Hot off the press, the latest thing in cycling apparel.
What’s this got to do with The Chain Gang?
Well, this. 25 years ago, one of my closest friends stumped up a wedge of cash to help me start The Chain Gang. It was disguised as an ‘investment’, and Sean’s still a shareholder. But in reality it was a very generous gesture from a very generous mate.
Sean and his wife Suzi have toured with us. As have her parents. And Sean’s eldest child! But they’ve recently got into cycling in a much bigger way, and have invested in another friend’s company that is doing something different with cycling apparel.
The company is called Kostüme (Here’s their website), and it really isn’t just another bike clothing company.
The idea is to commission an original artwork from contemporary artists. This artwork forms the basis for various artefacts, ranging from light-shows, limited edition signed prints, but most significantly for us, a limited edition range of cycling apparel. Their founder, Ed Bartlett, explains it a bit better than me …
I remember seeing a beautiful documentary on TV, many years ago, about a group of students at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London. One of them, Richard Long, walked up and down a stretch of grass until a line was visible. He took a photo, and asked the question “Is this art? Can you create art just by walking?” This first piece was known as A Line Made by Walking, and he went on to build a career around his ‘Land Art’.
In the documentary, the students then asked themselves “can just walking be art?”. So they decided to walk to Madrid to find out!
I found this truly delightful. They weren’t telling me “This IS art!”, they didn’t know themselves, and they were trying to find out. This always reminds me that art isn’t necessarily what you or I think is art, and I know I’m no good at recognising or appreciating creativity. I need help – from people like Andrea Walker, Chain Gang’s designer for many years, and like Ed Bartlett.
The inspiration for Kostüme came about during the first Lockdown, as an outlet for artists when galleries and exhibitions were closed. Why shouldn’t cycle clothing be art? Why can’t it support art, and artists? Christ, if walking can be art …!
The first ‘Edit’ is based around a piece of artwork by optical artists Kai and Sunny (Op-Art – who knew that was a thing?). There are defining principles behind each collection. Very high quality. A real effort to reduce waste and promote recycling. A unique interpretation of a piece of commissioned artwork.
All the clothing is made to-order. When the ‘Edit’ goes on sale, customers have 1 month to place orders, and at the end of that month, that’s how many get made. But there’s a limit, a maximum of 350 pieces. The process of sourcing and manufacturing the clothing prioritises sustainability, recycling, and the highest possible quality. For example the secondary fabric is made from 100% regenerated yarn made from recycled plastic bottles and recycled elastane. The elastic is recycled, etc.
I’ve never asked these questions.
I’m bound to look at Kostüme through the prism of cycling, but it’s interesting to see it through someone else’s prism, in this case fashion – another closed book to me, without help. Here’s a recent article in Fashion Network.
I have no idea whether Kostume will succeed, but Ed has put his money and energy behind his commitments to art and sustainability. One day, we’re all going to pay attention to questions like ‘What is this made of, is it truly recycled?’, ‘How many did you make, and how many will end up in landfill?’ And recycled doesn’t always have to mean scratchy or poor quality. If you put the effort in, it can still be of the highest quality.
Ed’s braver than me, and it seems to me he’s walking the walk, not just talking the talk. I hope he makes a huge success of Kostüme, for him and the artists (and for Sean & Suzi!).
I’m looking forward to the next Edits.