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Topshop Cashes in on Women’s Cycling Boom
Sir Philip Green has dabbled in ladieswear, swimwear, underwear and nightwear. Now he’s getting on his bike to peddle cycle wear
By Rachel Shields
It stocks everything from cheap deni, hotpants to high-fashion diffusion collections, has customers around the world, and has just launched a flagship store in New York. SO what does Topshop have left to prove? With ladieswear, swimwear, underwear and nightwear covered, who is left to conquer? Female cyclists.
While intenselt practical, the padded shorts, shower proof jackets and accessories for cyclists have not been renowned for their flattering qualities. So on Thursday, Sir Philip Green will attempt to cash in on the growing market for fashionalble, functional cycle-wear. With everything from cornflower-blue silk head-scarves to gold visors, purple panniers and studded leather ankle cuffs, the new line is intended to replace flourescent jackets and helmet hair as the way to go.
“Topshop is filling a gap,” the Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Romero said. “There is a lot of cycle wear and accessories on the market, but you have to go to specific shops. And they cater for sporting people not recreational users.”
The success of Olympic gold medallists such as Romero and Victoria Pendelton has raised the profile and popularity of womens cycling over the past twelve months.
London design duo Amy Fleuriot and Sarah Buck of Cyclodelic, who created the Topshop line, are also hoping to capitalise on the growing popularity of cycling as a greener, cheaper alternative to driving. Last year the government announced£100m of investment for cycling routes in towns and cities across the UK. Sales of bicycles and accessories in the UK have risen, despite the current recession, with Halfords, the UK’s biggest bike dealer, expanding its women’s ranges after seeing sales grow last year.
“If I get on my bike, I want what the majority want – something that is functional but which is disguised as regular clothing. This is what Cyclodelic is trying to do,” Romero said.
But while the new clothes are likely to prove popular among fashion conscious cyclists, the designs have prompted some safety concerns. “We applaud the use of bright colours, but customers shouldn’t mistake these items for proper protective gear which would need to meet European standards for high visibility clothing,” said Jo Stagg a spokeswomen for the Royal Society of the Prevention of Accidents. “We would recommend cyclists wear a helmet rather than a cap or headscarf.”
Yet, aside from the safety aspect of Topshop’s new line, it is hoped the growing availibility of all kinds of stylish cycle-wear will encourage more women to get on their bikes.
Figures from the National Travel Survey reveal that men cycle more than women, with the gap widest amongst teenagers. Men aged between 17 and 20 make 5 times as many cycling trips as women the same age. In attempt to encourage more women on to two wheels, the sustainable transport charity Sustrans recently launched a website bikebelles.org.uk, to promote cycling among women. However, it has not been appreciated by everyone. “It is patronising to suggest you can make something appeal to all women by making it pink and fluffy,” Romero said.