Panache does love a stylish team kit. Often during races, he’ll be tweeting about the kit as much as the race – but he’s not one to just sit on the sidelines and talk about it. He accepted the challenge to design his own team’s 2013 kit. It was during a Skype conversation the other night when he sent me his LookBook photographs that we thought it would be fun to talk about how he did it, as we have a lot of followers who are on their own teams. So here’s how it’s done!
Kitty: So Panache, how long did it take the kit to come into being – from the initial idea to the final delivery?
Panache: The team approached me in September 2012 about doing a complete redesign. I worked through the end of September and October to design and work through revisions with team leadership and key sponsors. During November we worked with the manufacturer and we had our team order placed by December. The kits were delivered just a week or so ago, so it was around five to six months total.
Kitty: Last season your kit was predominantly white. Why have you gone from Argonaut-style to something much darker?
Panache: Actually, my initial designs were predominantly white but we decided that we really wanted this new kit to look different. Another consideration was that, unlike Argos-Shimano, most of my teammates including myself have to pay for our own clothing and white just doesn’t hold up well as far as looking crisp and clean after a couple of months. Also, we have a women’s team and they were adamant that the bibs not have white side panels, as they deemed those “not flattering”. And you know how the saying goes, “If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
Kitty: Well, I can understand the problem with white suits – you only have to look at some of the Argonauts after a rainy race! So once you settled on a colour, how did you determine where the sponsors’ logos went? How do you manage their expectations?
Panache: Sponsor placement is based on how much money each sponsor provides the team. Long and Foster is our title sponsor, so they get the chest and back area of the jersey. Other desirable areas are the shoulders, the side panels on the bibs and the butt. These areas always show up in racing pictures and are easily seen when riding on the road. To manage expectations we tried to share the designs with our main sponsors early in the process.
Kitty: Hmmm, the butt, you say. I wouldn’t know anything about that, as I’m only looking at their racing prowess, not their haunches and glutes! But what if a sponsor doesn’t like the positioning?
Panache: Then we work with them to design something that meets their requirements but still meets our aesthetic choices. Fortunately, our sponsors were very easy to work with and liked the choices that I made. Our sponsors have been so generous and really support Masters racing in our area. A huge thank you to all of them!
Kitty: You’ve put a lot of the sponsor logos on the back, around the pockets, which makes it a much cleaner look in front. Was that a purely aesthetic choice?
Panache: It was. One of the problems that my team leadership asked me to solve was how to avoid the logo salad of our former kit. There were so many logos everywhere that you didn’t know where to look. Grouping the majority of the minor sponsors in the back allowed for better use of negative space that makes the kit look much cleaner and gives prominence to our main sponsors.
Kitty: You, Panache, are 6’5″ – Phinney-esque in stature, if you will – while Chad, at 5’6″, is really not. How do you design a kit that works for such a difference in height and shape?
Panache: The graphic design really doesn’t change based on the size of the rider. It does change based on the sex of the rider though. The women’s kits are a different cut than the men’s kit so the graphics and typography had to be adjusted to look right. One thing that is critical is to request a fit kit from the manufacturer so that you can try everything on before you order. I’m as tall as Taylor Phinney and pretty skinny but I only wear a medium. Chad is the size of Levi Leipheimer and has to order an extra small.
Kitty: I can’t imagine ordering anything in an extra small! Speaking of manufacturer, who actually did the finished product and what was it like working with them? Did you get to go to the Lycra factory and hang out or did you have to do everything remotely?
Panache: Hincapie Clothing has manufactured our kit for the last three years and I have to say that the quality has improved over the years. Like many custom kit providers, they have templates they use to create design specifications. They also have production graphic designers that help lay out each piece once the initial concepts are provided. We worked with them to lay out each piece including jerseys, jackets, skinsuits, speedsuits, gloves, shoe covers, gilets, et cetera. When designing you need to make sure your design scales to all the various pieces. I didn’t get to go down to Columbia to oversee the production. We trusted Hincapie to do that.
Kitty: Funny, I never thought about all the different pieces you had to have for a full kit. For you, what was the most fun about the project?
Panache: The best part was when the clothing arrived and realising that it turned out so well. I love seeing all my teammates wearing clothing that I designed.
Kitty: What was the part you wish you didn’t have to deal with?
Panache: I don’t want to deal with non-Vector sponsor logos, ever again. If you want your logo to be on a cycling kit make sure you have good vector art! [VV Art Editor: Vector logos are easily scalable without any loss of crispness or resolution as they are made up of lines and curves. They’re the only way to go! Any other kinds of logo get fuzzy, break-up or get bitmapped as you scale them.]
Kitty: What is the most important advice you would give someone who is considering designing his or her own kit?
Panache: My biggest advice would be to approach a graphic designer to do the initial design work. I’ve seen too many custom kits where no graphic designer was involved and most of them are train wrecks. Get someone with expertise in typography and colour, who knows about how things get printed. I’m grateful that my team’s leaders approached and trusted me to help them do our new kit. (Thanks Vic, Mitch and Jeff E!)
Kitty: Your Lookbook – love it! Maybe next year Emily Maye will come shoot the pictures! But how has the kit gone down with the team and the sponsors now that it’s real?
Panache: My teammates and our sponsors have been absolutely thrilled so far and that is really gratifying.
Kitty: Is this something you’d want to do more of – for other teams?
Panache: I would be open to that but my next design is probably going to be a custom VeloVoices kit that I will wear during some of my visit to the parcours of this year’s Tour de France. I’m not sure whom I’ll use to manufacture them yet but here is the preliminary design.
So there you have it. How to design a custom team kit. And if you happen to see a 6’5″ corn-fed American spinning around France with three of his closest friends in July, give them a wave and shout, “Panache, you look marvellous!”