Haute coutre cycling apparel is a slow-burn trend that’s influencing the mainstream. Earlier this year, items from the Cyclodelic range of women’s cycle clothing accessories were introduced in Topshop’s flagship store on Oxford Street in London.
Designed and handmade by two female cyclists in their East London studio, Cyclodelic products are for “girls who cycle but who don’t have to forfeit fashion over function,” says Cyclodelic co-founder Amy
Fleuriot, a London College of Fashion student.
In 2005, there was the Armani range of bikes; Sir Paul Smith famously loves bikes and bike clobber; and, in 2008, London bike shop Velorution staged a fashion show called Prêt à Rouler. Prada even had a range of ‘Bicycle’ shoes (sadly, not SPD-compatible) and fashionista Cynthia Rowley’s Spring 2008 collection included gold bicycle pendants on models riding cruisers.
Cycling togs can be high fashion, they can be low fashion (hopefully, there will be no mainstream return for Lycra skin shorts, momentarily fashionable in the 1980s) and much of the cross-over is bubbling up, as always, from the ‘street’. Tight jeans, with a u-lock sticking out of the back pocket, is one iconic item from what could be called ‘messenger style’ and it influences the bike commuter clothes produced by Tyler Clements and Abe Burmeister, who founded Outlier Tailored of New York. This young brand’s cycle clothing is almost always sold out on the website at www.outlier.cc, even though the 4Season OG Pant costs a mouth-watering $180.
Another urban commuting line of clothing is Bspoke, produced by Fisher Outdoor Leisure under licence from Transport for London.
Bspoke is a ‘clothing collection for men and women who love cycling, but not traditional cycling clothing. The range performs within an urban environment and yet has a timeless fashion for day/work wear.’
David Ellis, TfL’s head of intellectual development, says: “There are a number of barriers to encouraging people to cycle, including what to wear. Many people are put off by the Lycra image and want clothes they feel comfortable in.”
Richard Allmark, CEO of Fisher Outdoor, agrees: “We have long believed that this customer segment of the cycling market has been overlooked. There is clearly huge potential to explore in this market.”
Sold from the TfL website, as well as growing number of bike shops across the UK, Bspoke is smart cycle clothing, yet it’s not as exclusive nor as expensive as the tailored garments sold by custom cycle clothing specialists.
Dashing Tweeds of London is one such specialist – a favourite of MTB pioneer Gary Fisher, who says: “It’s impressive to people when you arrive on a bicycle looking elegant”. It was founded by style hotographer Guy Hills and RCA-trained weaver Kirsty McDougall.
They produce ‘classic tweeds with a twist’ – tweeds with retro reflective yarns, for instance. The Dashing Tweeds cycle suit is tailored by Russell Howarth of London.
In Lancaster, Zaynan Lythgoe opened Practical Cycles, a shop specialising in cargo bikes. He’s about to start producing Practical Cyclewear – cycle clothing that doesn’t look like cycle clothing. And this was also the theme of a cycling fashion show held in New York in early June. Fashion house LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton asked students at the New York Fashion Institute of Technology to create chic yet affordable cycling gear.
Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, said at the launch: “Having functioning, attractive gear so you can arrive at work looking stylish should be encouraged. No one wants to show up at work looking like bike messengers.”
Rich Kelly, marketing manager for the Interbike trade show in the US, says the new bike culture is largely operating outside of the mainstream bike industry:
“Fixies, bike polo, fashion, models on bikes, and custom bike shows all exist outside of the typical bike company-to-retailer-to-cyclist ecosystem. Few traditional bike companies are successfully tapping into it in a legitimate way. It relies on Craigslist, dumpsters, the fashion industry, new boutique urban bike shops, and other mysterious outlets to spread the word and the style, and reap the benefits.”
Of course fashion, by definition, is fickle and tapping into bicycle haute couture could be an easy way for an IBD to burn lots of money. But, as Bspoke is showing, it’s possible to cater for cyclists – especially new cyclists – who don’t want to flag up the fact they’ve travelled by bike.