We love bicycles.
MTB, Road, Track, Cyclocross, BMX, Commuter, Fixie, Hack.
It's all about the ride.
So this is Morvélo.
Clothing and events inspired by bicycles, the culture and the simple joy that they bring.
Arguably the most important of the five ‘F’ words we follow is function. You could say that the first function of any piece of clothing is to stop you being naked, which is a good start. The overriding function of any Morvélo clothing though is to make you look good, both in terms of graphic design and product design.
With our casual clothing the function is pretty straight forward and often intentionally so. T-shirts are a staple item of anyones wardrobe and we aim to create a range of designs that speak to the different riders in all of us, whether an 18 year old dirt jumper or 45 year old road cyclist. The passion for cycling remains the same no matter what your age, but the varied culture means that everyone’s take on cycling is different. We love it all and ride it all (and it’s not just a marketing angle) so we want to show this through the the graphics that adorn our tees.
The function of a t-shirt, in our eyes, is to communicate a message. Plain and simple, so we stop short of making the function stretch beyond that. So we don’t make the back slightly longer and don’t add in rear pockets for example. We understand why some brands do but we choose not to because we think that functionally, it doesn’t work. We created our Technical Tees though because we found that quicker drying t-shirts are actually incredibly useful, from the commute to work to the skatepark.
Functionality in our minds, goes hand in hand with simplicity and necessity. We want to create products that work well but without the fuss. So even though it could be nice to have a separate jersey pocket for a pump, we don’t do it as it restricts the capacity of the central pocket and actually makes the jersey less adaptable. We do use a zipped hidden rear pocket however. This is sized just enough to hold your phone and keys and placed in the side seam. Why? Because after testing we found that this is the easiest place to reach. Zipped pockets, on the outside of the rear pockets themselves, require a greater stretch and are far more awkward. It may look distinctive but it doesn’t function well enough.
The temptation is to stick numerous extras onto a product, so that it looks impressive when you read the list of ‘Features’ but actually adds little. We question ourselves every time we add something. What does this add? Is it necessary? It is much the same questioning that goes into our graphic design. Everything needs to be there for a reason. There must be a justification for it.
For our MTB Trail Jersey we use a S-biner clip in the solitary rear pocket. Again this is sized so it can hold your phone and keys but because of the looser fit over our race jerseys, we added the S-biner so it could be used to hang your keys from, meaning that the pocket would keep it shape and the contents wouldn’t be cluttered. So there was a temptation to add this to our normal jerseys, adding another feature onto the list to entice the customer. In fact we did test it but found that there was no need for it. The tighter fit of our normal jerseys means that all the contents of the pockets stay in place already. Also the position of the pockets at the rear means that to access the S-biner clip was far more difficult. On our MTB jersey the pocket sits more to the side so it doesn’t get in the way of a backpack. This also means it is far easier to access and clip keys onto.
Function? Reason? Necessity? Any features must answer these three questions to make sure all our products have a solid reasoning for functioning as they do, leaving just one thing left. The graphic design. But then that’s another story …
The finishing of the product is the part you notice after the initial “That looks nice” and then quickly becomes the part where you think “Oh that is nice!”. More often than not you’re struck by the visual design first and then on closer inspection see those finishing details that confirms this is the product for you. Zips, grippers, labels, seams, stitching, reflective detailing are such things that come under finishing. Peoples buying decisions are based on a wide range of factors but sometimes it’s the smaller details that matter. These could even be details that our customers don’t even realise but make us confident in our products and happy to sell them.
Because we’re not a high end brand with high prices, we can’t drill down into finishing as much as we would like, but that doesn’t stop us from creating a well thought out and solid range. As we develop we are putting an increasing amount of attention into finishing, with our Autumn Winter 2013 collection having some lovely touches that we seem to find ourselves obsessing about.
Heat seal labels, for example, are very common in sports clothing but the new heat seal labels we’re developing have a lovely fine rubberised finish. Still very thin for minimum irritation but also super flexible and they have a superb matt rubber finish. Not that we expect you to go around feeling neck labels. That would just be weird. More than likely it will pass most people by but to us, and those that notice, it becomes a little beacon saying that we’re paying attention.
