Brand Focus

Brand Focus: ashmei

Part of a new series where we take an in-depth look at some of our favourite brands.

Merino wool, regarded by many as the fabric you’d expect to find in the finest cool weather sweaters, may surprise you as the choice for elite athletes as their base layer to keep warm in cool climates. Whatever your perception, more recently, the fabric has been increasingly incorporated into performance sportswear.

Whilst your first thought might be to question the use of wool for your run or cycle, as wool is regarded as a material to keep you warm in the colder months, it makes a huge amount of sense to be implemented in high-performance sportswear.

Merino wool, not to be mistaken by the cheaper and more abrasive lambswool, has several features such as excellent moisture management, temperature regulation, odour control, shape retention, comfort and is relatively easy to care for and to keep clean. Many established sportswear brands are starting to embed Merino as part of their range, but one British brand has quietly gone about their business creating high-performance Merino-based gear for runners, cyclists and triathletes.

The brand in question is ashmei, launched in 2010 by Stuart Brooke, a sportswear designer with over 25 years of experience. ashmei’s unique approach is the way research and development is undertaken. With a blank canvas, fibres determined based on the athlete’s activity and climates, Brooke creates bespoke materials to suit the activity and environment. ashmei never set out to design to a certain price point, only to cater to the athlete’s needs and environment in any given situation.

Asked why Stuart Brooke setup the company in the first place, he states that the reasoning came from a frustration born from the many synthetic sports products that existed within the current market. Brooke commented that he “bought the best running gear on the market, but it was rubbish. It was synthetic, cheaply produced, made you sweat more and I thought there must be a better way of addressing the performance of the product.”

So, why does ashmei differ from many other regular sportswear brands? It all starts with the use of the fibre, where ashmei source the superfine Merino wool from Australia and New Zealand, and only from ethical suppliers. While Merino wool is used as a base for many of the lines, the way this is mixed with other fibres, such as carbon, is paramount to creating the perfect garment based on an athlete’s specific requirements.

As an example, take the merino + carbon base layer, which is a bespoke material created by ashmei. Merino wool, as a pure fabric, took too long to wick sweat away from the body. Through an extensive research and development programme of testing various fibres over several years, ashmei created the merino + carbon combination. This was due to carbon being able to effectively speed up the wicking and drying process due to its absorbent nature.

As a result, the tailor-made fabric has been tested at a wide-ranging set of temperatures and due to the Merino wool base will never smell like a synthetic garment. The conclusion is that this dual-fabric combination removes sweat from the body ten times more quickly and effectively than Merino wool alone. This isn’t something dreamed up for marketing purposes, either. At Short Motivation, we’ve worn the merino + carbon hoody in the gym for three weeks in a row without needing to wash the garment. We’ve run in the ashmei base layer in warm and cold climates and never felt like we’re about to overheat or freeze.

The consideration of ashmei’s fabric selection does not stop there. With their mid-layers using terry looped Merino wool to trap air pockets, this can create warmth in colder environments. In addition, the outer layers are focused on being water and windproof while keeping you warm at the same time.

The fabric is not the only thing which is cutting edge with ashmei. They innovate wherever they can in order to create the highest performing garment. For instance, the Bib Short designed for cyclists is woven rather than knitted and uses sonic welding instead of stitching, thus the material contains a welcome stretch, so that the hems do not require any grippers. Additionally, the chamois is made from closed-cell foam, which absorbs less moisture and reduces compression, creating the highest performing garment for the athlete.

Most of ashmei’s range is what they describe as a “3 Season System”. The aforementioned qualities will protect against the cold, rain, wind and overheating. Whilst this may sound like we’re banging the same drum regarding performance, be assured this is rooted in the tried-and-tested ashmei philosophy. Design and innovate for the purpose of performance first, quality and style follow, finally setting the price point. This can mean items can be on the higher end, with relatively few discounts, sales or offers made available. But – and it’s an important but –  if you only need a few quality pieces which will remain fresh, keep you warm and cool at the same time whilst enhancing your performance at your extremes – wouldn’t you?

Finally, it’s worth noting that one of the more interesting aspects of the ashmei design process is where they hire and use ambassadors, everyday sports people from a cycling, running and triathlete background, to test drive and use the products, before they are signed off and made available to the public. Elliot Welland, Product Designer for ashmei, explained “we involve our ambassadors in every stage. Every prototype is sent to our ambassadors, who put in a lot of miles on the road, almost to destruction, to give us the feedback required to enhance the product”.

Here at Short Motivation our focus and wisdom for focussing on key brands originates in our belief in each brand, the quality of the garment and our extensive use of the products over a period of time. We want to put our name to brands we can stand by and support, simply because we believe and use the products ourselves. With this in mind, we’ve picked out five key ashmei products we’ve used and can recommend, and the reason why:

Long Sleeve Baselayer

This top uses the ashmei merino + carbon fabric, making it an ideal first layer for your run. A relatively lightweight top, we’d suggest this is used under your jacket or hoody. It has a fast-drying fabric mix, meaning it remains dry even under the most extreme conditions.

We suggest you keep your regular size for your base layer or size up if you prefer to wear it as a lifetsyle piece, although it’s worth noting that this baselayer can come up a little short in the body.

Long Sleeve Classic Jersey

Another top using the ashmei merino + carbon fibre, we’d recommend that this top is used over your baselayer. In the more extreme weather, we’d often start off with the base, then this jersey over the top. The top has built in mitts, with thumb holes, enabling the fabric to keep your hands warm.

This top comes up true to size so can appear to be a little small, so we’d suggest moving up at least one size. As an example, we buy the medium base layer, but the large Classic Jersey.

Tight

This terry looped merino wool tight is our go-to legging for the cooler months. We’ve tried many tights, from various suppliers, and this is one of the few pairs we could recommend without the need to wear a pair of shorts over the top, which is the norm for many men.

The form and fit is excellent, without being too tight. The Merino wool will keep you warm, but the flexibility of the material allows you to move freely, proving an excellent choice for a runner. They won’t slow your performance.The tight has reflective properties on the rear, a small pocket which will hold your house keys, plus zipped calves. We’d recommend you purchase an ashmei tight suitable for your size as it has a regular if slightly tailored fit.

2 in 1 Shorts

Although these have yet to feature on the Short Motivation social media, we own and use the ashmei 2 in 1 shorts. These are the ‘warm weather’ alternative of mixing up a pair of tights and shorts.

The 2 in 1 shorts contain a Merino inner liner which cover the majority of your thighs, but offer flexibility of movement. The outer microfibre surface is extremely lightweight, which offers limited impact on your performance, making them an ideal choice for a competitive run.

Hooded Sweatshirt

Using the same tried-and-tested terry looped Merino as used in the Tight, albeit a much thicker Merino, this hoody is our favourite ashmei piece. Essentially a winter layer jacket, we would recommend this on top of a base layer. It includes thumb loops with hidden mitts, to keep your hands warm, plus reflective backing for running on a dark morning.

This hoody is a relatively close-fitting top, but we’d recommend you choose your regular size, particularly if you have an athletic figure.

For more information on the range, visit the ashmei website

 Have you bought or used any ashmei products? If so, what do you think of the range? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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About Author

Alex is the co-founder of Short Motivation and currently resides in Texas, heading up the US part of the website. He's busy with his PT qualifications and in the planning stages of Short Motivation events across the US later this year.