Regular readers of Over the Bars know I am a big fan of the Cyclechic movement. The term was coined by Mikael Collville-Anderson on his Copenhagen Cyclechic website. One effect of the cyclechic movement has been that marketing firms have begun to use bicycles to sell clothing. In the same way fancy sports cars and settings along the French Riviera have been used to lend a sense of sophistication and class to advertisements for fashion houses and many other products, the humble bicycle has become a badge of the cosmopolitan lifestyle.
I see this all as part of the mainstreaming of cycling for transportation. There will still be room for people who prefer to ride in lycra and for those who like the additional visibility of yellow safety vests, but most people don’t want to wear special clothing just to go somewhere. Car companies don’t market new models with people wearing special driving suits and shoes, they use attractive models and actors to associate their cars with a particular lifestyle depending on the target audience.
When clothing and other products use bicycles in their marketing, they are trying to associate the clothes or the product with the bicycling lifestyle. Check out this recent example of co-branding in the videos below. In the first we see designer 3.1 Phillip Lim leveraging Linus Bicycles to promote his 2011 Fall/Winter women’s look as naturally urban.
The idea isn’t that everyone should look like a model and wear expensive couture clothing, the point is people should not feel like they have to change their clothes to ride a bicycle for transportation. Just as it would be inconvenient if you have to change you socks and shoes before you get in your car to go somewhere, people should feel free to hop on their bikes in regular clothes to meet friends at a cafe or run an errand.
There are some additional benefits that seem to be spinning off of the cyclechic movement. For example, companies are now making cycling specific clothing that works well on the bike but looks good in a cafe or even the office. There are now a bunch of companies making clothing that looks like everyday clothing, but fits well when riding a bicycle and has some weatherproofing and safety features. Take this new jacket from folding bicycle manufacturer Brompton.
One more spinoff of the cyclechic movement is clothing designers branding bicycles. Typically the bikes they choose to co-brand are very practical commuter bikes. There seems to be an emphasis on women’s bicycles too, which is great because for bicycle manufacturers, designing bikes with women in mind has traditionally been not much more than an afterthought in their product line. Take this Kate Spade New York bicycle for example:
For decades now, bicycles have mostly been marketed in bicycle magazines. That seems like preaching to the choir to me. I like the fact that riding a bike to go somewhere has entered mainstream advertising culture. Of course heavy marketing of any product, even bicycles and bicycle clothing, can leave some people with a bit of a consumerism aftertaste. But overall, I think that more marketing of bicycles and further mainstreaming of the bicycle as a mode or transportation can only have positive long-term effects.
What do you think? More bikes is good bikes, no matter what, or do you feel the cycling movement has been corrupted by it’s association with Madison Avenue and New York Fashion Week?