- Buyer's Guide
Riot Division Fractalization SS 2021 Review
Based in Kyiv, Ukraine, Riot Division is a brand that has been rocking the techwear world for over a decade. It all started with a batch of 30 hoodies made for friends. But it’s grown into a prominent techwear brand that has found its way into the stores of Tokyo, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Berlin, and of course into the hearts of thousands of fans of functional, comfortable, and innovative apparel.
Recently, the brand launched the Spring/Summer 2021 collection and I had the pleasure to try out some of the key products in this drop. Particularly a rain jacket, everyday pants, a waist bag, and a wallet.
Read on to find out what makes each of these products special.
Who It Suits
Anyone looking for functional, durable everyday items with low-key techwear aesthetics without breaking the bank.
Those who have already invested in Riot Division pieces would appreciate the seamless integration of all the pieces.
Who It Doesn’t
Those into heritage clothing and natural materials might find it difficult to incorporate Riot Division pieces in their wardrobe.
Material: 30% cotton, 70% nylon, 8000/8000 3-layered membrane
The jacket is made out of waterproof 3-layered membrane 8000/8000 with all seams meticulously taped to ensure excellent protection from the elements. I am in between sizes M and L at the moment and I deliberately picked size L to be able to layer this jacket during colder months.
The jacket has four generous pockets on the outside:
– Two refreshingly deep chest pockets that can swallow even the largest of phones and still have room to spare
– Two hand pockets that feature L-shaped dual-zip closures. These are not flat pockets and have some dimension. The dual-zip closure and the shape of the pocket allow side access, vertical access, or full access if need be. These zippers are also AquaGuard so the contents remain dry no matter what.
There are no pockets on the inside, which brings us to a unique feature of the Fractal Jacket – two retractable pouches hidden behind the chest flap. These pouches serve as concealed pockets that can be deployed by loosening the cord in the hand pockets. They can also be detached completely and used as standalone organizers.
Both pouches are made out of VX21, feature YKK zippers, and are large enough to fit a medium-sized wallet, keys, and mask. My iPhone 11 with the case on did not fit, which was fine since I enjoyed keeping it in the cavernous chest pocket anyways. Since the pouches are secured by small carabiners you can easily attach something like keys or an ID tag instead.
The are many little details across the Fractal Jacket that make it a joy to use:
The main opening has a dual zip allowing me to open the jacket from the bottom. This is a godsend for mobility when sitting in a car or riding a bike. It is also handy for grabbing something in the hoodie pocket under the jacket without the need to fully unzip it.
The zippers feature grippy tastefully branded pulls that have become some of my favorite of all the jackets I used.
The loop to hang the jacket is placed on the outside just under the hood, which reminded me how back in the 1960s GANT was adding the so-called “locker loops” on their shirts to keep them wrinkle-free in the locker. I don’t see the Fractal Jacket being easily wrinkled but this still felt like a nice touch.
The hood has a generous size to even fit a helmet and also has a soft visor to improve visibility and protection against the elements
As with all waterproof jackets, breathability is a concern. And to help with that the jacket has tiny holes in the armpit area to help with ventilation.
The cuffs are adjustable with Velcro, which allows for tailoring the fit as needed. For instance, my left cuff is always looser to accommodate my bulky Garmin Fenix 6X Pro.
The Fractal Jacket was a blast to use. The excellent quality and build kept me dry and comfortable during unexpected May downpours. The dual zip allowed me to be mobile no matter what. I have to say this feature has become a must-have for me on all my jackets. And the generous outside pockets coupled with the concealed pouches basically meant that I could leave my house without any sling or small bag – all my essentials easily fit in the Fractal Jacket. Despite this jacket being part of the Spring/Summer drop I personally see it more suitable for Fall, with chilly weather, frequent rain, and the need to layer up. Still, the Fractal Jacket is an excellent piece if you need a weather-resistant jacket with some cool built-in organization and a minimalist look that does not scream “I am an urban ninja” like many other techwear brands.
Dimensions: 57 x 17 x 9 cm
Material: Dimension Polyant VX21, YKK zippers
A waist pack or a sling – this compact bag can do both. These types of bags seem to be on the rise during the pandemic, with products such as the Code of Bell X-POD (S), Greenroom136 Metrorunner, Bellroy Sling, Heimplanet Sling Pocket XL, etc. helping you carry new daily essentials – a spare face mask and sanitizer coupled with a more traditional setup of wallet, phone, and keys that normally occupy small waist packs.
The bag is made out of Dimension Polyant VX21 with a black nylon liner. There is no padding or frame inside, which made the bag incredibly light but also somewhat floppy.
The shape and the capacity of the Fractal waist bag are somewhat reminiscent of the recent hit from EVERGOODS, the Mountain Hip Pack 3.5L.
The strap is standard 40mm webbing, which was comfortable enough and I did not feel the need for any padding. The “wings” of the strap have an anatomic shape and hug the body quite comfortably. They also feature some loops that can be used to attach a cap, flashlight, etc. Similar to the MHP3.5 the strap also does not have a buckle in the middle. Instead, it is placed on one side for quick release.
