Resolve, Revolve, Evolve!

Ophelia Bridge Street
The “Ophelia” Cover by Velo-a-Porter in Sydney.

Do you wear a bicycle helmet?

I wear one in Sydney because I am legally required to do so. Australia is one of two countries with a mandatory helmet law. The other is New Zealand.  Go figure.

Because of the law, I scoured the internet for a stylish helmet in 2012. As a result, I discovered the Yakkay helmet. I have worn several throughout the years.  The Yakkay provided me with invaluable shade during the hot and bright Australian summers.  Its’ waterproof version made it more comfortable for me to ride in the rain. 

Incentive and E-bikes MTB Injury
The Yakkay helmet which saved me from daily style disasters.

The only problem that arose was that the New South Wales Police stopped me four times in 2015.  They didn’t recognise the Yakkay as a helmet. Interestingly, only one asked if the helmet was legal.  After I wrote a blog about riding with the NSW bicycle police, I was left alone. 

IMG_9424
Staying dry in the rain with the NSW Bicycle Police.

I don’t agree with the mandatory helmet law. I believe that it is possible to ride safely everywhere and at a reasonable speed on the roads without a helmet.  As adults, I believe we should have the right to choose when and where to wear a helmet. I wear a helmet to mountain and road bike because of the conditions. It also makes sense for children to wear helmets. Why? Because they fall down during the process of learning how to bicycle on their way to becoming adults. 

Little
Doubly protected in the Nihola Cargo Bike!

 My personal philosophy for life is to master the rules that exist and then find ways around them.  However, for our commutes to work, to shop and to live, I believe that we should have the right to choose.  Furthermore, studies in the UK have shown that drivers often pass closer to helmeted bicyclists. The safer imperative for all who use the road is to share it with awareness and respect for others.

Red Light Wait
Riding with traffic in Sydney.

As a result, the law requiring me to wear a helmet in Australia inspired me to design a stylish cover for bicycle helmets. My design goal is meant to inspire more women to bicycle. 

Before beginning the design process for Cover by Velo-a-Porter in 2016, the regulatory body confirmed that there are no legal requirements for helmet covers. 

When I traveled to Europe in June 2017, I saw that many in Paris and London choose to wear helmets on the roads. The majority do not because they have a choice. In Amsterdam and Copenhagen, the presence of separated cycleways and a mature bicycling culture which values the bicycle’s contribution to society has resulted in a helmet-less majority.

 

I have decided to design for the Nutcase Street and Bern Helmets because they are the most visible in shops and on the streets around the world.   

Copenhagen w choice
Having a choice for helmet and style in Copenhagen.

For the inaugural collection of Cover by Velo-a-Porter which I am launching with this blog, designing a flattering shape for a bicycle helmet was a design challenge of seemingly epic proportions.

That being said, many have commented that spending a year in development of Cover is a very short period of time. However, the first three months were a series of crushing challenges.

The first was finding someone who could help me bring the idea of Cover to life. Fashion designers, dressmakers, factory owners and fashion development gurus had no idea what I was talking about. None were bicyclists and certainly no one understood how I could bicycle to work in dresses and heels. I hadn’t yet decided on the Nutcase and the Bern helmets.  I found my way by borrowing a friend’s helmet and tried a few different ideas with a fashion designer in Paddington who was game. All of my ideas failed. 

Road Prototype 1
A disaster! Consequently, I decided to proceed with urban helmets which have a more flattering shape and are easier to design for.

Consequently, I took matters into my own hands by taking a series of private lessons with Natascha at Make & Learn. I learned the techniques of draping and pattern-making. I also had refresher lessons on using a sewing machine.

Sewing
Re-learning how to sew on an industrial machine made it possible to smile more and curse less.

She had me start sewing on an industrial machine. It made sewing much more efficient. It was a welcome change from the manually intensive sewing machines I used in year 7 in Minnesota.

IMG_0734
By the end of our two hours private lessons, I was exhausted but exhilarated with the effort of learning something new.

We developed a cloche shape together. However, I changed the brim to be much more bicyclist-friendly. The original narrow brim reduced my field of vision which is a scary prospect for most on a bicycle. 

Early prototype cloche shape. 

By this time, I had found Laura at Bobbin & Ink in Stanmore. I also decided to try designing for the very popular Nutcase Street.  At Bobbin & Ink, I spent nine months working and reworking the pattern for the helmet to the best fit possible. I tried different fabrics and learned how they affected the shape of the original pattern. I redesigned the brim to flare out and provide a greater field of vision. I also realised that I needed lining to protect the seams. I thought a lace lining would be perfect.  Like beautiful lace lingerie, only you know that it’s there doing a very important job. Ultimately, I was able to make a series of prototypes that disguise the helmet as a hat. 

Working on prototype versions of Cover at Bobbin & Ink in Stanmore.

I wanted to use fabrics that are breathable, durable and beautiful. Consequently, I knew that I would need to use primarily wool, cotton and linen fabrics to promote airflow. This first production version is a wool mix. The synthetics help to retain its shape. I’ll also be using remnants from a variety of sources. I’m conscious of the environmental damage that continues with the textile and fashion industries.  

My plan is to manufacture small collections. The first production run of the Ophelia was 24 pieces. When the fabric for a collection sells out, that’s it. I’ll be moving onto the next fabric.

I’ll also be offering a degree of customisation with some of the remnant fabrics that I pick up from around Sydney. You can see a good example of this in the Yasmin Cover. I’ll be posting photos of combinations of patterned remnant fabrics which will end up as custom Covers. You’ll be able to choose which versions you would like along with a band. These will be unique one-of-a-kind pieces.

