‘Cycling’ its way into Fashion!

Published for FFT

April 2016

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A lifestyle change often influences fashion, especially if it is the healthy sort and inspires a large number of people. That is exactly what happened with cycling.

Cycling to work, cycling to exercise, cycling to be part of a movement, or simply cycling for the sake of it! That is something that has inspired many in countries like Netherlands and Denmark, who have become the undisputed leaders in terms of the number of cyclists. Not only do these countries have long cycling traditions, they also have the necessary infrastructure for it. Again, in Shanghai (most populous city in China), about 60 per cent of the locals pedal their way to work everyday. The city is home to 9,430,000 million bicycles and 19,213,200 people.

However, an increasingly large number of metropolises, as well as second-tier cities, across the world are now seeing a sea-change in their infrastructure, paving the way for more and more people to ride the healthy vehicle.

Thanks to this lifestyle change, there has been a major boom in the cycle manufacturing industry around the world, and that includes even India.

Hero Cycles had posted a turnover of around Rs 3,000 crore during the last financial year, producing around 5.5 million cycles. With its recent announcement of entry into the European market, the brand aims at growing up to Rs 8,000 crore by 2018, hence benefiting from the currently booming cycling trend.

Although, this is undoubtedly a rapidly growing lifestyle trend, India still lags behind on the infrastructural end, needed to provide for such a huge shift.

Siddhant Mangotra, a cycling enthusiast from Delhi, who habitually cycles around the city, often covering around 30-40 km a day, says “I have separate sets of cycling gear for winters and summers, and I need to change every time I reach office.”

Another cyclist, Supratim Pal, who is associated with a cyclist enthusiasts’ society Discover on Wheels, Kolkata, also cycles to work. “A major problem faced by cyclists is the lack of dedicated cycle parking space.” Very few MNCs in India support or encourage cyclists to take up this mode of transportation. Hence, there are no proper dedicated parking spaces or changing rooms for cyclists. However, there has been a growing demand for these in recent times, which have silently and surely put pressure on companies to make arrangements for them.

Along with this lifestyle trend, the lines between casual clothing, office-wear and high performance gear have gradually become blur. Propelled by the growing popularity of transit and urban riding, along with an ever-broadening definition of how bicycles fit into our daily lives, apparel makers are throwing the boundaries of cycling’s sartorial territory wide open.

Minimalistic-ally Sporty

For decades, bold graphics and bright colours have defined the image of road cycling, owing mostly to infused sense of safety along with functionality.

However, with the new minimalist approach to aesthetics, the essentials of performance and comfort are increasingly being taken into account

Clothes are designed such that they can be carried off without any awkwardness all day long.

In the pursuit of this minimalist aesthetics, there has been a discreet, and almost seamless transition from the road to the daily modern living, with a remarkable shift towards fine knits, muted solids, and subtle touches, such as hidden vents at the collarbones and stylish quilt stitching at the shoulder.

The market today provides a lot of options. The Proviz’s Reflect360 jacket is an example, whose outer shell normally appears grey, but is exceptionally reflective of light. This innovative clothing, released in 2014, continues to be the brand’s best-seller. The brand is now trying to incorporate more features into it like making it more breathable.

The London-based cycling start-up Nakeid’s apparel range is hot on wearable technology, incorporating activity monitor, but most importantly its minimalist aesthetics, included in its jerseys, shorts and tops, made from wicking fabrics and Elastic Interface Tech pads that use anatomic 3-D shapes and dual density construction for comfort and protection.

Truant shorts from Giro could pass as street-wear, and that’s one of our favorite things about them. But don’t let the everyday appearance fool you: there’s plenty of tech-packed into these nylon/spandex shorts, including velcro waist-adjusters, a stretch-knit rear yoke and a mid-thigh zip pocket.

The 14″ inseam and wide leg openings promise kneepad-friendliness.

Women-sensitive designs

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female commuter cycling

A significant trend that dominated the apparel industry was to remake every piece of men’s clothes for women by means of changing their colour to pink. But gone are those days. Now, the women’s riding apparel is reshaping the spirit of design. Many companies have realised that the era of remaking men’s garments in the stereotypical pink hues and women’s-only sizes has come to an end.

Young, often-urban entrepreneurs are now reaching out with a more fun and fashion-forward approach.

SOAS Racing, a women’s specific endurance clothing brand, has launched four new 2016 designs: Aquarius, Byron Bay, Red Geo and Ultramarine.

“They’re created to help women achieve their personal performance goals in comfortable, functional apparel that’s infused with a unique sense of fashion and fun. We’re thrilled to introduce our 2016 collection and to start seeing these vibrant new designs in action on women around the world,” says an official statement by the SOAS Racing.

While some brands like Gore, creator of some of the most technical waterproof and windproof textiles in the market, have come up with street-inspired Power Trail Lady range that lays particular emphasis on the fact that the range isn’t just a scaled-down version of the Men’s Power Trail range, but has been designed for women from ground up.

Modern retail is picking pace in India, including in small cities, much to the delight of the brands, suppliers and retailers of sportswear and sports lifestyle products. Even then, the most game-changing brands like Puma and Nike hardly have a dedicated line for cycling. Even if brands like Adidas do, there is still the lack of their awareness and availability, and hence a possible path the brands could tread to create a major segment for themselves.

Interestingly in India, the sports apparel industry has seen a 13 per cent year-on-year rise in sales, accounting for Rs 600 crore worth in business in 2015. This should be sufficient cue for retailers, suppliers and brands to safely venture into the industry with positive assurance of growth.

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