Fine Tailoring for Cycling Shifts into High Gear

Incotex Urban Cycling Collection

The emerging category of tailored clothing for fashion-conscious men and women who ride bicycles for transportation and leisure has hit a new high, in both luxury and price. It’s the Incotex Urban Cycling collection by the Italian fashion powerhouse Slowear, an exclusive to the men’s fashion e-commerce site Mr Porter.

The Incotex x Mr Porter capsule collection is another manifestation on the fashion side of the evolving recognition of cycling as a mainstream form of urban transportation. It stands out as the highest-order example thus far among a rapidly growing number of brands blending performance and style in clothing designed for active, metro living.

The cycling collection comprises five pieces that reflect the fine tailoring, quality fabrics and innovative knits for which the company is known, all designed to appeal to a customer base that values the casual ride.

Cycling Yes, But Not In the Extreme

“We focused on the urban needs of those who ride to work or to meet friends for a beer,” said Luca Berga, director of merchandising at Slowear, in an email interview from Milan. “So there’s no need for garments to ride for 50 miles or in the rain in the early morning. Our customers enjoy cycling, but not in the extreme.”

A small, kindred glimmering was seen last year on the women’s side in popular fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff’s introduction of a bag designed for bike share.

While this is not the first fine suiting designed for the growing numbers of men whose daily lives include bicycling – Parker Dusseau and Rapha are other examples — it’s noteworthy because of its pedigree. Slowear comprises four brands — Zanone for knits, Glanshirt for shirting, Montedoro for outerwear and Incotex for pants — each outstanding in class, according to a former menswear buyer at Barneys New York, and each represented in the cycling collection. The Incotex brand, for example, is a preeminent maker of luxury tailored trousers for men. They are sold in the U.S. at stores including Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman.

In its stand-alone stores in Europe, Slowear merchandises all four brands as separates, enabling men to build a complete, coordinated wardrobe. Even in this capsule collection, the suit jacket and trousers are sold separately to give customers maximum flexibility.

Breaking Down the Features for Freedom of Movement

Berga of Slowear is himself a long-time cyclist, and that played into the features of the collection, some of which he highlights for velojoy below:

Cycling Reflective Trim Wool-Blend Suit Jacket, $795

We started by selecting a stretch, light wool fabric for the jacket and trousers: Wool has great qualities for sport use. It deals perfectly with sweat and has natural thermo-regulation properties.

For the jacket, some reflective materials were added on the back neck and in other areas to help visibility during night rides. We added also a button system that secures the lower front part of the jacket to the pockets. This helps give more comfort to the riding movements for the legs.

Cycling Reflective Trim Wool-Blend Suit Trousers, $400

For the trousers, we selected the same stretch wool fabric  and worked again with reflective materials inside the back pockets. we also added a cargo pocket on the right side and modified the trouser bottoms with a system to tighten them to the ankles.

Cycling Reflective-Trimmed Chambray Oxford Shirt, $275

For the shirt, we used a chambray Oxford fabric, choosing a button-down collar and adding a back pocket. Reflective material is present also on the shirt on the external back neck.

Cycling Reflective Wool-Blend Polo Shirt, Short- and Long-Sleeve, $400

Finally, for the knitwear we developed two models — a long-sleeve polo and short-sleeve, half-zip crew neck.

The yarn we selected is a special and exclusive stretch wool that is spun by Zanone. It’s a very thin yarn that can be used to develop light and comfortable garments. For both models we developed a back pockets system that is very close to the classic pocket system that you can find on technical cycling sweater.

Finally, on the log-sleeve polo we  finished the cuffs making them a little longer with a small hole to insert the thumbs.

The collection is available online at Mr Porter, where it is part of a larger assortment of luxury clothes and accessories for cycling that includes jackets by Paul Smith and Aether, jerseys by Café du Cycliste and leather accessories by Brooks England. It’s notable that, on the women’s side, Net-A-Porter and its Net-A-Sporter active wear section have thus far excluded cycling.

Above: Screenshot of Mr Porter’s cycling clothing and accessories page.

More Choice, But Also More Marketing Challenges

Crossover between fashion styling and performance details, seen in pleating at the back for comfortable reach to handlebars, 4-way stretch fabrics, back zipper pockets for personal cargo and reflective details, is showing up in an ever-growing array of products designed both specifically for urban cycling, and for active urban living in general — the  “athleisurewear” category that is rocketing in popularity and market potential.

The trend is worthy of scrutiny and conversation as urban cycling continues to grow in popularity. Where does this niche (for now) category, which doesn’t even have an official name yet, fit within the wider world of cycling apparel, dominated as it has been by road cycling? How is it best marketed to potential customers? Can urban cycling apparel find a home in bike shops, or are these clothes meant for fashion customers, who might also be more likely to buy bikes from outside the traditional bike shop retail stream? What about pricing? Tailored clothes with cycling-friendly features like the Incotex collection are pricey compared with cycling apparel, but less so within the context of fine “everyday” clothing.

For now, though, there’s good news in more choices for people who might not call themselves “cyclists,” but who embrace two wheels as part of their daily lives.

Have you purchased clothing made for urban cycling? And if so, what are your thoughts about it?

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  • It’s great to see more and more apparel available with bicycle-friendly details! I know from my experience with Po Campo, selling and marketing these crossover garments and accessories can be tricky, as they don’t have a natural home in a retail setting – yet. I’m hopeful that as more people integrate biking into their daily lives, retail buyers will stop telling me “We don’t know where to put them!” and start telling me “Oh! Those will go perfectly in our active lifestyle department” (or whatever). Exciting and interesting times we’re in.

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