Disappointed by the range of women's specific mountain bike clothing available, Hannah Myers took matters into her own hands. With a background in design, she talked to women, found out what they wanted, and came up with the Flare Clothing Co. With the first items available this autumn, this is how it all started.
Being quite a girly girl, I didn’t want to loose my personality when I started riding a bike. I was frustrated with the lack of choice on the market, and so I started Flare Clothing as an alternative that offers more colours, graphics, and femininity without loosing the strength or toughness you might need to throw yourself down some mountains.
When I first started cycling it was just for commuting and family trips. Then I started working in a bike shop; all the other staff had full-suspension mountain bikes that they used to go out riding on, so they said ‘oh, we should get you one to try’. I started riding that, and discovered I loved it!
Then I started going out with a customer who was a downhill MTB racer, and began mountain biking more and more, and trying harder stuff. I’ve only been mountain biking regularly for 2 or 3 years – but it’s escalated!
I tend to ride around Nottingham, which isn’t very hilly, but there are a few trail centres like Shield Pines and Cannock Chase, and there’re some local trails in the woods round where I live. I want to go to America, so a visit to Oregon is on the horizon for next year.
In the world of sport, mountain biking is still relatively young. I think it needs to go through that development of cementing the female customer as a real customer. That’s what I’m trying to do.
Flare Clothing Co.
Flare clothing actually started as a project for my Masters degree in design. I wasn’t sure what I was going to focus on, but I knew I wanted to do something to do with cycling. I was also interested in the issues around femininity and riding.
I asked loads of people, from world cup calibre riders to my mum, what they thought would help get more women riding, or make them feel better about their identity when they were on their bikes. The unanimous answer was the clothing, so I thought ‘okay, that’s what I’ll look at!’
Everyone was saying that when you feel good about how you look, the riding sort of comes with it. That how you present yourself, how you look, can make a difference in holding your own in a male dominated environment. There wasn’t that much out there to enable people to do that.
I felt exactly the same; I wanted to express myself. I was spending more and more time on my bike, and I wanted to be myself when I was riding.
I think most people still want to look like themselves when they are out for a ride, and wear the colours or patterns or styles they would normally wear – especially when spending whole weekends and even weeks on the bike!
By March 2013 I had developed quite a clear pictures of the brand as a whole, rather than just the products, and it was at that point that I thought that it was actually something viable. I was talking to more and more people who were asking when it was happening and when could they get the clothing; friends, family, customers at the bike shop.
I thought ‘I can leave this as an academic exercise, or I can be brave and try and take it further’.
I was talking to one of my tutors while I’d been having these thoughts, and although I hadn’t mentioned anything to him about these ideas, he just said ‘you’re planning on doing this for real, aren’t you?’ and that was then it became something I knew I wanted to do.
Turning it into a business and a brand, rather than just thinking about individual products, became my focus.
This autumn I’m going to be releasing my first products; a limited collection, which are the bare bones of what I’d like to do in the future. It consists of a long sleeved jersey, a vest jersey, and a pair of heavyweight shorts. These are the things that I thought most people would want to wear, and they are what I like to wear when I’m doing different types of riding.
From design to production
When I was designing the items, I looked at the clothes I have already and thought about what I liked about them, what I didn’t like and things I wanted to change.
The next stage was to work out the fit; I cut up a load of t-shirts to make prototypes, made a pattern, and made hundreds of edited iterations until I got to a fit I liked. Then I got several people to wear them and feedback on the fit. This process has taught me a lot about sewing and garment construction!
Now I’ve handed the production side of things over to the clothing development factory. They are taking my patterns and developing them into what they need to be to manufactured on a bigger scale than I can.
I found the factory on myself – I googled them! I met with a few people, and talked about what I wanted, and made a decision based on that. It’s all being made in the UK. For one thing, shipping things over to the Far East would be very expensive. Plus from a moral point of view having them made in the UK was something that I wanted. North Yorkshire isn’t too much of a problem to get to!
Ideally I’d have liked to find the factory a bit sooner, as I’d wanted to have my clothing available for the autumn. It will be online to buy at the end of November though.
Flare Clothing put out a video a few weeks ago, and the response we got from that was a bit overwhelming! I was in touch with different people about advertising and marketing and so on, and although I hadn’t told them about the video they said ‘Oh, it’s been going round the office’ – amazing!
I’ve got big plans for the future. I’ll be releasing a bigger range of clothing in February, so I’ll be at the London Bike Show to show it there. I’m looking – as always – for more dealers to stock my products. I’ve got 4 lined up for the limited range, but most of the kit will be available through the Flare website.
Further ahead, I’d like to produce more garments ideally. I’m planning to have jackets by next autumn, and trousers.
I’ll also be sponsoring a rider in the 2014 race season; Emma Atkinson. I’ll be doing a smaller race-oriented line with her input, expanding on what I’ve already got and maybe specialising in different areas.
It would be brilliant if I could see my products being sold in independent trail centre shops. Whenever I go to a trail centre, I like to look in the shop – and I never see anything for women! A few pairs of singletrack shorts and that’s it. There’s also the chance of going to retailers in Vancouver and North America, but at the moment I’m focussing on the UK.
Flare Clothing will be available to buy through the Flare Clothing Co. website, and in select independent bike shops.