My Cover(girls) have been invaluable for providing me with feedback on design, packaging and everything else. I hope that when more women purchase Cover, they will be inspired to join. Please contact me after your purchase and I will add you on Facebook.

Cover(girls) FB
Sending out some prototypes to my Cover(girls) post Christmas.

Cover is manufactured in Sydney, Australia. Many have asked me if I plan to manufacture in China. The answer is no. The design process is long and the possibility of quality issues great. 

Ofelia in production
I found this small-scale factory in Marrickville. Amazing to see Cover in production.

Instead of Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter collections, I plan to design for the year as my customers are based in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. It is February in Sydney now. We are sweltering in heat and humidity. Meanwhile, I know that the Northern Hemisphere is suffering through one of the coldest, snow-filled winters. 

The Bern Helmets are next up for further design refinement and production.

Please let me know what you think of Cover and send any comments and questions my way. Veloaporter.com will also be changing in format to a Shopify site soon. You’ll be able to find the link to my shop on the right side of the page. 

Shop w Velo-a-Porter Screenshot

I’ll also be offering select pieces for women and children both new and pre-loved on the online shop that are wearable on the bicycle. Please let me know about the quality of these pieces as I’ll be using a drop-shipping model. And some will be from me directly!

I’ll continue to blog as my schedule permits. Thanks again for all of your support. Looking forward to hearing from more of you as my business continues to evolve and our bicycle wheels revolve!

Click here to be taken to Shop with Velo-a-Porter which is a Shopify site.

Please follow me on my daily adventures on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

Happy Bicycling!

X Sarah 

12 Comments

  1. Hi Sarah – congratulations! (You now have a ‘small lifestyle business’! ‘So there’ to that guy a couple of months ago who couldn’t comprehend what one of them even was.)

    I’ve been happily wearing my Cover for about a year – it’s the blue pinstriped one in the photos above – and it’s now in serious need of a dry-clean because of the amount of use it gets! It fits completely with my look – and more importantly, philosophy – of being a person on a bike in normal clothes, just going places. Bravo to you and I hope Cover continues to flourish. 🙂

    Like

  2. Hi Sarah,
    Great to see someone taking an idea and doing something about it. I was interested in the Yakay helmet when you first mentioned it some years ago but it seemed too difficult and expensive to source. I ended up getting a Nutcase Street in Spots to wear when riding my vintage style town bike in my regular clothes.

    As a Sewist as well as a Cyclist, I was wondering if as some stage you would consider selling a pdf pattern for the helmet cover? There is quite a market out there for pdf patterns from independent designers.

    I wish you all the best in your venture.

    Jenny

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jenny, thanks for the message and so pleased you are enjoying riding around. Thanks for mentioning the PDF idea. I have seen lots of patterns around on the Internet and am aware of that community.
      For the moment, I’ll stick with the marketing and selling of Cover in this way as there is a specific demographic that I am targeting.
      Happy Bicycling!
      Sarah

      Like

    1. Hello! I’m selling on my online shop and select bike shops only. Etsy isn’t my target market. Please look for the link to my shop on the right hand side of the blog. Let me know if you can’t find it. And please send me your email address for a $20 discount on Cover.

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      1. Hi Sarah,
        The address is: shop-with-velo-a-porter.myshopify.com
        Please use the code: EARLYADOPTERS for your $20 discount.
        Thanks for your email address! Please let me know how you go with the purchase process.
        Kind regards,
        Sarah

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  3. Hi Sarah, well done, these helmet covers look great.
    One suggestion, in your installation instructions perhaps you should advise people to take the helmet visor off first.
    Will you be making covers in Large soon as well? Are you finding that the covers are not transferable to other helmets e.g. Yakkay to Nutcase, and vice versa? Just asking as I already have a Yakkay helmet and some swapping of covers might be nice.
    Di

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    1. Hi Di! Good point about the visors. I will include that info.
      Generally, I have found that most women are Small and Medium in the Nutcase. This version is custom designed for the Nutcase only. It doesn’t fit any other brands. I found that each helmet company has its own unique shape. Consequently, Cover will not fit another brand. All great questions! Sarah

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  4. Hi Sarah, so lovely to see your helmets finally in production after all the hard work you put it. I felt very special at your mention. It was a pleasure developing the cover pattern together with you and it is interesting to see the little incremental changes of the initial brim shape. Just shows that design is such a flexible process, but also how you have put great effort to test and re-evaluate your cover again and again over time to make it the most functional for its purpose and your clients. It’s a sign of a quality product from a quality lady 😉 I miss our lessons at my studio, all those great laughs…. and I still smile at the sight of you riding Lottie home in your Nihola.

    And thank you again for putting me onto cargo bikes, loving the bakfiets! We are currently still in Germany (without the cargo bike at present) enjoying time with my family, and riding everyday dropping off the kids to school and childcare, shopping, meeting friends for dinner, etc. Even my seven year old was riding over six kilometres return after school four times a week to attend swimming class at a nearby village for three weeks in a row. We ride past 3 year olds (no training wheels), kids of all ages, 60 year olds, 70 year olds and 80 year olds and anything in between every day.

    XXX Natascha from MAKEandLEARN

    Like

    1. Thanks Natascha for all of your help and support! Did you see that Lottie and I met up in Copenhagen? I was so pleased to have seen that you purchased the bakfiets and then to hear that you are riding in Germany with the kids has made my day! Hopefully Glen is doing the same? Xx

      Like

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