If anything 2011 is the year that fashion definitely got excited about riding bikes around the city. But there’s already a collection of indie design labels dedicated to producing hip and sophisticated urban cycling fashion designed to be comfortable while riding while many of the new additions use advanced technical materials to stay dry or dry quickly, stand up to the rigours of dedicated riding while looking super chic at work or just being your gorgeous self. With so many major design players, athletic labels and a new generation of apparel companies thriving on the growth in cycling -it’s also great to see that many of the smaller labels are also focused on domestic production (swrve, Nona Varnado, Outlier).
Stella McCartney SS1o Cycling for Adidas
There’s an almost intolerable video, but the collection itself was interesting, if on the small side. Still, you have to hand it to London-based Stella McCartney, who via Adidas is making the most beautiful athletic wear. Sadly there’s a lot more momentum behind her Golf or Studio collections, which come out seasonally.
Betsy Johnson SS11 & ‘RIDE ME’ show
Betsy Johnson the hyper colorful and hyper girly line best known for her tea dresses that grace sweet 16 birthdays, bat mitzvahs and proms all over jumped into a heavily Tour de France themed collection bended with strong abstract and classic NY visual themes. The show was so much fun that CNN did a “behind the scenes” special which, was far less entertaining than either the runway show or the collection. I’d prefer The Deadly Knightshades crew necklace over ‘RIDE ME’ any day, but there are some fun pieces that are more conceptual that I’d love to wear for a special occasion. Everyday wear? No.
Philip Lim 3.1 Fall 2011
It’s basically impossible not to be madly in love with Philip Lim if you happen to like either fashion or city cycling. The video even has Kraftwerk’s Tour de France song! With Fall 2011 (that’s right now! In stores!) Fall 2011 represents the most exciting full-collection from a high end designer that stays focused on fashion, but also happens to be totally cycling friendly. There’s no performance fabrics or “basics” but if you’ve got a black AMEX card, this is the time to break it out.
Lululemon “Light Up” Cyclewear SS11
Again, the cycle specific collection is a tiny number of items, all heavily seamed with reflective tape and what appears to be reflective thread (Now that’s exciting). However you can tell how hard they’re pushing cycling via the total of 5 promo photos available on on their flickr.com stream. I walked into 2 lulu stores last week and there wasn’t a single “light up” item available. The idea seems to be that these are yoga clothes you can ride your bike to yoga class in. While there’s a heavy “cross fit” appeal to basic tops/shorts that work in sports from running to cycling or gym sports, it was disappointing to see a company with so much momentum make such a cursory appeal to the cycling crowd. The ‘Light Up’ Sports Bra however was a notable standout. Kinda bummed I missed that one.
Paul Smith (for Rapha)
Quote the website: Rapha’s latest collaboration with Paul Smith combines sartorial flair with innovation and functionality. It features numerous influences from Paul Smith’s early riding career, including “Words That Confused My Father”, a hand-rendered word print of cycling terms that his father never quite got to grips with.
If anyone has written the book on navigating between fancy spandex, wool socks and designer jackets -it’s Rapha. I love their brand’s consistency & look – but I’ve heard a lot of complaints that the mid-range ‘lifestyle’ items – like the summer pants – were of poor quality. The other issue is the lack of women’s wear, though it also seems that there aren’t as many women willing to pony up for lifestyle cycling wear like the boys are. But with regular new releases from Paul Smith, that might change everything.
Levis Fall 2011 511 Commuter Jean (only for men)
Quote the Press Release: 511 Skinny Jean, Levi’s’ most popular skinny fit for men. The 511 Commuter features fabric and construction upgrades that increase mobility and durability, while protecting cyclists from the potential hazards of their daily commute. The jeans come available in two styles – a full-length and cropped version – and both denim and non-denim fabrics. All Commuter by Levi’s products blend form and function by utilizing the most cutting-edge performance apparel technologies. Partnering with Swiss-based Schoeller Technologies AG, Levi’s is the first to introduce NanoSphere® treatment into denim fabrication, making the fabric water resistant, dirt repellant and more durable
>>As far as I can tell: these jeans are awesome & they use Schoeller fabric. Again, nothing for women and that leads one to the essence of this project: Levi’s is now confident that these smaller companies have created & verified a growing audience of city cyclists who are willing to pay for fashion & performance. With their size they can get the volumes needed to drop the item price, promote it to new markets and generally steal the baton. I’d be more forgiving if they even made the pretense of making a women’s version.
