“It kind of happened serendipitously,” Heifara Rutgers chuckles to me as he begins to unravel the trajectory to his present day position running Aztech Mountain, the brand he co-founded with his husband David Roth in 2013. The label was birthed out of a lifelong love of skiing, and a desire to mesh the historically disparate worlds of mountain gear and aesthetically-pleasing citywear. We caught up at Aztech’s beautiful Manhattan location to hear a bit about the genesis of the brand and the ethos driving it forward to this day.
Aztech Mountain is a Reminder That Skiing is About Having Fun
The Birth of Aztech Mountain
“My dad was a skiing instructor, he first moved [to Aspen] in the early seventies. So I was out there at a very early age,” Heifara tells me, adding: “He had me on skis when I was two.” Growing up in Aspen, skiing was in his blood, but he eventually went to NYU and worked a myriad of jobs in luxury for Tag Heuer, Marc Jacobs and others in the LVMH portfolio, but still had yet to work on the design side.
As someone who straddled the technical gear-centric world of the Colorado Rockies with the high-fashion lifestyle of Manhattan, Heifara and his husband began to conceptualize the contemporary version of Aztech Mountain. “I was obsessed with Prada Sport and the Linea Rossa offering, just really admired their approach to technical wear,” he tells me. So with these influences in mind: “The original concept was to have a jacket that we would wear in New York and that we would wear in Aspen. So that's always been kind of the litmus that we're trying to check when we develop product, whether or not it works in both worlds seamlessly.”
The original concept was to have a jacket that we would wear in New York and that we would wear in Aspen.
- Heifara Rutgers
“Because quite frankly, ski jackets don't necessarily look very cool in New York City. And vice versa. You look like a thumb walking in Aspen in some crazy cool jacket,” he jokes. As someone who grew up in Colorado, I can confirm that the utilitarian gear that many don in the mountains does not translate particularly seamlessly to lower Manhattan.
“So just trying to blend the worlds, and that's still very much our MO today,” he explains, adding: “We're finding a lot of areas that we can achieve our goal, especially in places like knitwear. Knitwear is an incredibly versatile category. It serves a utilitarian purpose on the ski side, but it also allows us to be more bold and fashion forward. So we’re having a lot of fun there.” As we discuss knitwear, Heifara begins to show me some of the pieces dispersed about the immaculately designed store.
There’s the Nuke Suit, which was the original garment produced by the brand. They started with five menswear pieces, and the Nuke Suit was one of the OGs, and continues to be a major part of the brand today. It’s “super clean, minimal, and very technical,” Heifer outlines. And while it is certainly a pragmatic piece of mountain gear, the rather understated design makes it fit seamlessly into almost any environment.
“We also do our own cashmere, which is this thing called the Duane Street Cashmere. It's the most luxurious thing that we’ve made,” Heifara tells me as he begins to show me some of the knitwear. “It's two pieces of cashmere knitted together with silk. On a day like today, it’s primo,”—it’s under 20 degrees on the day we find ourselves touring the store. He goes on to show me the merino wool Rosa Alpina sweaters: “They’re super chunky, super beefy. Playing with details through tensions of the knits. Our signature—we always do rectangular elbow patches,” he explains as he shows me the elbow patches.
Subtle little details. Never too loud, never too over the top, but always with something of interest.
- Heifara Rutgers
A major highlight of the current collection is a roster of kaleidoscopically designed sweaters and jackets that mirror some of the wallpaper in the store. “So the patterns were developed by a London artist named Ed Curtis, a young guy who came to us via a friend of ours in the fashion world,” Heifara explains, adding: “His work is all about fun and joy. I couldn't think of a better way to express those concepts than in ski clothing, because that's ultimately what skiing is all about.”
As we begin to conclude our conversation, I ask Heifara for his favorite aspect of running Aztech. His eyes light up and he answers immediately: “Getting to work with my husband.”
It's clear that Aztech was produced out of a true love of the mountain, and a desire to make something that a lot of skiers really want. The aesthetic of the store, the design of the pieces and Heifara himself all embody the Aztech ethos: skiing is about having fun.
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