Choosing the right fabric.
The fabric is without question the most important part of any cycling kit. It took Claire nearly two years to find the fabric that she felt was needed for the type of cycling kit that she wanted to wear.
‘It has to perform’ – what does that really mean?! Searching for performance fabrics is easy - filtering and testing the results of that search is a different game altogether.
Claire started the long road to selecting fabrics in 2017. With no company, no brand, no status in the industry and the story of a passionate cyclist with an idea to make women’s cycle wear more feminine, getting companies to take her serious took a little longer than she thought.
There are plenty of companies around the world that will pop unlimited swatches and hangers in the post, and wait for the order for 1,000m in 5 colours to roll in. They seemed light on detail of how the fabrics are produced and how they perform, but then some were cheap. Every lady has bought a cheap pair of leggings and the results show themselves….
It felt disjointed when trying to work with a lot of these companies. Adding the environmental issues we all face, having fabrics and all the other elements that go into making cycling garments being shipped from all corners of the world did not feel right. The cycling industry is flying the flag of low emissions and so it was only right that the sourcing of fabric and materials needed to be environmentally friendly too.
Cycling kits have to look great. A great designer can get to that stage fairly quickly. How that design comes to life from the design to the actual garment takes prototyping and plenty of hours cycling in all weather conditions to see how it performs. Pure Velo wants their women’s cycling kit to last and so it must wash well and feel great time after time, ride after ride. Corners cannot be cut if these are the results expected.
Any woman who has been cycling for a few years knows that there are no shortcuts when it comes down to things like the comfort of pads, where and how the stitching sits, will the fabric breathe and dry quickly and will I feel comfortable wearing it on that lunch or coffee stop. The requirement list goes on.
All of this product design starts and ends with the fabric. It can be perfectly sewn together, but if that performance is off and it washes like a free t-shirt, people will want their money back.
After a few trade shows where Claire met some wonderful and helpful people from all over the world, all roads seemed to lead to Rome..…well, Italy at least. It was always in Claire’s mind that the heart of cycling is Italy and so there was no surprise that bags were packed for the road trip to meet these fabric magicians.
Milan is renowned for fashion for many reasons. The Italians have recognised the need for quality fabrics and a fabric is nothing without quality manufacturing skills to turn it into that garment that comes out of the wardrobe for a special occasion. You can guess that Italian manufacturing costs more than some other parts of the world but once you visit and see the infrastructure and set up that these companies invest in, you can understand why. The trip changed the shape of her business plan and acted like a rocket launcher. When Claire met the teams of people that would be working with her to actually bringing her designs and dreams to life, the costs were comfortably justified and the search for fabric suppliers and manufacturers was looking near completion.
The search was not just about finding fabric that felt good to touch, there was much more to it than that. The fabric needed to be a stretch, performance fabric that ticked all of the boxes that Claire knew the garments needed. This meant the profile of businesses manufacturing this level of fabric was much smaller, and harder to find. However, as Milan and Northern Italy is such a hot bed of activity with football and skiing being as popular as cycling then that part of the world is well versed in all aspects of premium quality sporting clothing. The skillset of the machinists that sew these fine fabrics together is something that you don’t know you need until you start really look at clothing closely. The people of Northern Italy have had these skills for generations.
Telling the story of Pure Velo and why Claire started this company kept the doors that she was trying to get through open. The support from the companies who let her in has since been overwhelming. They are as passionate about their part in her story as Claire is. She is certain that this will shine through to the women that buy and ride in Pure Velo cycling kits.