Back in a time just before Covid, we were approached by photographer Oliver Knight to be featured in 'Pro Cycling Style', his follow up book to the first hugely successful sell out publication 'The Cycling Jersey'. Of course we said Yes the book is finally out, raising the bar even higher, providing a further in-depth study concentrating on the legacy and evolution of the professional cyclists style, throughout the history of the sport.
A 200 page large format coffee table book, illustrated with over 500 images showcasing a wealth of original jerseys and kit from the pro peloton.
It's complete with interviews with the pro cyclists themselves, the world's leading jersey aficionados and collectors, and the creative teams behind the breakthrough and defining designs of the past and into the modern era. And that includes our own Ed Cowburn.
Head over to THREE BACK POCKETS to purchase a copy and in the meantime enjoy the first few questions posed to end below...
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE
An urban race wear brand, never afraid to speak its mind. Milltag’s co-founder Ed Cowburn discusses his love of the design process, in creating a dynamic range of apparel that start a conversation on an eclectic range of subjects
Oliver Knight: How did Milltag begin?
Ed Cowburn: Myself and my business partner Pete Kelsey are both keen cyclists, and when Peter signed up for the London to Edinburgh bike ride I decided to create a custom jersey for him. I dug around, but I couldn’t find anyone who could manufacture the custom kit the way I wanted. So I started reaching out and found this great factory in Slovakia, and it all went from there. At the time, which was only ten years ago, everything on offer to consumers was replica team kit, which was plastered in sponsors, which I felt wasn’t quite so relevant. So Milltag came out of a desire to produce designs that spoke to us as lovers of music, as well as streetwear and skateboarding culture. Personally, I wanted to show what I like outside cycling, and how I can bring the two together. We offer designs that are a bit louder, humorous, and design led. I think Rapha blazed a trail for so many other companies, allowing them to be who they want in the industry. They positioned themselves with a very clean aesthetic, whereas we wanted something that was a bit more brash, louder, but still considered and stylish.
OK: You feel cycling has begun to take itself less seriously?
EC: So many brands have given us this global aesthetic; the way photos are taken, of both their products and cycling in general. It is a very hard sport, we know this, but this aesthetic of showing suffering and sweaty riders, they just don’t look like they are having a good time. And I believe where brands should focus is on the fun element.
We know cycling is hard, but it gives you a sense of freedom and is ultimately enjoyable. There is nothing wrong with smiling and having a beer with your mates after the ride.
OK: So as cyclists are more relaxed now, so can be their kit designs?
EC:We are certainly seeing that. For a lot of the clubs that we design kit for, we are being asked increasingly for bolder colours and patterns by these customers.
We didn’t start Milltag as a custom kit company, it was our customers who began to enquire if we could produce items for them, both using their designs and sitting down with them to realise their concepts. For the last few years 80% of what we produce is for custom designs. What we try and do with everything we design, both for our collections and custom, is to have a story, a narrative. It is a joy to get really deep into a subject, to become almost indulgent, it makes people smile. With our ‘Top Bonk’ kit we took the history of mid 1980’s cycling, which at this time was a very serious sport, and just wanted to lighten it up, to reference the past but with a humorous twist.
OK: Would that market have existed 20 years ago? Were people ready to take cycling humorously?
EC:I think in Britain it didn’t exist at all. And the (fictitious) Belgian rider Kenny van Vlaminck that we collaborated with for this ‘Top Bonk’ team jersey was from that era of 1980’s cycling, before modern brands such as Rapha existed, and back then cycling just wasn’t cool. You wouldn’t have been able to poke fun at yourself. I think looking back to previous era’s and influences is now happening across all areas of fashion, and is certainly coming into cycling.