Other finishing details have features that many overlook, or might not even know exists. All our current range of jerseys feature cam-lock zips. Again these aren’t particularly unusual, but they have a purpose and functionality that we love, which is why we use them. Open out the puller half way and the zip can be easily undone with just one hand, simply by pulling slightly on the jersey. Flick the puller shut (as it’s spring loaded) and it locks the zip in place. Simple and very effective.
Finishing also goes to the very fine detail of trimming loose threads, making sure the cut of the fabric is neat, checking that the stitching is correct. Small details that don’t impair the performance of the clothing but are much needed. Like dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, finishing makes sure our customers know that things haven’t been rushed and that we take pride in what we do.
When we first started Morvélo we were two graphic designers with an overriding passion for cycling. That hasn’t changed but what has been added is the knowledge (and hugh learning curve) of fabrication. When we started out with just a box of t-shirts it was very simple and didn’t require us to stray far from our safe house of design. However with the increase in popularity of our cycle clothing, as well as the business developing over the years, we have made it our business to learn. To learn lots about a whole raft of things we previously new nothing about. And none more so than with fabrication. With a seemingly endless amount of options and specialisms the challenge has been to find the right manufacturer, or more to the point manufacturers (plural).
Finding the right manufacturers is to grossly simplify the whole process as quite often one is far better at producing a certain type of clothing than another. Cycle caps for example, the simplest of items, can be a minefield. A manufacturer can produce the most gorgeous jersey but won’t do cycle caps. Sometimes you wish they would but then you come to realise it’s a benefit to us to find these suppliers who can specialise, even if it does mean years of hunting to find them.
Then there is the array of locations. China, Vietnam, India and Portugal are some of the more popular. We have chosen to keep our manufacturing with Europe. It is a far higher cost than the far east but we believe in the quality of the workmanship and something just sits right for us to have our products made here. We have built Morvélo on gut feelings and staying in Europe feels right.
The are other factors too. As a small independent business that is growing organically, the lower minimums and more nimble approach that is found within Europe fits well with our product development. ‘Minimums’ is a word that is synonymous with manufacturing. Most companies buy in bulk, keeping the price low. If you have good financial resources it makes perfect sense. However we’re self financed, putting the sales of our products all back into developing and producing new collections. It’s a gradual process but one that means we have starting to build a lasting relationship with the people who make the clothes that you wear.
It’s this last point that is key to fabrication. The people and working relationship. Finding the manufacturers who understand your approach and what you are trying to achieve. Listening to you and offering their years and wealth of experience where needed. It’s a wonderful feeling to ask for something, then to not only receive a sample back, but also an alternative sample based on this experience, to show another option that may be better suited.
It’s hard work finding these fabricators but they are worth every penny. Both for us and our customers.
This second ‘F’ word, Fit, is one of the hardest to nail down. We’re all different shapes and sizes so the fit of a garment can quite often be subjective and dependent on riding style. What is relaxed and casual on a MTB will be an annoying flappy sail on a road bike. What is a good length for some riders is seen as too short for others. We all have personal tastes.
So we look to find a middle ground and have the confidence to base our products on our many years of riding and racing all types of bikes. We’re our own target market and are, like many cyclists, highly opinionated as to what works and what doesn’t. Not in an elitist way. We are open to suggestions and opinions from everyone. Whether that be our diverse Morvélo Test Team or our cycle team The Kinesis Morvélo Project or our customers. It all goes back into refining and tailoring the fit of our products.
As our product range broadens we then look to refine the fit of our existing products in relation to new ones. For example we have a new MTB Trail Jersey in development, launching September 2013. This is be a relaxed yet tailored, designed for all day trail riding as well as racing Enduros. This then means our regular jerseys will be slightly adjusted in terms of fabric and fit to focus them more on road and competition. It’s not to say they’ll all be slimmed down to tiny Italian climber size and just for racers. More in terms of a few tweaks such as reducing the front length of the jerseys to avoid bunching when in a more angled / aggressive riding position, or changing the fitting of the sleeves to be closer.
