Altura: made by women for women

When I was sent the A/W kit to test out from Alutra, one of the labels caught my eye,

“Made for Women by Women”

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I ripped the tag off but kept thinking about it, who are these women making cycling kit? I wanted to know more about them and their process for making kit for women. I don’t know about everyone, but before this I associated Alutra with those big bulky neon cycling jackets that 1 in every 5 commuters seems to wear. So, what’s changed now ?

Emma & Sophie from Alutra both kindly took some time out and answered my questions about being product designers for Altura.

Emma Robertson: Product Line Manager for Altura
Sophie Laliberte: Product Creation Manager for Altura

Cycling hasn’t been the most welcoming industry towards women in the past. How did you get into the cycling industry and what would you recommend for women wanting to break in as well?

Emma: While at university my direction was always sportswear and when I graduated I was looking for roles that allowed me to enter the sportswear industry. Fortunately a few months after graduating a cycling brand was recruiting and I got the job!! I really wanted to have a job that works with my lifestyle, we spend so much time at work, why not spend some of that on the bike too. I have now been working in the cycling industry for 5 years and love it so much. I think you should always be true to yourself if you have a passion for cycling what ever the discipline let people know, shout out about it on your Linked in page or cv that’s what I did.

Sophie: I have always been active and participated in various sports growing up. I studied fashion design and I always wanted to work in Fashion, for some reason I ended up working for a sports brand.
I was introduced to the cycling industry working with a cycling brand on the west coast of Canada many many moons ago. While working with the cycling brand in Canada I started to cycle with other people so I could have a better understanding of the product and how to evolve the collections.
You don’t need to be the best and the fastest (as I’m usually the last/slowest) but it is important to have an understanding of the sport and the product that you are creating.
Don’t be afraid, always try and never give up. Believe there is a place for you in the industry and you can make a difference.

Now that “shrink it and pink it” is firmly behind us (for the most part), what are you and Altura actually doing to provide technical cycling kit to the wide range of women out there? What kind of research, measurements, etc.?

Emma:We have female designers and developers that firstly do not want to “shrink it and pink it”, that’s the best part about our team, we want product for us. If we don’t want to wear it on our weekly ride, then we start again.

We also work with WGSN to ensure we are following global trends across Womens lifestyle/fitness not just the cycling industry, and have worked closely with Alvanon for our fit blocks and have fit mannequins. They have conducted extensive research across gender body types to determine an average fit form for their mannequins. We have custom made Alvanon Mannequins in the Product Creation Space to ensure that the fit is correct for the rider. We also conduct weekly fit sessions on various riders/ body shapes to ensure we are catering for various female riders.

Sophie: All of our colours in the range are bases on trends, we refer to the WGSN trend forecasts to understand the global trends. Yes the thinking of “shrink it and pink it” is not our philosophy, although if you find something pink in our range, it’s based on Colour Trend!

We work with specialists in the industry that provide global standard measurements that we use when developing all of our styles. We use universal fit Mannequins in the office, these provide standard body measurements . We also conduct fit sessions on real female riders to give feedback on comfort and technical points that a mannequin can’t provide.

What do you think is the next big advancement in women’s sport/fitness kit?

Emma: This is definitely the ‘Golden Ticket’, isn’t it? We have found that, what you describe as a ‘big advancement’, is generally stumbled upon during design and research stages. Sure we set out to achieve a goal, but often the direction changes along the way and we arrive at a more exciting and productive result. Take the development of our women’s cycling pads as an example. We knew that we needed a gender specific pad and, after researching women’s skeletal hip measurements and ischium pressure points, we developed our new Altura ProGel Pad and went into sampling. During test riding we found that we had done it wrong and had to go back to the drawing board because of pinching to female riders tender areas. The design team got together and we arrived at researching the design and shaping of sanitary pads – as we all felt this was the best example of comfort. Our new Altura ProGel Pad draws design cues from these and I can honestly say that it is the most comfortable pad that I’ve ever ridden. This an example of how small changes to a project can affect big change and advancement in design.

Sophie: Women are very educated on sports apparel. Women are influenced by a lot more elements then just the PERFORMANCE side of the product. Women want more from their apparel… they expect performance, but also want beauty. Women like to shop, it’s a lot more appealing for women to buy clothing then a wheel. Technical innovation comes with style these two factors are very important. The fit and fabric used on the product is key too, women want style, fit and function.

If Altura gave you unlimited budget and resources to work on women’s cycling kit what would you design?

Emma: This has never been a restriction for Altura – We always approach a project based on what is right for the rider and how we can improve their riding experience. So, we are already working on new and exciting projects for female riders that mirror the successes we are experiencing across our other riding categories. We have a great Product Creation Team of female riders who are all super passionate about what they do and are always bring new ideas to the table.
The 2018 season is going to be exciting for Altura.

Sophie: Umm, it’s coming soon, you will see in the future collection!

Huge thanks to Emma & Sophie at Altura for their time answering these questions. And I think we can all agree that the more women designing cycling kit for women the better!

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