"We produce the very best performance athletic apparel in the world."

That's the first thing you'll read when you land on ashmei's 'about us' page. Everyone makes these sorts of claims, don't they? You read something like that and you think to yourself, 'what a bunch of douchebags'. In a vacuum, I certainly would, but I've had the pleasure of checking out their running gear so I'm gonna spend the next few paragraphs convincing you to join my side.

But first, check out this artfully-shot video of some athletes wearing ashmei gear while running and cycling their way through what looks like Iceland, though could easily be somewhere in Canada too:

That was good, right? While I can't boast a similar backdrop for my testing (Cardiff Bay is nice, but not that nice), I like to think I looked just as good in the gear to passersby. But that's just a small part of what makes ashmei such a premium brand - something Stuart Brooke explained to us over email: "We do not compromise on the performance / quality of features of our products because we don’t design to target prices. Our customers also tell us that our products have a high-end style aesthetic to them too – but performance certainly comes first."

We managed to get our hands on the Mono Hooded Sweatshirt, the Men’s T-Shirt, Chequered Merino Sock, and Men’s 2 in 1 Shorts - which all stay true to the company's vision. The killer product is the sweatshirt, which has become one of my go-to winter items. Featuring stretch terry looped Merino wool, reflective binding, thumb loops, and a ninja hood, I felt confident pairing this with ashmei's breathable t-shirt for the colder runs, or on its own when the sun broke through the clouds.

In terms of pricing, their products reflect the hard-wearing quality that you get in return. Sure, you could go to your local supermarket and pick up similar items (form-wise, not features) for a fraction of the cost, all you're really investing in is a shorter timeline. With ashmei, you're getting a product that will stand the test of time.

To further find out about the company, we quizzed Stuart Brooke (and Gary Bradshaw) about how the company started, what makes them stand out from their competition, and what they have planned for the future. Read on below.

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How did the company get started?

Gary Bradshaw: For the last 25 years, Stuart Brooke, the founder of ashmei, has designed sportswear. In fact, he has designed for well over 120 performance brands and every brief he was given started with a target price. This immediately restricts what you can do as a designer. Every feature, fibre and component you incorporate into the design has to be costed, which ultimately compromises the product in terms of what an athlete really needs.

He spotted a gap in the market for a performance sportswear brand that focussed purely on the product. So, breaking away from the norm, he started to design kit that wasn’t compromised by budget. Instead, he followed his instinct and began developing sports apparel that specifically addressed the athlete’s needs.

What would you say separates you from other companies in your field?

Stuart Brooke: We do not compromise on the performance / quality of features of our products because we don’t design to target prices. Our customers also tell us that our products have a high-end style aesthetic to them too – but performance certainly comes first.

Ashmei

Image courtey of Ashmei

How does the design process work for you: specifically the balance between functionality and aesthetic?

Stuart Brooke: Aesthetic is the easy part. We have a classic brand look and this largely dictates of how each piece will look. The functionality aspect is much more complex and starts with an understanding of what the athlete needs, the conditions and environment they will be wearing the garment and how to produce something that will benefit their performance. We always start with fibres and work from there. It is the blend of fibres and fabric construction that provides the performance. If you get this wrong, the athlete will feel too hot, cold or get wet or fatigued. If you get this right, you are able to maintain optimal athlete comfort to allow them to stay feeling stronger and more comfortable.

Who is the best runner at the company?

Stuart Brooke: Edi, who is the company dog. Her four legs do give her an advantage over the rest of us though! Second best is Rob, our head of wholesale, but he does have this annoyingly effective old man shuffle.

Ashmei

Image courtey of Ashmei

If one album could sum up the brand, what would it be and why?

Stuart Brooke: Debut by Björk. This album was progressive and really pushed the boundaries. It's also an album driven by a clear vision with a forceful personality behind it and felt way ahead of its time. In fact, Debut still feels highly relevant today, which is certainly what we’d like people to be thinking about ashmei products 20 years down the line.

What piece are you most proud of and why?

Stuart Brooke: Our aim is to make every piece a groundbreaker - but if you pushed us it would have to be our 2in1 shorts: a Merino inner liner working in total harmony with a lightweight nylon outer. Ultra-stretchy and comfortably soft, the Merino fabric is an absolute winner as it so efficient at thermo-regulation.

Lastly, what do you have coming up that you think we should keep a look out for?

Stuart Brooke: Collaborations and the colour green.

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You can find ashmei over at their official website, as well as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.