New bikewear name System of Motion is making a splash – without the sweat – in the bike-to-office clothing market. And the firm is offering a generous and exclusive discount to Velocity readers…
Founder Prabha Rathinasabapath began her career with seven years at UK developer Argent. She tells Velocity, in issue two out this week, how and why she was moved to pursue the future of fashion...
Four years ago, I left a promising career in real estate to embark on the biggest rollercoaster ride I would ever go on.
I took the leap, to solve a problem. One that I had experienced as an ambitious London professional, and a dedicated urban cyclist.
Having been schooled at one of Britain’s leading property companies, I am committed to the vision of a sustainable future. Most of us who work in the industry accept that urban biking is central to that vision. Besides which, I had fallen in love with the daily ritual that allowed me to experience the city at an intensely personal level.
And yet I felt stuck in a world where my wardrobe options were either ‘bike geek’ or polished and sleek - never both. Like so many, I wasted hours trying to find the right gear. It bugged me that I couldn’t present myself as a high-performance individual, and still ride my bike everywhere. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if I could get off my bike and walk straight into the boardroom.
If you’re a man, you’re wondering what the problem is. But any woman will tell you how often what she wears can hold her back.
Any woman who moved at pace wanted our product. Rather than age or a bias for sport, the need for speed defined our woman
Form and function
For too long, women’s fashion has put form before function. But design mantra says that, when both have equal attention, you have an irresistible product in your hands. This is a principle long embraced by architects, and more recently by software developers. To deliver the ambitious regeneration scheme at King’s Cross, we learnt from some of the best designers in the world, so I saw the truth of this in application. It struck me that, on the spectrum of design, fashion had somehow missed this trick. It seemed ridiculous that fashion had not evolved to keep up with how the modern woman moves.
An architecture-inspired brand
In the quest to fill that gap, System of Motion was born. It started with a vision to create “bike-to-boardroom” clothing for women. Everyday pieces designed with a better fit, and better fabric. To achieve that, we apply product design methodology, where the user experience is paramount.
The first challenge we took on was the classic white shirt - a wardrobe staple, but a contentious piece for many women. Comfort is often compromised, because of gapping or gripping in the wrong places; or the fear of having damp on display when you get hot under the collar.
We tackled exactly these concerns, through focus groups and product testing, to develop a series of classic tailored shirts that combine form and function. Working with leaders in textile technology, we developed our own cotton poplin that is quick-dry, anti-stink and anti-wrinkle. (Some customers claim that you can comfortably wear it multiple times before washing.) The perfect fabric to cope with the demands of a busy, dynamic lifestyle.
Architecture has been a major inspiration for the brand, and for us personally. So, we named the first pieces after our heroes in the Bauhaus: Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Paul Klee. Walter, after the pioneer, was our first shirt, and the more contemporary piece in the collection. Ludwig, our ‘less is more’ piece, was designed to give a more traditional look with minimal interventions. And finally, Paul, a playful silhouette to reflect a playful character, was our bid for the future. Three different styles for three different tastes.
Each shirt performs to specification, for the user it envisages. What captured our imagination in early focus groups was the range of women who wanted what we promised. Demand for ‘performance fashion’ stretched far beyond the biking babe. City walkers. Tube travelers. Stair climbers. Frequent flyers. Any woman who moved at pace wanted our product. Rather than age or a bias for sport, the need for speed defined our woman.
Fine tailoring distinguishes our pieces, which are made in Portugal. We chose factories that take pride in a tradition of craftsmanship, to match our commitment to long-term value. Like any good design firm, we want to make sure that whatever we make earns its place in the world – and your wardrobe.
With our range of women’s tailored shirts in the bag, we’re turning our sights to other pieces in a capsule collection that’s made for movement. Look out for what comes next on www.systemofmotion.co.uk.