Chris Puttnam had two goals: to develop a line of cycling clothing identifiable without needing to see the logo, and to make all of it in England.
When Chris was growing up his father was involved in the east midlands textile industry, owning his own knitwear factory. This was the time when UK manufacturing, like in so many other places, was disappearing overseas. It was this experience in his family life that eventually led him to form Vélobici. Designed & made in England, from the fabrics being knitted in Nottinghamshire to manufacture in Leicestershire.
Vélobici first reached out to me in 2013, this was three years after they first started making off bike knit wear, and had just launched the first two pieces of Road kit the Van-Abel & Van-Dapper. At that time I wasn’t quite ready to add a new brand, but kept our correspondence on file, as it was an intriguing company and I wanted to see where it went. Every couple of years Paul from Vélobici would check in with a gentle nudge, always kind and proper, as you would expect from a British brand!
When the timing was right I reached out to Paul and let him know I was interested, but needed more information, as with importing anything these days. After a couple of days I received an email from Chris Puttnam, the founder and owner of Vélobici. He informed me that Paul had retired and now spends his days riding his bike in the South of France, but he himself would be happy to help me out. Two things came to mind: that’s a dedicated past employee who still checks an old work email address, and I was impressed that the owner of the company reached out. This Vélobici brand must be a pretty cool place to work if former employees care this much.
To be fair, many of the brands we deal with also have this personal touch and relationship with us, which is a large reason we partner with them. Most of the bike industry has gone the way of big orders, high volume and pressure on dealers. Pressure to sell a product and pressure to maintain the exclusive rights to a brand. This is generally easier for a bigger shop than it is for a small specialty shop, such as mine.
I am happy to say Vélobici is one of those brands that gets it, and Chris is no different from me with his vision and hands on approach to his company. He realizes that key retailers play a large role in helping grow the Vélobici brand, and that more retailers is not always better.
Chris and I shared many emails back and forth before I put in our first order. He explained to me the direction behind Vélobici and his expectations. Again, refreshing when a brand does not sell to mass online merchants who devalue the product and the brand. I encourage you to go onto Vélobici’s website and explore all the amazing products they offer. What you will see are pieces that are timeless and will remain classic. Items that have a story and are made how we all envision quality clothing should be made; hand sewn in small batches by craftspeople who are appreciated and valued for their skill-set. No billboard advertisement branding, instead, subtle colors that let the fit and finish speak for themselves.
Some may think that any clothing brand that sells direct to consumers will just undercut the retailer. Yes, this may hold true for many when discounting happens and a shop can’t match it. Not so for Vélobici, as only items discounted are discontinued and our price will be the same as theirs. We don’t compete with them, we compliment them. With any premium garment you need to see it and try it, and we can offer that along with a lot of support from Vélobici.
Chris had this to say about his unique brand:
“Vélobici was formed getting on for a decade ago and is going from strength to strength, a large part of that growth and success is down to our retail partners. It is very difficult to see the quality and get a feel of the fabrics we use from images online, so from the outset we knew that retailers would play an important part, not only for brand awareness but also to be informative on what makes us different to others.
All of our clothing is manufactured in our home county of Leicestershire which has a rich heritage in garment manufacturing here in England, our factory is situated around eight miles from the City. I’m very much looking forward to visiting Canada sometime in the near future (summertime of course!), to do some riding in what looks like a stunningly beautiful part of the world.”
So there you are! A bit wordy on my part, but the brand deserves this and more. We can officially say we are North America’s only Vélobici dealer. Please come by and take a look at the clothing as it is truly unique. I’m excited to see what Chris has in store for the future. Hey, it’s a cycling company that makes cool cardigans in the UK, that alone won me over.