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Bike fashion: Up-close with a custom, three-piece cycling suit

Posted by on August 5th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Tony Pereira's bespoke cycling suit-14

Tony Pereira's bespoke cycling suit-15

Tony Pereira and his new suit.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Bikes and fashion have enjoyed a renewed romance in America in the last few years. From the Cycle Chic movement to the proliferation of bike fashion shows, there is a growing awareness of — and market for — clothes that are stylish and comfortable to bike in. Today I spent some time on yet another bike fashion front, custom-tailored (a.k.a. bespoke) cycling suits.

You might recall a story back in February 2009 when I announced Rapha’s collaboration with renowned tailor Timothy Everest. The Rapha/Everest designed suit sells for £3,500 (that’s about $5,500 U.S.) and Rapha offered one as the Grand Prize for the winning entry into the Constructor’s Design Challenge during last year’s Oregon Manifest.

Tony Pereira's bespoke cycling suit-20

Tony in his shop.

After 27 entries from all over the country were raced and judged, one of Tony Pereira’s bikes won that challenge. He picked up his prize a few days ago and I visited his shop in North Portland today to take a closer look.

Everest lives in London, but Pereira met up with him at a posh hotel on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles to be measured and fit for the suit. Tony says he was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was Everest very cool and down to earth (turns out he was only staying at the posh hotel because his friend owns it), but he and Everest had much in common.

“Our businesses are so similar,” says Pereira, “He was as excited to talk to me as I was to talk to him… we hit it off.” Pereira learned that the bespoke tailoring business is the “same world” he works in. “We’ve got the same challenges of working with customers and staying true to our styles.” He also gained respect for the craft of custom tailoring as Everest took “much more detailed” and numerous measurements than Pereira does for a bike fit.

Tony Pereira's bespoke cycling suit-13

Rear pockets and extra room
across the back. Nice.

Like Pereira — a builder who has won national awards for his bicycles and has played a big role in a revival of custom bike sales in America — Everest is credited with reviving the bespoke tradition. Everest is also a daily bike commuter based in London who happens to be friends with one of the founders of Rapha Cycling Apparel, so the collaboration on a cycling suit was a natural partnership.

Pereiera’s new suit (detail photos below) is a seamless mix of fashion and cycling-specific utility. It’s got an expandable section across the back to facilitate outstretched arms, the front flaps button up to stay out of the way of pedaling thighs, the collar buttons up to keep out the cold, and the cuffs fold down so the sleeves still fit when you reach for the bars. The jacket and vest both have many pockets, including rear pockets that are conveniently placed for those of us familiar with bike jerseys. The material is a rain and stain resistant wool and the suit is lined in satin with hand-stitched felt on the cuffs and flaps.

Tony Pereira's bespoke cycling suit-11 Tony Pereira's bespoke cycling suit-13 Tony Pereira's bespoke cycling suit-4 Tony Pereira's bespoke cycling suit-2

But how does it actually perform? Pereira gives it high marks. Wearing it during a recent run of errands in 80 degree temps, he said it was very comfortable. During my visit to his shop, Pereira wore the pants and vest while he worked on a bike (replacing the jacket for a shop apron of course). He hunched over and bent down several times with ease and comfort.

Further weaving the bike and fashion fabric together, Pereira is working on a bike he says will complement the new suit. “It will have a similar color… I want it to go with the suit so when I’m all decked out, it’s the full package.”

Rapha has sold about 20 of these suits since they introduced the collaboration last year. At this price, I hardly think three-piece bespoke suits are the next major trend that will sweep over the bike world, but you never know. After all, with biking being “the new golf” and as more urban executives ride to work, they’ll want a well-made suit that looks good on and off the bike.

You can see Tony’s suit and his bike at the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show, which is coming to Sandbox Studios in Northeast Portland on October 9-10. If you want one for yourself, learn more on Rapha’s website.

See more photos in the slideshow below:

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Did I miss it? Again?
Guest
Did I miss it? Again?

He was working on a bike in his $5500 suit? Is this made out of a grease repelling material?

I understand he did not pay for it, but really?

Jeff TB
Guest
Jeff TB

Looks great Tony!

