We speak to Clare the inspiration behind ‘No Such Thing Clothing’ about her motivation to create cycling clothing that she and others will feel passionate about.
Tell us about your inspiration for creating ‘No Such Thing’
I’m a cyclist and a fashion designer, with extensive experience in ethical/sustainable fashion but also in outerwear. As a result I own about 50 coats (a little excessive perhaps but at least I’m passionate about them?!). A few years ago I decided to try to give up public transport, and the more I cycled the less I wore the coats and jackets. Much of my wardrobe became redundant but my coats were certainly all off the menu… too hot, sweaty, heavy when wet, restrictive, and so on. I ended up cycling around in a horrible men’s cycle jacket I was given by a friend (simply because it was so practical), and I thought there must be a way I could arrive by bike looking better than this? But the bike shops didn’t offer me what I wanted, and the high street was no use either. My passion for textile chemistry and environmentalism led me to research the toxicity/impact of waterproof and technical fabrics, I sought alternative waterproofing membrane technology which I would feel happy to use in terms of ethics (non-toxic, recyclable) and began to develop my dream cycling jacket. This is now the fishtail trench coat.
Do you cycle yourself?
YES, although I occasionally take the train these days, I didn’t give up public transport forever. Because…
What do you ride?
I ride a Brompton. I love the convenience of it in London, even on a long journey across the city I may use the odd train but I never have to wait at a bus stop!
Do you think women have a sufficient voice in the world of cycling?
Not really, no. I’d happily describe myself as a feminist environmentalist, but I never really considered a feminist cyclist perspective until quite recently?! As I looked further into the world of cycling I have found that women are underrepresented by brands, shops and the media, although you can see it is slowly improving.
On an urban front there are certainly fewer ladies commuting, but I think appearance (clothing, hair and make up) can be seen traditionally as barriers to women who are still judged heavily on these things when they get to the workplace. I’m hoping to help in that area by creating garments which can at once be smart, technical and practical.
What can improve?
Women are underrepresented in almost every aspect of our society so I don’t see this issue as specific to the world of cycling, although it does seem very male dominated. I think we have to keep conversations going about women in business, politics, sport and in all walks of life. Keep people thinking about what we expect from women and how can we continue to address the social imbalance… it seems an simple place to start by destroying the notion that we all want to wear pink sportswear?!
Why do you think more women are turning to cycling, is it for fitness or convenience, or both?
I have always felt too time starved to go to the gym, so it’s great for exercise, but cycling is free transport, independence, empowerment and, as a Londoner, keeps me out of the stuffy tubes and busses. The repetitive nature of riding a bike has a meditative quality for me too, I think it is as good for my head as it is for my body. I couldn’t tell you exactly why other women are taking to cycling, I would guess it’s some or all of the above but perhaps in the city cost and convenience win for most people?
What do you think is essential to produce a quality piece of cycling apparel?
Probably being a cyclist yourself?… Understanding the needs of someone who is undergoing constantly changing road and weather conditions. Layering is key in my opinion.. I often have several light layers beneath a tailored jacket and remove them as and when so I can control my temperature as the days can vary from morning to night and I often head out in the morning and get home late at night. I hate being too hot. Cyclists also need clothes which are tough and long lasting so I hope the trans-seasonal approach to design/styling will also suit the market. Everything is based on classic shapes and styles which won’t go out of fashion quickly and my material choices are based on eco impact and quality of wear and performance.
I would also add that the majority of performance clothing is manufactured in far away places in huge volumes and there are few brands who can offer solid guarantees that people aren’t being poisoned or enslaved somewhere along the line. I work with close contacts and friends so I can be certain how and where my clothes are being made… and I think cyclists care quite a lot more for these factors than the mainstream fashion industry too so I’m hoping for this to be a selling point. 🙂
What would you recommend all cyclists should wear?
High vis and reflective materials… being seen is so important and I know as a driver there are issues with visibility because you are so small compared to other vehicles. Aparently there are shockingly low numbers of riders who wear reflective clothing.. and I didn’t until I made my own because style wins over safety, as irrational as that is! I have focussed a lot on reflective blacks because I know thats what people wear, such a lot of black, and I think they will continue to do so. If a garment can be reflective black which looks cool in the daylight that’s a fairly good compromise right?
What is your favourite piece of clothing from your collection?
The trench, without doubt. It was the first style I worked on, the range has been built around it, and I feel it is the piece which addresses the most challenges at once. Having said that I also wear the leggings, scarf, blazer, bomber and armwarmers plenty too!… all of it then?!
I have said from the outset that the main point of this project was to create really useful clothes to support my own busy, active, lifestyle but not to forget my professional life, so far the samples have been of great benefit to my everyday wardrobe!