As more women’s cycle clothing enters the market, the stories behind the brands and what they represent are just as important to many riders as the price and fit of the garmets. Vanderkitten is a brand that excels in this way. Its history, values and the role models it cultivates make riders wearing their kit feel like part of a welcoming, worldwide community.
Vanderkitten was born in 2005, out of a desire to bridge the gap between participation at a club level and racing, or to “empower everyday women to do extraordinary things”. The playful graphics combine the fun side of cycling with an ethos that sees female riders as a part of a confident, capable collective.
The recreational clothing line has been evolved alongside a professional women’s road team. This offers a platform for encouraging messages about giving riding a go, stories about the different challenges riding offers and how these are supported by a balanced life off the bike as well.
The bright designs are playful, instantly recognisable and are refreshing in the way that they don’t take themselves too seriously
Vanderkitten also celebrates the interdisciplinarity of the ways many women engage in the sport. The 2014 range, most of which is manufactured by Pactimo, covers to road racing, triathlon, cross-country, gravity enduro, cyclocross and running.
The brand has also worked on improving connections between the brand’s USA home and riders in Australia and New Zealand. The clothing was previously available to Australian and New Zealand residents via international shipping, but can now be bought through local distributiors. It’s a timely development, as the 2014 race team features three Oceaniac riders: Kate Chilcott, Sophie Williamson and Miranda Griffiths. Australian up-and-comer – and winner of the Amy Gillett Cycling Scholarship – Lizzie Williams, joined the team for a short stint earlier this year too.
Tegan Cox, managing director of Roxcycl, the Australian and New Zealand distributor for Vanderkitten and the more boutique Velocio said: “We wanted to bring a selection of Vanderkitten products into Australia because it’s such great looking kit, great performing kit and the values of the brand are about providing a pathway to bring women together with a sense of community.”
Cox explained that the distinctive kit tends to be an icebreaker out on the road or at events. The bright designs provide a way for women to connect over a shared enjoyment of the sport and to ask questions of more experienced riders.
“It’s a different sort of community. It’s not trying to be Rapha, it’s not trying to be Assos,” said Cox. “It’s bright, it’s fun, it’s colourful, it has that youthful element, it’s playful, it’s really visible on the road and everyone remembers it.
“If you wear the kit and someone else wears the kit you are part of that community. It’s always good to have a friendly face and that’s part of what it provides.”
Vanderkitten is cool for cats…
Rather than reinvent the wheel when it comes to design templates for the kit, Vanderkitten have a history of collaborating with established manufacturers.
“You leverage strength,” said Cox. “There is no point in us trying to do everything and be everything when there are other people out there who do it really, really well.”
The Colorado-based Pactimo women’s line is practical and functional without going overboard on expensive fabric technology or extra bells and whistles. This keeps the kit affordable and allows Vanderkitten to make a diverse range of products bearing its distinctive and colourful designs.
We’ve had the chance to test some summer and winter cycling basics. Our first impressions are below.
Pactimo Vanderkitten Disco women’s cycling jersey
£N/A / US$139 / AU$155
Available in two colours, Ice (white) or Nite (black), the Disco jersey is a road team replica, minus all the sponsor logos. The fit is slim enough to race in, but relaxed enough to that it won’t reveal every curve of your figure.