Nona Varnado Fall 2010 Lifestyle Collection
In Fall 2010 a line of riding jackets, wool tunics, technical shells and reflective waterproof vests were released. SS11 brought bike dresses, a Spin-collection and the NV Riding pant. Like Levis’ & Outlier, the NV Riding Pant is made with Schoeller AG fabric and cut to be comfortable riding all day long and in a unique spin: designed to look fabulous on a range of ladies’ bottoms. Black and Khaki colors are classic and work beautifully as a fashion staple. The collection is made in NYC and available only by inquiry.
Nona Varnado SS11 Spin Collection
Though Lululemon is the default apparel brand seen in spin classes nationwide – this is the first spin specific apparel line. Mesh tops and jerseys are modestly cut to hide bra straps in edgy color block paneling. Matching mini-shorts & capris. The interplay of mesh panels in key places make them super cool and breathable, but lack some of the details of major brands, such as key pockets or heat sealed seams. It’s spin-specific but any of the pieces work for runners and cross training. As much as yoga wear has entered the every day fashion lexicon, spin or cycling wear is poised to be the next generation of active sport fashion with details like sport specific fabrics and pockets over drawstrings and baggy bottoms. Lightweight, minimal and pretty enough to wear outside a spin studio, the brand is noticeably free from logos or any screen printing.
Nau gets a lot of things right; they’re leading the way to a sustainability index, they try to use recycled polyesters and are very well made (in China). They opt for a ‘multi-sport’ basics approach, so you’ll see the “pedal” items in other categories, because a well designed jacket that works on a bike will also work in other sports or activities. They also have a minimalist approach to colors and forgo screen printing in favor of signature details, such as asymmetrical cuts and ruffles on much of the women’s line. They have a certain Pacific Northwest look as the design offices are located in Portland. I’m not such a fan of the ‘Pedal’ line but *loved* the winter/snow sports items from last winter.
the original NYC cycling apparel line that began with mens pants and has since expanded into merino basics (socks & tees), a few womens versions and a regular roster of exciting collaborations, from shoes to winter jackets. Made in NYC with premium materials, they’re expensive and super popular. Just kind of a bummer that’s it’s always for men. You can’t blame them as that seems to be the rule everywhere. It’s great to see a concept done well & successful without having to resort to offshore production.
Like Nona Varnado and Outlier, swrve is made domestically – except in LA. They’ve got a great collection of ‘workhorse’ apparel items for men sold in stores & online, but appear to be phasing out their womens items, which are only available online. Their (mens) pants have a roomier fit with asymmetrical pockets and do some funky designs as well as the super clean basics, such as Japanese grey denim, neon green shorts and ‘cigarette cut’ shorts for the very physically fit male rider. Shirts, jackets and cycling caps are all well designed basics made to work with regular fashion or athletic items.
Based out of San Francisco, CHROME has recently exploded (not just expanded) with stores in SF, NYC, Chicago and a product line that’s gone from Bags to almost everything: mens and women’s apparel, accessories, shoes and bike events. They’ve got a blended approach to production: bags mostly made in California (or customized in the store), certain items (like the wool socks) made in the US and other items in China or other foreign manufacturing- well, it is a business. They’re black/Grey minimalist color scheme with the bright red logo can be identified from a block away while still looking slick and urban.
Enthusiasts, collaborators & fashion advocates
Then there’s the designers who are lifestyle enthusiasts, such as Lela Rose -often photographed in the New York Times for riding a custom cargo bike to all her daily appointments – who’s also on the Board of Directors for Transportation Alternatives, Kate and Jack Spade who’ve made cycling accessories and collaborations, Marc Jacobs cycling caps made with the Spanish firm peSeta who later exhibited their bicycle=powered sewing machine that sewed 16 very retro cycling caps and a totally adorable film piece at the New Museum. If NYC continues to squabble over bike lanes and infrastructure, fashion seems set to take up the reigns of sailing right past that and establishing urban cycling as the sexiest and most fun thing to do.
With so much already happening, it’s exciting to see what will be coming out next for Spring/Summer 2012. It’s the future already!
Of course there are plenty of awesome indie labels and crafts people making superior cycling apparel and accessories (Many of them out of Portland and San Francisco). There’s also a good number of companies making regular old spandex bike apparel, but in funky or feminine colors and there’s no cooler t-shirt than a cycling themed t-shirt made by creative individuals in cities all over the US. If you’ve got a company making cycling fashion for the urban cyclist – leave the link in the comments!