Ryan Good
Guest
Ryan Good

Seriously? I guess if people have the money, it’s their prerogative to do with it what they wish, but this seems assinine to me. $5500 for a suit? Why? So you can show off how you have $5500 suit? Talk about conspicuous consumption. I’m sure my opinion will be unpopular, but I’m equally sure that I’m not the only one who thinks that a $5500 cycling suit is just, well, ridiculous.

trail abuser
Guest
trail abuser

The tweed ride went that way sir.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Kim Kardashian and her pet chihuahua riding a diamond studded fixie? The latest trend for L.A.’s rich and fabulous and it’s next on “Entertainment Tonight”.

SE jimmy
Guest
SE jimmy

$5500 for a custom tailored suit isn’t really that crazy. Harkens back to the days where most men owned two suits, one for everyday and one for Sundays. While I know that people who purchase these suit probably have a large waredrobe, going back to the days of a few well-made items of clothing instead of today’s massive closets of disposable garments would be a good thing, both economically and environmentally (these things by nature almost have to be made locally, or at least in this country).

And besides, now you know how non-cyclists feel when they hear about $5500 Titanium mountain bikes.

beth h
Guest

@ #3: Rapha usually makes me want to slam MY head against a wall, too.

That said, it’s useful to remember that Rapha are targeting a VERY particular segment of the market, rather than Just Everyone. And so is Tony Pereira.

In this particular case, Tony didn’t get the suit for “free”; he built a custom bike and entered it in a contest. The countless hours involved in the bicycle’s design and construction laid a roughly $6,000 price tag on said bike, which I saw at the Design Challenge and which, yes, made me drool.

I can’t speak to how BeSpoke and Co. came up with a price on their custom cycling suit, but I would consider it a near-equal exchange of effort as it equates to expressed value. (Sewing anything from scratch is no small thing either.)

And, as the pictures of Tony in his new threads attest, there is NOTHING like a new suit to dress a fellow up and make him look sharp. (Jonathan even got him to — gasp! — Remove His Cap In Public!)

As a regular sort of thing, I agree that $5,000 for a suit of clothes is crazy. In this case, considering the circumstances, I’m inclined to give the parties involved a bit of a break. It’s a special case, and — perhaps most importantly — should not be construed as mass marketing of either product.

Remember that “Custom” does not live in the same room as “mass produced” — and that is precisely the point.

Ryan Good
Guest
Ryan Good

I want to clarify that I in no way meant to say anything negative about Tony, I was referring to the idea of extremely expensive clothing.

Jerry_W
Guest
Jerry_W

Ridiculous, Jonathan, check back in a year and see how this goes.

Johan
Guest
Johan

Goes great with the t-shirt! I won’t even ask how much THAT costs…

Red Five
Guest
Red Five

Wait, you’ve a got a city with at least a few frame builders churning out $5000 (or more) bicycles…why harp on a $5500 suit?

It’s great to be rich!

Christine
Guest
Christine

Handmade suits are not about conspicuous consumption, they are about paying local craftsman what they deserve at every step. The cloth is usually made in family mills in Italy instead of factories in China, and likewise the tailoring is done by hand instead of by sweatshop labor. You can get your suits at the Menwearhouse and pay a lot less, but it’s just like getting clothes at Walmart–you’re supporting cheap labor and mass production. I wish he would put on a decent shirt though!

shameless cynic
Guest
shameless cynic

if the arm length is 2 inches above the wrist while riding an upright townie with mustache/north road ish handlebars, how poorly fitting(uselessly bicycle designed) on a dropbar road bike

Eric
Guest
Eric

Wow, the commentors aren’t letting me down today. The haters are coming out earlier and earlier.

I am glad to learn that I’m part of “… a VERY particular segment of the market, rather than Just Everyone” I’ve always wanted to be so much more than just everyone.

Herzog
Guest
Herzog

Wow, I think that suit looks like garbage. I have no problem with $5000 suits, but that thing is ugly and pointless.

Here’s a alternative — a $3500 suit instead along with a $1200 Pashley Roadster Sovereign with a chaincase and upright seating position.

KWW
Guest
KWW

If you should know one thing about Rapha (and Saville Row), it is that it is unrepentantly luxurious in it’s business approach for certain items. Your revulsion to the price is expected and appreciated.

