The Cycleplan Blog

An Interview With: Lizzie X Santini Cyclewear Designer Fergus Niland

We wanted to know more about the stunning Santini X Lizzie Cyclewear collection, so we sat down with the collection’s designer, Fergus Niland to talk about the collaboration process, working with Lizzie and the aspects that go into a great piece of cyclewear.

Why did you decide to collaborate with Lizzie?

The development and investment in women’s cycling are things that we genuinely take to heart, so we pride ourselves on producing garments that are meticulously created for the female rider.

With Lizzie, we found a professional cyclist who, across both genders, is unquestionably one of the most talented and decorated of her generation. Not only that, but she also acts as an ambassador for her sport and as a role model for female cyclists of all abilities.

We also felt that Lizzie is a person who had a desire that matched ours, which was to genuinely push the development of women’s cycling apparel but also promote female cycling as a whole. When you have a personality with this type of motivation, you have the basis for a very special collaboration.

What was your inspiration for the kit?

The design process started with a relaxed meeting with Lizzie, just to run through any specific ideas that she had and to pull together a few overall concepts to get the initial designs started. I think the focus behind a lot of the work centred on creating subtle and sophisticated imagery, one example being the peacock feather motif, that was adapted and reinterpreted across various garments.

The other key aspect centred on developing the technical level of a number of key products. We did this by using materials, production techniques and creating a fit that was absolutely equal to those in the men’s collection, resulting in true race-fit and women-specific items.

Please tell us about the technical details of the kit.

Across both the summer and winter collections, every piece, in some capacity, retains a variety of specific technical aspects. For example, the material that goes into producing our female bib tights was selected to provide a specific level of compression and comfort while riding, while also being durable enough to be used, washed and used again regularly.

Another aspect would be our range of female chamois material. It was created over a significant period of time using the most sophisticated anti-bacterial and hydrophobic materials currently available, meaning it offers a degree of comfort that’s unparalleled in other women’s cycling apparel.

The specific creation and fit of our summer jersey range is another aspect worth pointing out. Within the Lizzie collection, you have four distinct models, ranging from highly-aerodynamic race fit pieces, to pieces with a more relaxed and flattering form. In short, it’s a range that caters for riders of all abilities.

Santini

What materials are used?

When it comes to the development of our clothing lines, we’re extremely proud of our choice of materials. In the majority of cases, we work with local Italian specialist fabric suppliers – something that we knew Lizzie valued greatly as well. Examples of this would be some of the advanced and super lightweight woven materials used for the summer range, that offers elastic, breathable and moisture-wicking properties for optimum comfort.

Conversely, items that we created for the winter range incorporate high-visibility fabrics and advanced membrane materials that provide excellent warmth and protection in cold and wet climates, while still providing moisture management hour after hour on the bike.

What makes a collaboration different from designing a kit that’s just for Santini?

Our women’s lines are something that I have always enjoyed creating, it often provides the opportunity to work with far more on-trend colours and concepts and utilise innovative and more fashion-forward materials.

From my experience, collaborations come in various forms. In the past, I have worked with a variety of different individuals and companies, with whom I had to interpret and design lines of clothing under the premise of a collaboration.

Often in collaborations, the lack of information and, as mentioned before, motivation from their part can be frustrating. However, in this case, it was totally the opposite – Lizzie’s input was not only valid but also refreshing, and I feel the entire line mirrors this positive and collaborative mindset.

Santini

How was Lizzie involved in the design process? Did she ask for anything specific?

Lizzie was involved from the very start. Over the course of the development process, we had a number of meetings at critical stages to discuss and confirm everything from the printed fabric samples to the wear-ability of specific items. Lizzie’s ideas ranged from using highly reflective fabrics on a number of our winter pieces for reduced-visibility riding conditions to the peacock motif that was incorporated into the design of the summer items.

What are the standout features of the collection?

This is hard to choose, however from the summer line, the blue/purple Volo Jersey matched with the Volo bibs make a striking and sophisticated combination when worn on the bike. I also love the design of the braces on the bibs, which incorporate an abstract butterfly motif within the insert that rests on your back.

How long was the design process?

The process of putting together the collection with Lizzie – including all the research into fabrics, new technologies, design and prototyping – took at least six months.

Where is the collection made – in Italy?

Yes, the entire range is made in our factory in Bergamo, Italy. So are all the items that carry the logo – it’s something that we’re very proud of.

What performance improvements would cyclists experience from wearing the kit?

Performance is a very broad term in the context of cycling apparel. In this case, for me, it relates to two or three main aspects, of which comfort comes first. There are very few other sports where an athlete must push themselves to the physical extent that cycling does. On top of this, they’re doing it through a variety of changing climatic conditions over a number of hours.

The clothes you wear directly impact your performance. When you can ride your bike and literally forget about what you’re wearing as a result of the garment’s efficacy, it will inevitably improve your performance.

Secondly, the structure of fabrics and their placement is obviously critical to performance. Manipulating air displacement around the cyclist in specific ways does provide a performance gain – something that we continue to work on with the Australian National Cycling Federation.

Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, is the psychological advantage. Wearing a favourite design can provide a small performance benefit, whether a rider feels that the specific garment brings them good luck, or you simply feel and look good wearing it!

What’s your background? How did you get into the sports design industry?

I went to art college at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. Once I graduated, I started racing triathlon and bikes, which inevitably led me to put two passions together – I started a small company that freelanced design work to sportswear brands. Then in 2012, I was offered the opportunity to move over to Bergamo and work with Santini. I’ve been here ever since.

What’s your favourite piece from the collection?

An item from the winter line that I adore are the Coral bib tights. The covered mesh front acts as a built-in base layer to the garment, which is super functional. This part is created using a printable fabric too, enabling any design motif to be carried through from the jacket to jersey to bibs, matching everything up very nicely.

To find out more about the collection and browse the pieces for yourself, check out Santini’s website. Let us know what your favourite piece is in the comments below!

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