Rapha has collaborated with historic UK department store Liberty of London on a new range of women’s cycle clothing for both road and city riders. The collection features a print selected from the Liberty archives and adapted to suit functional fabrics.
Liberty of London is an established fashion house and department store based on London’s popular Regent Street. It is known for producing distinctive fabric prints that have been used in fashion and furnishings for decades, with a collection including over 40,000 designs spanning back to 1880.
Liberty has collaborated with many designers and fashion companies over the years, and keep close control over how their designs are used.
“Liberty is a landmark in London with influence on culture as well as design worldwide since the late 19th Century,” says Alex Valdman, Head of Product Design for Rapha. “The Liberty Art Fabrics collaborations are world-renowned and for Rapha to be the first sportswear brand to feature a Liberty print is a real thrill for everyone here. Further, I believe it speaks to the beauty and style of road cycling and its appeal to increasingly more people here in the UK and abroad.”
The print used in the autumn/winter collection is from the 1930’s, and features a collection of dots on a light blue background, the colour way used in the original print. Rapha state that the selected design expresses ‘beauty, fluidity and speed’ and the clustered dots do indeed resemble birds flocking together in flight. There will be a second collection released in spring 2016 with a second Liberty print for spring/summer 2016.
There is a growing trend for sport clothing companies and fashions houses to produce collaborative collections. The Adidas and Stella McCartney relationship is one of the most well-known, and Liberty has worked with Nike in the past to produce a range of trainers featuring archive prints.
The Rapha + Liberty collection is not Rapha’s first foray into the collaborative collection concept either. In 2010, they developed a mens cycling collection with popular designer Paul Smith. This is, however, its first collaborative collection for the female cyclists, and Rapha state that it is committed to advancing women’s road cycling. ‘We wanted to create a beautiful, functional range of clothing for on and off the bike, and are proud that Liberty wanted to work with us on this project. Our designers worked hard to choose the right pattern and then apply it in innovative ways to created the resulting technical, stylish garments’ says Kati Jagger, Rapha press officer.
In the city range, both the leggings and merino sweatshirt feature the limited edition print:
The Rapha + Liberty collection includes the City Merino Sweatshirt and City Leggings
Liberty has something of a cult following, and it’s possible that this collaboration may develop mainstream appeal beyond the cycling world.
Scott Tepper, Fashion and Buying Director for Liberty says of the collaboration: ‘It’s a pleasure to see an archive Liberty print reworked onto sleek cycling gear in such a modern way. These pieces will surely become collectors items.’
There are 9 items in the collection, including a performance Souplesse jersey, a long sleeved jersey from the Rapha training and racing range, and versatile merino sweatshirts and leggings from the Rapha City range, as well as a range of accessories. Rapha have sacrificed none of their garment performance to incorporate the Liberty print, and indeed added features. The distinctive print placed on the rear of the long sleeved jersey, is reflective – a useful feature as the evenings close in in the northern hemisphere.
The full collection is available from the 21st of September in Rapha Cycle Club shops worldwide, and also from Liberty of London itself, who are also displaying the range in a special window display in the Regent Street store. The display with also feature special edition road and town bikes featuring the autumn winter Liberty print, hand made by UK-based frame building Tom Donahu. The display will be in place for two weeks from the 21st September 2015.
Liberty itself has cycling in it’s history; from 1901 to 1921 the historic department store ran the Liberty Challenge Cup, a cycle race for female staff members. This race is referenced in details on the Rapha + Liberty collection garments, and Rapha states there are plans afoot for a revival of the race to coincide with the release of the spring summer Rapha + Liberty collection in spring 2016.