In the first of our ‘London cycling company’ profiles, we sat down and had a chat with Svelte.
Svelte is a fairly new, fairly small South London based company, founded in 2015. They currently produce a few of key pieces of cycling attire, notably a merino jersey made in London, a highly functional commuter shirt and some jazzy arm warmers.
We met up with founder Tom Barber to get the low down on the company, why they do what they do and find out what their plans are for the coming year.
When, what and why?
Of course, we wanted to know what inspired the Svelte, when they first thought of starting a company and what they hope to bring to the cycling industry.
“The genesis of the brand was summer 2014, when pen was put to paper and we started the process. We launched to the public on Kickstarter last June and then our website went live mid September 2015”
“We started off making a kind of contemporary jersey with a nice colour, nice fit, everything you need and no more… Partly it was a kind of selfish ideal for wanting to create something that you like. From there it was more about using clothing to empower people, striping it back to something that is classic, will last forever and instilling it with our ideals. Hence making it in London, having something sustainable, within a budget to give consumers a good deal. There is so much expensive stuff out there that we wanted to tread that fine line between quality and price.”
At least from their initial products it seems like they have succeeded in most of these initial ideals. The Heritage Jersey is a merino jersey, made in London with great attention to detail. At £90 for the short-sleeved or £110 for the long-sleeved version the jersey is pretty good value. We have personally tried one of the short sleeved versions and can testify to its quality and design. It is a smart option for summer cycling, blending in in the city and out on the road.
Similarly the Commuter shirt is great value and incredibly practical. It has merino in it which makes it great for cycling and not stinking. This item gets to a pretty intrinsic point of what Svelte is trying to do. They want to make clothing that performs in daily life and across a range of athletic activities.
Of course, while the initial launch of a brand is seemingly the most nerve wracking and stressful thing to do, keeping it going is no slouch either. Tom told me that one of the hardest things about running Svelte is balancing aspirations with production. Keeping the supply chain in order and their shipments going out is demanding. They only have a small team of 5 people, some part time, so making sure everything runs smoothly is currently the hardest thing to manage.
Moving on from the initial product launch, we wanted to know what was on the cards for the future.
“We have just launched a new base layer. We are just finalising some new summer jerseys and arm warmer designs launching in the next few months, which is very exciting. We are doing a couple of shows as well, particularly Spin Manchester and London.”
In the long-term, Svelte will be focusing on clothing that can be used across various sports and for many of the things you may do during your day. They feel that you don’t really need to have a jacket that is sport specific, particularly if you partake in lots of outdoor activities. “Things don’t need to be geared to one sport. You can wear a base layer for skiing and you can wear it for cycling. You see people wearing cycling jackets to the rugby. The reason things are segregated by sport is business wise. Broadly the aspirations are to break that down. Cycling isn’t just for cyclists… its a way of exploring and having fun. It may sound a bit airy fairy, but we want to create empowering products which make you want to get out there and explore.”
We have talked about the ability for garments to be ‘cross-discipline’ on this blog before, and so Svelte’s message resonates well with us. Items designed for cycling specifically can be highly functional, but other items with a more general, outdoor purpose are also great. In a city you don’t need lycra and chamois pads all the time. However, having something that dries quickly when you sweat or get rained on, limits stink after a summer ride into the office – these are the things that make you feel more able to ride a bike regardless of your end destination.
The Cycling lowdown
For each of these profiles, we have a few set questions that we thought you might like the answers to. Also, we are nosy.
What bike do you ride and why?
“I currently ride one of our prototype bikes [they are launching a Kickstarter soon with what they envision to be a perfect commuter bike], because I love it and its the complete solution with Revolights and solid tyres. Thats my commuting bike. My other bike is an Enigma: titanium, carbon forks, I took all the branding off. Its deceptively good.”
What is your favourite bike ride in London?
“It’s changed recently. I had a really good ride down to Windsor, where you cycle out along the Thames. Its not a quick ride, but is a nice ride. As you come into Windsor you cycle through the great park…. Its a really scenic way of getting out of London, you see a lot of the river and then you go through the great park.”
What is your favourite place to cycle outside London?
“Thats a tough one. I grew up in Devon, which is up or down – you can’t enjoy the down because there is another up and the bends are tight. But there is something I love about cycling around there. It’s cleansing to the soul, it’s clean and fresh and it’s very quiet. The only thing you bump into is a tractor and some cows. I really like it.”