Why you should care
Because few people look good in spandex bike shorts. (Especially when wandering around the office.)
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I’m fit, but not sporty. And I definitely don’t own gear. Can’t afford to. My one ski weekend a year, I wear jeans. I’ve lived in Seattle for three years now and don’t own a pair of rain boots. And I’m proof that it is physically possible to practice yoga in something other than Lululemon.
But I brake for Iva Jean’s Reveal Skirt: a knee-length number that unzips in the back to expose 12 inches of additional fabric — that, get this, is made for pedaling.
Fashion designer Ann DeOtte Kaufman moved to bicycle-happy Seattle in 2007 and, like everyone else, started commuting on two wheels. She soon realized that stuffing her work clothes into a bag and changing in the office bathroom wasn’t very fun. Or, for that matter, efficient.
A couple of years later, she took a trip Europe and discovered a better biking culture. One in which people bike in regular clothes, even nice clothes — not in spandex bike shorts or pegged khakis. During one particularly beautiful evening ride through Stockholm, she looked over at her husband and said, “I’m going to bring this feeling back to Seattle.”
So last year, DeOtte Kaufman launched Iva Jean: her first collection of bike-to-work clothing that allows you to look cute — and sweat-free — when you get there. Her second line is being funded by Kickstarter and debuts in May.
While she loved the effortlessness of Europe’s cycle chic style, DeOtte Kaufman recognized a fundamental difference between Europeans and Americans: “While we can strive towards that lifestyle, Americans still like to gear up. People want performance, but they also want style.”
Kaufman’s designs are aimed at two-wheel commuters who want the easy-breezy aesthetic, but with the benefits of a cycling kit, like spandex fabric: “A little stretch in the pants, a lower-cut top…” and voilà — an insta-office-ready outfit.
Designed and made in Seattle, the Iva Jean collections benefit from the small but mighty Pacific Northwest fashion community (patternmakers, fabric suppliers, seamstresses). When DeOtte Kaufman had to seam-seal the Rain Cape (a key item in Seattle!), she called on Outdoor Research, one of the best outdoor retailers in the country, which works with brands like REI.
Her second collection includes designs that reflect her own needs. “I wanted a great pair of skinny black pants that won’t fade,” says De Otte Kaufman. Voilà: bike-friendly black trousers that showcase the same Schoeller-Dryskin fabric of my favorite pencil skirt from last spring. She eliminated the inseam (which means they’ll last longer) and made them mid-rise (read: appropriate for someone who bends over a lot). The tops (tanks, short sleeves, long sleeves — even tunics!) are light merino wool and cut low in the back — like a baseball jersey — so they won’t hike up while cycling.
Nor will they cost a fortune. “I could never afford all the gear: the $2,000 bike, the $300 panniers,” says DeOtte Kaufman, who bought her 1980s Motobécane hybrid bicycle on Craigslist for a hundred bucks. “And there’s the vanity. The cycling kit isn’t my style. I just wouldn’t be caught dead dressing like that.”
And, honestly, neither should you.