The cycling apparel industry has over the past 6 years seen a wealth of brands and micro-brands appear. Among them Isadore Apparel. Whereas some brands have chosen a louder “Fashion Cycling” way, Isadore founder Martin Velits, aided with input from his brother, has chosen a more subtle, refined philosophy to create cycling apparel for discerning riders. Refined cycling products which will stand the test of time.
With a daily life in the fast lane, in the Pro peloton, you will be surprised to find out there is nothing “Fashion”, or “Depeche Mode”, about the Velits brothers. They are cool, calm and collected, and extremely down-to-earth, as we sit on the main square across The Ritz-Carlton in Bratislava enjoying lunch. Dressed in classic slim jeans, quilted jackets and de rigeur rider baseball caps their appearance is Classic, toned-down and simple, but yet luxurious. Much like the look of Isadore Apparel itself. Did someone say: “Putting on the Ritz ?”. I don’t think so.
It is noticeable, when looking at Isadore Apparel, that it hardly reflects your daily logo-driven, lycra-clad race life in the pro peloton. Is this intentional?
Martin Velits (MV): Someone recently asked me, during a social ride, why we don’t have logos on the back of our bibs, like we have on the side, and why we don’t have logos on the back of our jackets and jersey’s. As we rode along in the bunch, where there were lots of riders in expensive apparel and various team kits, I asked him if he could tell me which of the riders in front of us were wearing Isadore Apparel. He pointed to the ones with completely black backsides of the bibs and a toned-down look on the jersey’s. I then said: “That’s why”.
Obviously on the kit I wear on a daily basis the logos are there for a purpose. To advertise for the company funding the team, but as a private cyclist I have always believed that to reflect a sense of calm luxury – subtlety does it. To me, there is no need to apply more logos on the back of our bibs because we already standout in the bunch by not having them.
You started Isadore two years ago, and is still very much active in the world tour. Usually you only start your own brand when you have retired. For what reasons did you start Isadore?
MV: It is true. You usually start your own cycling apparel brand when you retire as a Pro rider, but part of the reason for starting was; we can’t train or race all the time, so you automatically have a lot of downtime where you either sleep or play Playstation. To me that was a waste of valuable time. I like being active, and I really like developing things, so it was a natural step to start Isadore. Secondly – when we retire as Pro riders not all of us can become Directeur Sportifs , so already now you need to find a path in life to hang your cycling cap on.
You manufacture sustainably, in Slovakia at the same factory who also manufacture Vivienne Westwood, Prada, Pierre Balmain and Valentino Prêt A Porter. Why are you not producing in the far east or anywhere else?
MV: Our factory is placed in the city of Puchov where we both are from and live today with our families. The factory is literally only a bike ride down the road. It wasn’t easy for us, as a new cycling apparel brand, to gain production entry into the factory. We had to be introduced, and accepted before they would even consider looking at what we wanted to do. Because we live here, side-by-side with the workers from the factory we also feel it is our duty to provide something back to the community in which we live. It is also convenient for us to retain control of the production, and not having to fly staff to China or somewhere else to manage things.
Finally, you can also argue that if our factory is good enough for the names you mention then it is also perfectly good enough for Isadore.
At the table next to us, an elderly couple have been staring intensely at us for a while. Having asked for the bill they realize we are about to leave, and quickly muster courage to ask if Martin and Peter indeed are The Velits Brothers ?
A situation which repeats itself several times as we walk around the Old Town of Bratislava. We don’t walk far before cycling fans stop and ask for autographs. Like the World Champion – Peter Sagan – The Velits Brothers are equally famous here, and are frequently used to commentate Giro d’Italia or Tour de France if they don’t race themselves.
Performance is at the heart of your brand machine. Is Isadore a brand for racers or rouleurs?
MV: As cyclists we all perform, no matter what we call ourselves or at what level we are at. At Isadore we work with high-end performance fabrics. From the finest Merino to advanced performance textiles, so if you want to race in Isadore you can of course, and if you want to explore the great unknown on some fantastic cycling journeys then you can equally do that. Our products are aimed at riders who take their sport seriously, and demand quality at the highest level. No matter what you call yourself.
We are continually working and developing the performance part in our products. This summer we introduced a Climbers collection, aimed at high intensity riding in the mountains. This is something you will see even further developed next season.
There has been a lot of interest for cycling apparel over the last five years. Do you see the interest in luxury cycling brands diminishing over the coming years?
MV: Just like in every other industry, brands come and go. There will always be something new coming along, but like in a real road race, in the end only the strong ones are left to battle it out. I don’t see the interest in luxury cycling apparel diminishing. Quite the contrary. Consumers are turning towards brands like us because they expect quality for their hard earned money. They furthermore also want to stand out, as individuals among the thousands and thousands of cyclists out on the roads. As founder, developer and a fellow rider, that is what drives me and inspires me to continue developing Isadore Apparel.
We are heading back towards Vienna Airport. As I look out the car window the sea of windmills have turned, and are facing the other way to when we arrived. We have the wind in our back. The Velits Brothers equally have the wind in their backs with Isadore Apparel. They are on a virtual product breakaway, in a raging storm, with only 10K to go to the finish line.
You have better jump in the breakaway with them. Only the strong win.