Woman-owned MATEK peddles recycled nylon base layers that slide on like silky pajamas under your ski pants. But what caught our attention? The brand calls them ‘intimates.’ We reached out to learn more.
Los Angeles-based winter sports apparel startup MATEK launched a direct-to-consumer website last month with five fashion-forward women’s base layers. The initial “technical performance intimates” collection includes everything from high-waisted leggings down to a front-access sports bra.
The brand described the breathable “power mesh” fabric, used throughout the line, as “the sort of fabric you just want to curl up with. In the nude.”
Founder and CEO Abigail Stern designed each piece with femininity in mind. She was never a fan of wool. But nylon, especially in her brand’s signature blue, makes Stern feel feminine. And MATEK reports that breastfeeding moms feel sexy in its new collection.
Nylon ‘Intimate’ Base Layers
If you’re like us, the term “nylon” in a base layer will raise an eyebrow. Nylon is rarely used in base layers, as it’s not very breathable. But it does dry quickly and could wick moisture from the body with the right manufacturing. Stern said these winter sports intimates don’t just look pretty, but also function as base layers should. After all, the brand claims to have invented the “technical performance intimates” category.
And there are some performance features. A onesie includes thin mesh paneling from the knee down to reduce bulking in boots, plus a flap at the derriere. There’s a female-friendly snap-crotch-closure bodysuit with an extra-long turtleneck that doubles as a neck gaiter (or tissue) on the slopes. And antimicrobial elements are added to the fabric to fight odor during sweatier pursuits.
Stern also asked athletes and skiers of all ages, including the Squaw Valley National Ski Patrol, to put the pieces to the test on the mountain. She revised some pieces based on feedback.
The most expensive MATEK piece is $150. Stern said an accessible price point was intentional. In college, when she skied most, she couldn’t afford expensive underwear or base layers. She wanted MATEK to look and feel high-end — without the price tag to match. And selling online only rather than through a retailer helps with that.
A New Niche Among Boring Base Layers
MATEK is a made-up brand name stemming from the Hebrew word “motek,” an endearing term for a loved one, like “sweetheart.” Stern said, “I loved the word, but ‘mo’ sounded very heavy to me. My uncle, who is a kundalini yoga-lover, suggested I trade out the ‘mo’ for ‘ma,’ which in kundalini yoga is a sound that represents feminine empowerment.”
Before putting her own spin on skivvies, Stern gained experience at the prestigious Nike Lab and Parsons School of Art and Design.
She drew from personal experience, growing up skiing on the East Coast. She fully immersed herself in the ski adventure scene while attending the University of Colorado Boulder. And after interning with outdoor companies, including a California surf brand, Stern decided to branch out on her own.
She started with a five-piece women’s collection using materials with an eye to the environment (recycled nylon) and fashion, something not normally associated with the outdoor base layer category.
This is just the start. If she sells enough technical performance intimates, Stern hopes to expand to next-to-skin layers for men and kids next year.
We haven’t tested these yet. They are intriguing, but we’re skeptical about nylon base layers. For now, you can shop the inaugural MATEK collection here.