The main compartment is a generous cavern that easily fits a rain jacket, snack, Kindle, small camera, and more. Apart from a small zippered pocket inside the main compartment, there is no other organization. So you are not restricted to fill the available space in a specific way.
What sets the Fractal waist bag apart is the unusual external organization. Three Velcro secured pockets (one horizontal and two vertical) allow segmenting the contents instead of dumping it all in the front or main compartment. The Velcro also allows some degree of expansion of the pocket. For instance, I was able to fit a larger iPhone 11 with the case on in one of the pockets. These pockets make the bag look a bit busier compared to other offerings on the market. But I personally appreciate the ability to dedicate each pocket to specific things and always reliably deploy them. One pocket always had a spare mask, the other my sunglasses.
Another interesting feature – a transparent front panel that allowed me to see the contents of the front pocket. For instance, I could see my passport stored inside without the need to open the pocket – very neat! The front compartment is accessible from two points – horizontal zip or a vertical Velcro pocket. This is handy when accessing the pocket while the bag is on the back.
In my use, I preferred the look and feel of the bag in the sling mode. Carrying such a large bag on my waist felt a bit silly but your mileage may vary.
If I were to point out a negative it would be the lack of protection (a trade-off with such a light bag). So if you plan to carry an iPad Mini or a camera inside, I strongly recommend using a case.
One thing I felt missing was the top grab handle. In my opinion this is a must-have in any bag over 3L.
Overall the bag is perfect for those who want to stay agile, appreciate high-quality materials and construction, and need a bag spacious enough to carry the essentials with room to spare.
Dimensions: 18 x 10 cm
Material: Dimension Polyant VX21
This somewhat oversized wallet is made out of VX21 and served me well in different capacities – from a standard wallet with cash and cards to a phone holder and a mask holder.
This versatility is possible thanks to a simple rectangular shape with a long zip that comfortably fits my iPhone 11 or sunglasses.
The wallet has a plastic hook that allows attaching it to anything you fancy. Personally, I secured the wallet to the belt loop on my pants for quick access.
The organization was quite unusual with the wallet folded from two different sides – a smaller flap containing pockets for a SIM card, coins, etc. while the bigger one had a zippered pocket to further secure your cash or sensitive items like an ID card.
The transparent panel was great to see what’s inside the main compartment and “peeking” inside has become a small habit of mine.
In use it was very handy to have my wallet ready and easily accessible, freeing my pockets and making it more convenient to get cash, cards, or a spare mask that fit inside.
Material: 37% cotton, 63% nylon
Hardware: Arta-F, YKK
The minimalist pants dubbed “Common” pants look unassuming and stealthy. Thanks to a loose fit and anatomical cut they are quite comfortable to wear even in the heat of Istanbul in late May. The integrated belt with an elastic waistband was easy to use and adjust, as well as made sure that I won’t ever need a belt on these pants (or won’t lose it).
The fabric did a good job of repelling water which was nice, especially during occasional rain, though the pants are not waterproof. I found these pants easy to maintain and quite comfortable to wear despite lacking any stretch.
The organization is simple:
Two frontal zipped hand pockets have an elongated zipper pull that is also sewn in at the bottom. As a result, you have no dangling zipper pulls and also a very easy closing and opening motion.
The back pockets are also unusual – the right-hand pocket has a flap with an integrated carabiner to attach keys. The left-hand pocket is open and does not have a flap. This gives an interesting asymmetrical look to the pants.
One thing I did not love – due to the mix of nylon and cotton these pants were difficult to keep wrinkle-free. My indoor photos should help illustrate this.
Overall, these pants are solid. They look clean, fit well, and are comfortable. Furthermore, I appreciated the very minimal branding on the outside.
Alternatives to Consider
ORBITGear: Talking about affordable high-quality techwear without mentioning an Indonesia-based brand is simply impossible. Unlike Riot Division, the ORBITGear product portfolio is more focused on backpacks, messengers, and slings with a wide range of modular accessories. But there is also apparel worth checking out. One thing to keep in mind – ORBITGear products are made in small batches so be prepared to wait for the next drop. Most of the items are not readily available to purchase.
KRAKATAU: Based in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation this techwear brand is famous for its great futuristic designs and excellent materials. Unlike other brands mentioned here, KRAKATAU has a strong focus on women’s collections with a wide range of clothing to choose from. The brand offers mostly apparel and accessories and stopped making bags a few years ago.
Veilance: A subdivision of Arc’teryx famous for making minimalist and elegant technical apparel for the urban dweller. Made using the best materials and manufacturing in the world, the quality of each garment is absolutely top-notch. And the commitment to innovation is embodied in every single product. As expected, it comes at a premium price that makes other alternatives seem very affordable in comparison.
Looking back at the journey Riot Division has had so far it’s difficult not to be impressed. From a local brand offering a few interesting pieces, Riot Division has expanded into one of the most recognizable and innovative techwear brands out there, claiming a foothold in the fashion capitals of Japan, Germany, Hong Kong, and beyond.
The SS21 Fractalization collection carries over an unmistakable Riot Division DNA, pushing the envelope of the materials and hardware used in everyday apparel. If you are looking for high-quality, durable everyday pieces that offer protection from the elements and great functionality while also looking great in the process, Riot Division should definitely be on your radar.