A close friend recently put me onto a start-up clothing business, Rituel. With a number of solid clothing brands making a start in Melbourne, I was keen to learn if this one was any different.
I met with Chris Tillman, one of the founders of Rituel to see what they were up to and what their brand was all about. Chris started to tell me how they were looking to put cyclists ahead of profits. Sounded interesting...
Bicycle Buyer: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Chris: Hi there, well I am a kiwi that spent years in Scotland before more recently calling Melbourne home. I am a keen cyclist; I like nothing more than a Kinglake mission (complete with pie and apple slice combo from the bakery at Hurstbridge) or a dirty Beach Road spin on the weekend. My passion for cycling is matched by the other two parts of the Rituel trio, Stevo & Soph, and together we have recently launched our cycle apparel brand, Rituel.
BB: So what is Rituel all about?
Chris: Basically, we are an apparel brand "by cyclists for cyclists". It started off with me and my best mate Stevo getting pretty sick and tired of how average a lot of Lycra looked. All the kit that we wanted to be seen in was super expensive, and to be honest pretty hard to justify. Basically we thought there was room in the market for a new brand to do it differently, so we decided to do something about it. Between Stevo and I we have some pretty strong Microsoft skills but unfortunately powerpoint and excel weren’t going to design us a good range of cycling kit! We approached our mate Soph, as she is a gun textile designer who works with the some of the world's leading surf and adventure brands (a very useful connection indeed) and the rest is history.
BB: What’s with the name?
Chris: When we were getting started we had a few focus groups (read, post ride beers with friends) to throw around some of the brand names we had come up with. As a cyclist you know that this pursuit we are all into is full of idiosyncrasies, rules and personal routines that draw you in and become a part of the reason that you keep going back for more. We were keen to draw on that connection and so Rituel is a doff of our (cycling) cap to these rituals which make the pursuit so addictive and great. And with the French influenced spelling, we had the perfect way to pay homage to the home of cycling, and get a bit Euro-cool on it.
BB: Cool – So what can we expect?
Chris: You can expect minimalistic, restrained and stylish. We want to be the girl or guy in the bunch, that doesn’t stand out for all the right reasons; there kit is sharp and just works from top to toe. Our range includes caps, jerseys, bibs and socks, and is available for pre-order on Kickstarter now. We are stoked to say that we met our funding goal earlier this week so we will be going into production as soon as the Kickstarter campaign finishes. Our goal with this range, was to incorporate mix and match styling, so that a couple of jerseys match with any one pair of bib shorts, and our caps and socks more or less work across the range. This means that if a customer buys a pair of bibs, a couple of jerseys, socks and a cap, they will get a couple of different yet deliberate looks. And of course, offering it at a good price!
BB: Ok, so pricing is pretty important then?
Chris: Definitely. That is one of the pillars of Rituel and one of the primary reasons we started it in the first place. The market has opened up with the price of entry to mid-level bikes and components coming down massively, which is great for getting more people into the sport. But this value doesn’t seem to have been reflected in the apparel section, and there is no reason why it can’t be. So, we sourced smartly, are going direct to our customers, and have kept our margins in check, to ensure that our riding crew could afford our kit, without compromising on quality or style. That is the benchmark – would I scoff at the cost of this kit.
BB: So what are we looking at for a pair of bibs and a jersey then?
Chris: On Kickstarter now for AU$250 you can get a pair of merino socks, bibs, a jersey, a cap and we will also throw in a couple of branded bottles for free as we are good sorts like that. So although it’s still not pocket change, you can see we are trying to deliver value for money and also to encourage our customers to buy across the range so they get matching kit and look a bit more stylish on their bikes.
BB: Australian cyclists are a discerning bunch, and often are prepared to pay for quality. Who manufactures the stuff?
Chris: This is quite an unlikely story; when we were originally looking for a manufacturer, or designer Soph was living in a small Italian town designing for a European adventure label. We collectively spent weeks hunting down leads on where the best places to manufacture were, and the preeminent supplier seemed to be an Italian company that produced for some of the world’s leading brands. As luck would have it they were based in exactly the same small town as Soph, so she trundled along to have a chat. Owing to Soph’s credentials and impressive track record as a designer, they took our proposition far more seriously than they probably should have and agreed to sample and manufacturer for us. Owing to that stroke of luck, we now have a leading and proven kit manufacturer so we are very confident in the quality of our products. And the socks, possibly the most discussed item of cycling clothing, has been developed from scratch, and manufactured from a second generation sock maker in New Zealand!
BB: Well that all sounds pretty good. The response you have had, seems to justify your proposition. What do you think is next for Rituel?
Chris: Yea, we have been really surprised by the response. To date nearly 100 people have liked what we are doing enough to place a preorder on Kickstarter. Owing to this response we met our funding goal of AU$13,000 less than halfway through our campaign, which means we can go into production for Season One immediately. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
With regard to what's next, we don't have any grand plans to take over the world of cycling apparel. We will stay focused on delivering value for our riders and we would love to get to the point where we can release multiple seasons of kit, which is renowned for being of high quality, affordable and stylish.
If you want to check out Rituel kit, you can view their entire Season One range on Kickstarter, and for the next couple of weeks, you will be able to get in from the get-go as their Kickstarter campaign closes on July 15.
All the best to team Rituel. We wish you well with your quest to provide comfortable and stylish clothing to cyclists, at a more affordable price.