Women entrepreneurs are riding the wave of two major American trends: a renaissance in urban bicycling and a surging demand for stylish riding apparel. At the National Women’s Bicycling Forum on Monday, the League of American Bicyclists hosted a pop-up shop full of vendors who see functional and stylish clothing as just another front on the effort to make bicycling more appealing to women.
Helmets are decidedly unappealing when it comes to fashion and they present a quandary for women who put safety first. Not only are helmets notorious for messing up one’s coiffure; but a big plastic dome can also ruin even the cutest outfit. Dr. Cheryl Allen-Munley of Bandbox Bicycle Helmets seems to have a solution. Her helmets look like hats that happen to come with a chin strap. The shells can be wrapped with all sorts of designs — from cowgirl hats to berets and everything in between. Women flocked to her booth all day snapping photos of each other and trying on the different styles.
A few tables over, Bird Industries offered “Accessories for the urban bike chick” among stickers that read, “Friends don’t let friends wear spandex” and a brochure that said, “Show your sass, not your @$$!”
Mariana Chambers of GiveLoveCycle has designed a tote bag for the discriminating lady who wants something that’s functional but also looks good. She took me through the paces of her Guilden Carryall, which has nice features like a shoe compartment on the bottom (“So you can ride to work in your sneakers”) and an assortment of straps that allow it to go from your basket or rear rack onto your back or over your shoulder. Since many of her customers are moms, Chambers designed the bag with a material that’s easy to wipe off after those inevitable spills.
Fashion designer Ann DeOtte of Iva Jean showed off her “Reveal” skirt. Made out of a durable, weather-resistant fabric, the skirt has a zipper up the back. When unzipped, an extra gusset folds out, giving women room to step up into the saddle. Then, when the ride is over, they can zip back up and maintain a “professional silhouette.” Susi Wunsch, who writes the VeloJoy.com blog, told me DeOtte’s skirt is the “holy grail” of women’s bike fashion.
Another vendor that got a lot of attention was Vespertine. This New York City-based fashion brand makes beautiful and sexy reflective vests, jackets, shirts, scarves, and other accessories. One of Vespertine’s newest fans is none other than New York City’s Commissioner of Transportation Janette Sadik-Khan, who I caught trying on one of the vests in the hallway before her dinner plenary speech.
Check out a full list of vendors on the League’s blog.