A few weeks ago my girlfriend and I had planned a trip up to Yosemite in December for a few days. Both of us have great experiences with Uniqlo’s HEATTECH collection, and they recently even released an Extra Warm HEATTECH. Uniqlo is quite popular for their down jackets and vests among their other casual clothes. Their clothes are so universal that they even have clothing vending machines various locations!
The Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Vest was on sale and I eventually reasoned with myself to purchase one. The design is quite simple and practical – there are two hand warmer pockets in the front that can be zipped to prevent items from falling out. On the interior, there are additional vertical pockets behind the front pockets. A single zipper on the front. The vest doesn’t restrict my arms and it is very lightweight. I went with my standard size of a large at a 43 inch (109 cm) chest. I can roll it into a small cylinder shape the size of maybe two fists and place it into the pouch it additionally comes with. The vest worked great at Yosemite and was warm enough to even wear by itself only!
I never was a down outerwear kind of guy, but after my great experience with the Uniqlo one at Yosemite, I decided to look further into another one. I first learned of Crescent Down Works in 2012 visiting Standard & Strange in Oakland, CA. CDW is a small company that produces down outerwear in Seattle, Washington. Not much further away is also Freeman Seattle which makes great raincoats! Seattle (which includes Filson) is definitely prepared for the elements! CDW does a lot of collaborations with other brands such as Freeman, Lost & Found, Brooklyn Clothing, and recently, 3sixteen.
My girlfriend and I mutually decided to buy each other CDW vests as Christmas presents, agreeing on the specs beforehand. AFAIK, CDW makes garments that are unisex so the measurements are what matters most. For mine, I wanted a somewhat neutral color vest with a ribbed collar instead of the standard collar. It’s a nice extra touch that I think makes it stand out from the other down jackets out there.
- Water-resistant 60/40 cotton-nylon shell.
- 100% nylon ribbed collar and streakfree liner.
- 5.5 oz. premium, 700-fill European goose down.
- Front placket with two-way zipper and leather-backed snaps.
- Down-filled front pockets.
- Elasticized waist.
- Made in Seattle.
I ended up purchasing an older stock, unused previous year’s collaboration CDW x Freeman Quilted Down Vest off of eBay. The quilted pattern was used to streamline the bulkier Italian Vest down into a sleeker look. The main difference between the Classic Italian Vest and this Quilted Diagonal Italian Vest is the pattern and how much down is within each stitched area. The quilted design purposely has less fill. The collars are different in that mine has a ribbed collar long enough that folds upon itself once (some versions ribbed but no fold). I haven’t felt any significant difference in warmth regarding the collar types. The ribbed collar does feel cozier on the neck, however. After looking over several online measurements, especially the chest width of 23 inches, I went with my typical size which was a large.
My girlfriend had received her Italian Down Vest a few days earlier so I was able to compare the two vests. The amounccount for the size proportion difference (XS vs L), but the pockets on mine were very generous, measuring about 9 inches x 11 inches (23cm x 28cm). Both of our pockets were angled similarly, but another difference is that her pockets had more down on the exterior which I’d say would keep your hands warmer.
The quality and specs are definite on point. The front buttons are backed with a circular leather piece to prevent ripping through the material while unsnapping. The bottom of the jacket has a bit of ribbing to accomodate some generosity and retain snugness. I like that the vest has a buttoned front placket over the zipper that prevents any breeze from coming through. I typically wear the vest unzipped or completely buttoned and zipped if it’s chilly. There’s a two way zipper also which might be useful for when sitting down but I haven’t used it yet.
The length of the vest was longer than I expected. It’s my fault for overlooking the body length measurements for jackets, I typically look at just shoulders and chest (I think I have average proportions). I imagined a vest would be shorter to provide more mobility (such as a well-fitted waistcoat of a suit). The extra two to three inches on the body length exaggerates the classic straight fit. The outerwear, of course, is designed in mind for all weather use and not fashion.
CDW and other sites list the fit as “classic”, so I’d recommend sizing down one if you want a slimmer fit. Stay true to size if you’d like some flexibility to layer underneath.
If you haven’t tried on or own a down jacket, the material really works. I can wear the vest over a henley or flannel comfortably down to mid 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so. If I need extra warmth, I’ll throw on a jacket over everything so the vest acts as a midlayer. The exterior material (60/40 cotton/nylon) is a blend popularized in Mountain Parkas in the 1970s and is tightly woven, so the material is wind and bristle-resistant.
I managed to put my arms through my my girlfriend’s XS Classic Italian Vest unzipped, and I definitely felt the down capturing the warmth faster. Due to more down filling per jacket area in the Classic Italian Vest, the Classic Italian Vest > Quilted Diagonal Italian Vest in terms of warmth.
I’m loving the size of the handwarmer pockets – they fit a bunch of goods comfortably like my phone, keys, wallet even on one side.
Crescent Down Works’ outerwear is made by hand in Seattle factory, and the stitching, quality, and attention to detail was present. At about $295, the price isn’t chump change, but I think it’s justified. The Italian Down Vest is a staple piece on their website