Black Sheep Cycling is a home grown success story. What started out as an idea over a post ride coffee (as all the best ideas do), has grown into a global brand that is now up to its fourth season. We had a chat with one of the founders from Black Sheep Cycling ahead of their season 4 launch to find out more about the brand and see what's next....
What inspired you to create your own kit / brand?
In our view, you never set out to create a brand, you set out with a vision to solve a problem or improve what people already do. For us, the problem was always staring us in our face. There was a significant lack of premium cycling apparel that perfectly achieved form and function, performance and style, garment quality and beautiful aesthetics.
We felt that with backgrounds in next-to-skin garment development, and in marketing, we were in a very strong position to solve this problem. What has transpired since, especially the global response, has been beyond what we could have ever imagined and truly humbling. Nevertheless, our vision remains the same.
What is your vision?
Our vision is simple, and remains so to this day. It is something that we use as a platform for every decision we make, and every plan we put in place:
“Uncompromised garment quality comes first, truly special designs win hearts, and spreading our love for the sport is what drives us.”
Everything we do at Black Sheep is centred on quality. From the sourcing of raw materials or specific threads for our garments, to our thank you cards and engagement on social media, creating the highest quality Black Sheep experience is the absolute priority.
Check out 'Off The Bike' a series of chats between Australian track cycling legend Shane Kelly and people with strong connections to the bike
How did you come up with the name Black Sheep Cycling and what does it mean to you?
The name came up over one of our regular coffee sits. We have far too many coffees, and we are probably setting ourselves up for some issues down the track.
But the birth of Black Sheep is one of the overwhelming positives that have come from the addiction.
Normally those coffee sits involved talking about the opportunities we saw in our current area of work at that time, and how we could do it differently. We took the plunge to change these things ourselves.
Why Black Sheep Cycling? Why not.
Creating something that is different and against mainstream is to be the ‘Black Sheep’.
What is involved in the creation of your kits?
Black Sheep Cycling garments are the brainchild of our Garment Developer and Head of Product Design. His work is in building the foundations of the garment, the template if you will. This involves creating the first design sketches, to then sourcing high performance fabrics and trims, to the development of the patterns or templates that turn a two dimensional design into a three dimensional garment.
It is this process and our skills in this area that set us apart.
The end result is a garment that is incredibly light, responsive to any type of movement, and achieves the greatest fit possible. Our garments are now becoming recognised for that distinctive Black Sheep fit, and that is huge for us.
In terms of our graphic design elements, each Limited season we release features two male and two female designs. However, this is the end result of approximately three to six months of workup, and over twenty complete design concepts created. After culling, sampling, revising, and resampling, we are then left with the final four.
How would you describe your style?
Our style is unique, and it’s something that has given our brand exposure.
Our mantra is pretty simple, we will always try to stretch the boundaries, as long as it’s achieves elegance and simplicity at the same time. The inspiration for these concepts comes from outside of cycling, and rather from general fashion, industrial design, and other forms of visual art.
We are very comfortable about our style as well. We appreciate that not everyone will love our style all the time. And that is ok, that’s fashion. People respect us for that, and if they like our style, they will invariably keep coming back because they simply love the quality.
Do you have a favourite design?
Yes, Season Four’s Santa Cruz.
Given the popularity of your kits, are there any plans to re release previous seasons?
One of the unique points about the Black Sheep business model is that although we have a strictly Limited run on our website, our Black Sheep Authorised Dealers have access to our current and previous seasons. So whilst the Season Two Floral Finn may not be available on our website, you will be able to pick it up at one of our shops. This model is simply focused on giving bricks and mortar bike shops a unique selling point and to provide them access to the overflow of demand we experience.
What separates Black Sheep Cycling apart?
A lot to be honest, and the challenge for us is making our customers aware of that. There may appear to be a lot of businesses in this space, but they are simply not competitors to us. We have an overwhelming sense of confidence when we say that. Whilst our style is different, we more importantly have a very different direction and vision to these businesses. We are garment-centric driven, versus pure aesthetic driven. This simply comes down to us having a skillset in garment development that the others don’t, and that’s our unique advantage. Our ever-increasing customer base also respects that although we have an extreme amount of confidence in what we do, we have no ego attached to it. This is something that some clothing brands, particularly Australian, do very poorly.
We are genuinely interested in what our customers are doing, and will try and share it with our broader community as much as possible. Aside from our unrelenting focus on garment quality, it is this engagement that has helped in our growth, especially globally. Sixty percent of our market now comes from regions such as North America and Asia, no doubt partly due to the fact that we have broken down that barrier of distance through communication.
Where would you like to take the brand and what is the ideal big picture dream?
The last year at Black Sheep Cycling has been an incredible ride. What was once an idea over a flat white has now grown into a full-scale business with reach to every part of the world. We are going to continue what we are doing, and do it even better. The support of our customers over the last year and the success that has come off the back of that has put us in a position where we are and will produce even better garments. Innovation in particular will be a huge area of focus for us as this will ultimately be what differentiates Black Sheep.
What can we expect to see if the future?
Let’s just say that what is in store is terribly exciting.