By Trevor Ward for the Guardian
When fashion designer Alex Feechan took up MTB she spotted a gap in the cycling market. Her new Findra range sets out to bring function and style to women’s mountain biking
While haute couture and cycling are certainly not strangers – check out Paul Smith’s recently launched range of road cycling kit – mountain biking is usually the neglected cousin.
But a Scottish knitwear designer who caught the MTB bug three years ago is aiming to change all that.
Alex Feechan has designed for Chanel, Calvin Klein and Barbour, and most recently produced a line of luxury knitwear for golfers.
But after going mountain biking for the first time with a group of friends at the world-acclaimed Glentress Trails centre near her home in the Scottish Borders, she decided the range of clothing available for females was “quite patronising and lacked consideration”.
“When biking myself, I have always been inspired by freestyle riders and how they dress, often just wearing normal clothes but putting them together in a really interesting way. I love the mix of the urban street wear look in the natural environment.”
She set about designing clothing that, as well as “doing what it says on the tin”, would also “have a good cut and be flattering to the female form”.
“I also wanted to create a range that worked both on and off the bike. Whether it’s mountain biking, road or urban commuting, a ride is often followed by a cafe stop or day at work, so I wanted my collection to have pieces in it that females would be happy to go and sit in the cafe wearing, pieces that were fashionable and adaptable but also hard-wearing and practical.
“I try to use only natural fibres, such as merino wool-cotton blends, and we have steered away from the colour black as this was the colour that was prevalent in mountain-biking gear for women. We prefer to use neutral colours such as moss green, navy and charcoal grey.”
She held a couple of focus groups that, despite more than 20 years of designing clothes and mixing with high-powered clients all over the world, she found “terrifying”.
“I was extremely nervous about showing the design of my first pair of shorts to a roomful of very strong, independent women who all had something to say. I have a strong vision of my business in my head, but asking for direct feedback on a new idea is pretty nerve-wracking. If it went wrong my bubble would be burst.”
But so far, she says, the response from both the cycling and fashion worlds has been largely positive. Feechan named her range Findra – “Scandinavian design has always influenced me, and Findra is from a combination of words which in Scandinavian folklore means a strong beautiful woman who is a protector of the land”- and unveiled it at the Eurobike trade show in August.
This week will see a series of pop-up shops in Edinburgh, London and her home town of Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders, and Findra’s website will be live in a few weeks.
“As a single mum of three boys, it was extremely liberating for me to get out on my mountain bike on a Saturday morning to socialise and have the time to think. It was that feeling of freedom and space that made me want to produce clothing for women that made them feel good, look good and perform to the best of their abilities on the bike.
“I’m not a competitive biker but I get huge pleasure and satisfaction from getting out every weekend and would love more women to try it and see directly the huge benefits of being out in nature.”