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The chicest new accessory is also the greenest way to get around.
Forget fragrances and handbags: The latest brand extension comes on two wheels.
As cycling picks up its global pace, with dedicated lanes rolling out across the world’s capitals and glossies filled with shots of Agyness Deyn or Chloë Sevigny pedal-pushing, fashion labels are opting for the humble bicycle as a vehicle for brand image.
“We want to be in some way connected to the street,” says Jonny Johansson, creative director of Sweden’s Acne, which tapped Italy’s Bianchi, one of the world’s best-known cycling manufacturers, for its made-to-order Pista racing bike, due out this spring.
“It’s about a love for cycling rather than the hype,” says Morten Mildgaard, Web designer for Danish streetwear label Wood Wood, which collaborated with Danish bike manufacturer Vision to create a road-racing carbon fiber bike that’s so light it wouldn’t be allowed in the Tour de France competition.
It’s priced at a whopping 10,000 euros, or $12,700. “It’s not a fashion bike,” declares Mildgaard.
Acne and Wood Wood join the likes of Chanel, Gucci, Comptoir des Cotonniers and Puma, who all introduced bikes in the past year, following Paul Smith, a keen cyclist and pioneer of the trend.
Fashion always has sought out things that are getting attention, notes Wayne Hemingway, who created the U.K.’s Red or Dead fashion brand in the Nineties before going on to found Hemingway Design, whose products include Roadrunner, a fold-up bike.
It’s also a way to underscore brand identity. Chanel’s model came with quilted saddlebags, Comptoir des Cotonniers designed a tandem to emphasize its mother-daughter theme and Puma recalled its functional sports heritage with a frame that glows in the dark.
“Interestingly, it is only Chanel and Gucci that have produced classic, upright models. The others have all opted for the youth market with speedy racer forms,” notes Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagencyclechic.com, a blog offering “street style and bike advocacy in high heels.”
“Given the fact that most bicycles in the world, especially in countries with strong bicycle cultures, are upright models—and this model is experiencing a renaissance in cities around the world—it seems that Chanel and Gucci have their finger closer to the pulse,” he says.
However, he noted that the fashion bike phenomenon is little more than branding dressed up as corporate social responsibility. “I doubt these bicycles will leave so much as a skid mark on the consumers’ consciousness,” he says, adding that genuine bicycle brands, such as Velorbis and Umberto Dei, ultimately will reap the benefits of such branding. “Consumers, at the end of the day, will buy a bicycle from people who are dedicated to making them.”