It started with a fluorescent yellow running vest back in 2004. Audrey Robinson, a city cyclist since 1998, wore the vest for visibility on the road. Eventually, the vest fell apart, and at about the same time Robinson noticed a sea change in New York City.
Interest in cycling was gaining momentum, and Robinson, who had been designing prints for a knitware label, began to conceive accessories based on her own needs as a female cyclist. “I saw an opening for things that I needed and wanted,” she says. “And I didn’t know of anyone else making them.”
Robinson’s first step toward entrepreneurship in 2009 was to replace her running vest. The design that she came up with, the Lightening Vest, is a singlet, hand-netted of thin strips of fabric, custom-treated on both sides with a reflective coating. I bought one, and it’s so compact and lightweight that I can wad it up and carry it in a pocket. It’s also pretty enough to wear both for safety and as a fashion accessory. (See video.)
Thoughtful Details to Enhance the Ride
Today, Robinson works in a sun-flooded loft lined with work tables and sewing machines in an industrial building in Brooklyn. Her Dargelos line of beautifully crafted accessories is filled with thoughtful details for cyclists, the fabrics, materials and hardware all chosen with care. The simple, color-block oilcloth Trans/Porter (below, in red) converts elegantly from a shoulder bag to a backpack. When Robinson wanted a bag to carry just the minimum on her bike, she designed the Snap:Pack (below, in brown), which fastens to handlebars or a belt, or can be carried alone with a handle that’s included.
The Washington DC native has been making clothing since childhood and studied studio arts at Concordia University in Montreal. As her thoughts turned to launching her own business, she enrolled in a two-year associates degree program at Parsons The New School For Design, which she completed in 2009.
Knowing What Works
“I had always had an interest in fashion, but had not been attracted to ‘the industry,’ ” she says. “I’m a crafts person who loves materials and working with my hands.”
Robinson combined her love of art and cycling with fashion design in the launch of Dargelos in 2009. The name is inspired by a character, a boy played by a girl, in one of her film favorites, Les Enfants Terribles. She chose it to reflect the androgynous qualities of her designs.
Now on the drawing board: a soft hemp and cotton t-shirt featuring well-placed pockets – again, just for the essentials on a bike.
“I really take a lot of time to introduce something,” she says. “I don’t want to put things out there without knowing that they work.”
cycling tote and pack photos: Dargelos