It’ll be small details but ones that will continue to make sure our products are the perfect shape for the job in hand. Sometimes we choose to ignore development though. When we created our Technical Tees we decided to keep them the same fit as our regular tees, shunning the perceived wisdom that states that any bike related garment should be tailored for cycling.
Our Tech Tees blend 50% post-consumer P.E.T. recycled polyester and 50% ring spun organic cotton so they dry four times quicker than conventional cotton. They are designed to riding in. But we decided to ignore lengthening the back or reducing the length of the front for example. We decided to ignore making them fit like our jerseys. Why? Because they are T-shirts and as such should be styled like a conventional T-shirt. In our opinion at least.
A few centimetres at the back won’t make much difference to the riding you’ll be doing in them but it will make it look odd as soon as you step off the bike. Our Tech Tees needed to have that old skool charm of grabbing your bike and heading out for a blast around the streets and woods, complete with t-shirt rippling in the wind as you speed downhill. If you want to do miles then we suggest you opt for one of our jerseys.
This is just an example of how we question everything. Because we like to do things our own way, sometimes we make it harder for ourselves. Take our bib shorts. The common reaction to a pair of Morvélo shorts when first worn is to say they feel too tight. However, this is exactly how they are designed to fit and once out riding will feel fantastic. We design our shorts to make proper use of the compression qualities of the fabric, which will keep your muscles feeling stronger for longer. For this to happen they need to be a very close comfortable fit.
Our customers begin to understand our reasoning once they start riding and we receive increasing amounts of praise for how well they perform, especially over long distances. If you believe in something it’s worth standing your ground. We ride in our clothing day in and day out. From track racing to trail riding. From sun to rain. From a 5 minute commute to a 100 mile weekend adventure and if we aren’t convinced of the fit, it doesn’t make it to production.
The first in the five part series, showing you how five ‘F’ words create our products, outside of graphic design. We are making a name for ourselves through our graphics, cycling ethos and events but these are only three parts of a long and thorough process. We make sure our products are strong enough in their own right, even before we crank up Photoshop and break out the crayons.
The foundation of all clothing, not just ours, fabrics are of vital importance, whether it be a casual or a performance product. How does it feel? How does it perform? How well does it lends itself to this manufacturing process? These are all questions that need answering. We spend endless hours feeling and researching lots of different fabrics from many different companies and judging if they are right for what we want to make out of them.
First it starts off as fabric swatches we can pull around, feel, sniff, compare. Then we work it into a prototype. See how if feels as a full garment. Then we go for a ride. See how it performs. Hopefully those hours of testing and researching mean that we won’t have to go back to the drawing board. But we’re not afraid to if needs be and quite often this process will be repeated. After all it has to be right. Whether it’s the super soft combed cotton of our t-shirts or the new printed gripper elastic found on all our bib shorts, we look for quality and performance all day every day.
Even if we are happy with how a fabric is working we are always looking for new materials and new technology. Our goal is finding those fabrics that can take a sublimated or screen printed design as well as feeling great and performing well.
Many of the fabrics we use for our cycle products come from the homeland of cycling, Italy. From suppliers, such as MITI, who provide some of the very best high end cycling brands with premium fabrics. In this instance we use MITI’s Shield Endurance for our cycling shorts as it provides Lycra Power compression for reducing muscle fatigue, whilst still providing a great base for dense sublimation printing. The best of both worlds.
For our t-shirts we combine super soft combed cotton from Turkey, Egypt and India using suppliers who are accredited to the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF). The FWF works to improve labour conditions in the garment industry and sets out a strict code of conduct that must be followed. What this means to our customers is that not only do our t-shirts feel great but are also ethically produced.
Finally we look to the price of the fabrics. It’s could be that the most expensive option isn’t the one that works best but we explore all avenues to see if this is the case. The constant balancing act we undertake is finding the fabrics we really want to use and making them fit a price that is good for our customers. When we founded Morvélo we wanted to make our products affordable whilst still using premium fabrics that would last and perform.