out of the plastic bag, I noticed a not-unpleasant "plastic" smell, which was non-existent by the following day. The feel of the fabric was unlike the typical feel of nylon. There is a weight to fabric that allows the jacket to keep its refined shape, like it's been ironed and starched. It looks like a woolen suit and the fabric has a tight knit.

The jacket is made of 65% nylon and 14% spandex according to the materials tag. The outer fabric is "noisy" when the sleeves rub against the body. It is slightly longer in the back (this is probably for cycling). The jacket is lined with a black nylon fabric and the seams and zipper are sealed.

I noticed that the jacket picks-up dust and lint very easily. Thankfully, it dusts off just as easily. The material also creases when folded, but the crease later disappears as if the material is semi-elastic. Is it the Spandex woven into the nylon?

I put the sleeve under a running tap and the water just beaded off the jacket. There was no discoloration of the fabric nor any visual indication that it had been in contact with water.

Zippers

Main zipper (not YKK).

The main zipper is quite stiff (it requires a bit more force to zip-up than a traditional zipper) and the inner flap is stiff enough not to snag on the zipper.

Along the sides of the jacket are a pair of conformal slash-pockets, which are well concealed even when zipped open. The pockets have additional stitching to reinforce the stress points.

 
 

Pocket zippers.

All three zippers are Aether-branded instead of the ubiquitous YKK brand. That's a welcome attention to detail.

The zipper handles are quite small, which make it tricky to operate them with gloves. During the Fall and Spring, I wear a pair of doubled-up cotton/poly blend gloves and the pocket handles are usable but I have to look down to find them as I can't feel them without looking.

 

Draw-cord

Draw-cord hardware.

The bottom of the jacket has an elastic draw-cord to control ventilation with two controls on the left and right sides of the jacket.

The draw-cord holes have metallic, Aether-branded grommets and the controls are spring-loaded and also metallic.

I am a Small American

Fri 07 Mar 2014 12:37:49 PM EST

In small proportions we just beauties see,
And in short measures life may perfect be.
—Ben Johnson (1572-1637)

I am 5’8”, about 150lbs which is considered medium-build. I always wore medium-sized shirts. It wasn't until I started reading men's style websites that I noticed that my shirts didn't fit me properly, with fabric bunching at the sides and the sleeves being a bit too long.

Back panel & sealed seams.

This was especially true of clothing from U.S. companies like Eddie Bauer and Land's End whose Medium sizes were unusually large on my body. When I started buying casual dress shirts from the U.S., the size discrepancy was even more noticeable. The exception to this rule is clothing from the Gap; their Medium-sized shirts fit me quite nicely (but I stopped shopping at the Gap when the quality of their clothing dropped).

After carefully measuring my chest, arm, waist, and comparing it to the garment measurements, I found that my body was able to fit Small size clothing. So I began buying (at first, with some trepidation that they wouldn't fit) Small-sized jackets, which fit me a lot better (they are snug, but not uncomfortably so) than Medium-sized jackets.

"Lifetime warranty".

The Aether jacket I ordered is actually Small-sized (Size 1 on Aether's scale) and it fits me perfectly (though the fit is snug, the fabric is stretchy and does not impede movement). I can't wear as many layers underneath, as I could have if I had bought a Medium, but the Small size looks really good on me, so I am willing to make that trade-off.

Buying Small sized clothing is an added incentive to keep my weight down. Such is vanity.

Odds & Ends

Fri 07 Mar 2014 12:40:39 PM EST

What are these? Patches?

When I was photographing the inside of the jacket, I noticed that the top-left shoulder had two tiny "patches". Seen from the outside, the bump of the patches is hardly noticeable, but if the light hits the jacket from a certain direction, the distortion of the outer fabric is noticeble from up-close. Was this a production mistake that was patched up? I don't know.

The second noticeable item, was a 4 cm long thread that was not trimmed, found on the stitching on the back shoulder seam of the jacket.

I trimmed it with a pair of scissors on my Leatherman New Wave multi-tool.

Untrimmed thread.

These small mistakes make the production of the jacket seem sloppy and rushed; the lack of quality control at the manufacturer is disappointing, especially for such an expensive piece of clothing. If the attention to detail at the design stage includes branded zipper handles and grommets, then the company should ensure that same attention be paid at the manufacturing stage.

Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head

experience

Fri 11 Apr 2014 05:32:05 PM EDT

Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

I had my first opportunity to rest the jacket on April 7, 2014. The forecast was for light rain, with a temperature of 3.3°C, pressure at 100.2kPa, visibility 16km, humidity 90%, Dew point of 2.7°C and wind from the east at 37km/h, gusting to 58km/h.

I had my umbrella with me so the whole jacket wasn't exposed to the rain. On the parts that were exposed (the arms mostly) the water beaded up into what can best be described as micro-droplets— as if a fine misty rain was gently falling. I liked that the jacket's surface held the water rather than shedding it onto my pants, which my Columbia jacket tends to do.

Under the jacket, I was wearing a J. Crew heavy wool roll-neck sweater over a cotton thermal sweater, dress shirt and T-shirt. The jacket fit snugly against my body and with the front zipper fully zipped it kept me warm and dry despite the strong wind. When walking into the wind, though, I had trouble keeping the hood on my head. The wind just kept blowing it off.

I think that a pair of drawstrings that tighten at the neck might mitigate this (my Columbia jacket has a hood drawstring and it helps keep the hood from blowing back). Without my umbrella, my hair would certainly have gotten wet every time the hood slipped back and my bare head was exposed to the rain.

The Verdict

Sun 09 Mar 2014 01:45:49 AM EST

The following is a summary of various aspects of the review of the Aether Fall Line 2 jacket:

Chin fold to protect the zipper.

Styling: EXCELLENT (modern and atheletic look)
Fit: EXCELLENT (close fitting, follows the body shape; looks good on slim bodies)
Performance: GOOD (the jacket kept me warm and dry in light rain and windy conditions, unfortunately the wind kept pushing my hood off my head when walking into the wind; the fabric is noiser than I would have preferred)
Quality Control: POOR (for a $500 jacket there should never be a stray, 4cm long, untrimmed thread nor should there be what looks like two iron-on patches in the lining of the jacket; the damaged panel should have been replaced)
Customer Service: EXCELLENT (friendly service with a rapid reponse; superb online/purchasing experience )

Suggestions for improvements: it would be nice if the fabric did not pick up dust and lint so easily and that it would be less noisy. Minor tweaks in off-shore production and quality control would carry the attention to detail evident from the design phase, right into the production phase. Update Fri 11 Apr 2014 05:43:23 PM EDT: It would help if the hood had a draw-string that tightned at both sides of the neck because on windy days (wind speed around 20km/h or greater), the hood tends to slip off.

FINAL SCORE: 3/4

Aether Fall Line 2 Jacket Review / luis fernandes / elf@ee.ryerson.ca