Isadore Apparel’s Peter Velits and John Wedlake tell Rebecca Morley the story behind the brand and its core focus on sustainability
This piece first appeared in the September edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
From the very beginning, Isadore Apparel has benefitted from Martin and Peter Velits’ deep insight into what works on the road, and what does not. Both ex-professional cyclists, with Peter retiring in 2016 and Martin retiring in 2017, they founded the company initially as a side project.
Co-founder Peter Velits told BikeBiz: “We are very fortunate to get to know a lot of talented people and the team around us right now is really nice, and we can rely on each one who is an expert of their department. It’s not just me and my brother, it’s now a proper team of experts. From a side project, it was really just filling our free time during the careers and it turned out to be a proper company.
“We always wanted to do some business, we always wanted to have some company and do our own thing. And we felt like okay, let’s do the cycling clothing because we know how it should fit, how it should be, how it should feel.”
Since the beginning, Isadore wanted to create a brand which was premium, Velits continued, and is sustainable as well. “Since the beginning, nine years ago, [sustainability] was one of the main topics of what we had and basically it comes from our own experience.
“As professional riders, we used to always get loads of products, like a full suitcase, and each of them was packed in a plastic bag. We didn’t want to have that, we wanted to have something different. We had recycled paper boxes and now we have biodegradable bags. Even from the products, we started with the Merino wool and we introduced a fully recycled range.”
Isadore manufactures a large part of its collection with the finest technical Merino qualities, as the material provides an extremely comfortable riding experience, whatever the weather. The wool from Merino sheep is used to manufacture yarn for Merino performance products: its functional, odour-free, breathable and insulating principles is what forms the backbone of Isadore Apparel’s use of Merino as a key product feature in its cycling apparel.
“When we did the first [100% recycled] Alternative range, there’s lots of talk currently about brands that are taking the cut-offs from the production and then making separate jerseys out of it,” said John Wedlake, global sales at Isadore. “That was actually something that Isadore did four years ago.
“We were the first brand to produce a full kit basically from 100% recycled polyester. A jersey is one thing, but to do that with bib shorts is a much more complicated process, so for us to achieve that being a small brand, I think is particularly commendable.”
Sustainability is one of the brand’s main values, and it was a core part of what Martin and Peter felt was needed when they started the brand, which is why Isadore has used materials like Merino wool in its products.
Traditionally, Isadore’s focus has been direct-to-consumer through the website, said Wedlake. “We did work with individual retailers from the beginning, but I suppose it’s only been the last two years where we’ve had salespeople. That was really focused on the German-speaking markets, because that’s our biggest market in Europe, and that’s where we’re particularly well-known.
“The UK has been a bit hit and miss for us. We do now work with a selection of independent retailers in the UK and we’ve also started working with ProBikeKit this year. It’s definitely a tough market for us, I think it is for apparel generally. What I would tend to see is that in mainland Europe, they get apparel a bit more and how to sell it, there’s a much better split in stores between bikes, apparel and accessories.
“The UK bike stores seem to be very heavy on selling bikes and then workshops because that’s what works for them. When we do find the right stores in the UK, they do very well with apparel.” Wedlake also makes sure to give stores the right information they need, building a business plan around the Isadore brand that fits with their plans as a store.
So what sort of feedback has Isadore had from the industry? “I think people are looking for something different and I think we are something different,” said Wedlake. “We are a premium brand. I think we cover most bases for most types of cyclists.”
On current cycling trends, Wedlake continued: “I think there’s a convergence across different disciplines. I don’t think people are traditionally now just a roadie or mountain biker, people are definitely spending a lot of time crossing over.
“I think you’ll probably see that in the way kits are designed, that people want to see elements from mountain biking and elements from road going the other way. I think that will probably continue the trend going forward.”
Isadore is still very much a European brand, continued Wedlake, but has also found popularity in Asia: “Japan and South Korea have always been very strong markets for us. We’re actively speaking with and looking at other partners in different markets in Asia. We’re speaking with people in Indonesia, and we have a new partnership in China. It’s just a different cycling culture there that we need to learn and understand.
“But I think we’re doing a pretty good job working with our partners, understanding the customer journey there. It’s a bit different, the recreational cyclist in the UK or in Germany is very different to the recreational cyclist in Asia. How they interact with us as a brand is very different, so it’s us adapting to that customer journey really.”