Fear not though, because Rapha has a ready to wear version of the jacket which is less expensive:
http://www.rapha.cc/tailored-jacket/
they also have a sweater made by non-sweat employees in Nepal:
http://www.rapha.cc/transit-elite-sweater-1/

Anyway, lets be glad for Tony, that is one helluva prize! Though they should of thrown in a dress shirt and English silk tie for that matter….

Slate O.
Guest
Slate O.

One point of clarification, Rapha doesn’t actually sell the bespoke Timothy Everest suit. We worked with Tim for 1.5 years to create something that evoked his Saville Row style and sensibilities for the bicycle. Tim, like Tony, is a master of his trade and delivered a beautiful ensemble.

As KWW pointed out, we worked with Tim to create an off-the-peg Tailored Jacket with many of the same smart details that make for a jacket you can wear to a meeting, a wedding or simply dress up your commute if you so wish.

Congratulations again Tony on your OM success and I agree that you look very handsome indeed. Can’t wait to see the final bike to match.

sashabekket
Guest

Adding elements of fashion in cycling is really nice. Is it possible that we will see woman cycling suit?

Ben
Guest
Ben

Beautiful suit! I love it! A good looking suit just makes me want to dress up. And I’m a jeans and t-shirt guy. For all the haters, go price out hand made suits of similar quality not made for bicycling.

beth h
Guest

This is a fascinating article, with equally fascinating responses.

I wasn’t putting out “hate”, merely make some observations. Custom bikes and clothing take much more time and care to make, and they are made to suit — to fit perfectly the person who made the order. That’s why they cost more.

I don’t resent people who make custom things — far from it. I admire the skill and care with which they craft memorable and durable things of beauty. Bonus points if those things are also truly useful (like, well, a bicycle).

What I DO think is that there are class differences everywhere, and the bicycle scene is no exception. Much as we would like to pretend that all of bicycling is egalitarian and first and foremost concerned with accessibility by all, the fact is that parts of the bicycle universe are very obviously chopped up into groups of “haves” and “have-nots”.
The “haves” can afford, to varying degrees, better made bikes and accessories that last longer and therefore give more bang for the buck. The “have nots” buy their bikes at department stores.

To put a negative spin on this, there is an historic aspect to the marketing and production of exclusivity. This is why there are bouncers at private Hollywood parties; why the SAT’s were first developed (to help keep certain ethnic groups out of the best universities); and why the best-designed and best-made [material] things are often the most expensive. It’s not just quality and expertise of the craftsperson that is being sold here, it’s also the aura of exclusivity and privilege which accompanies it.

To put a more positive spin on it, consider that those who make one-offs — custom bikes, suits and other craft-built things — often have more room to innovate improvements that may eventually find their way to more affordable, mass-produced items. This process can take a long time, or it can happen surprisingly fast, with varying results. (A good result: Velo Orange’s aluminum fenders, which retail for far less than the same thing from Honjo. A bad result: Walmart’s “commuter” bicycle.)

I don’t have a quarrel with custom anything, as long as we don’t hide behind our fancy stuff while loudly proclaiming that everyone should have equal access to everything, no matter what. That utopian ideal is simply not possible in the world we have fashioned for ourselves, whether we ride bicycles or not. And if we were to try and bring about such an equal world, human nature would not allow it to remain equal for everyone for very long.

(Disclaimer: I ride a bike with a custom frame, bought with the proceeds of an accident settlement after my old bike was totaled. It’s 11 years old and, though dented and scratched, it’s still going strong. I ride it without a shred of consumer guilt.)

wallflower
Guest
wallflower

There are so many real issues we need addressed in the realms of biking. Fashion is fickle, expensive and will never feature on the list of issues I ever will care about.

f5
Guest
f5

So much whining, so much vitriol…Kudos, everyone!

JAT in Seattle
Guest
JAT in Seattle

beth h, I’m sure the Educational Testing Service would take issue with your biases-belying assertion about the purpose for developing the SAT.

I suppose, if someone wants a $5000 custom cycling suit and they have $5000 then then can have one. It boggles my mind that anyone would want one and that anyone is making one, but a lot of things people make and purchase baffle me.

I sort of think of a suit as the man’s uniform for certain business and social events, and I enjoy the idea of withdrawing a business card from the cycling jersey-like rear pocket, but I suspect most recipients would be making a mental note: quirky and not to be trusted…

Tony Pereira
Guest

Jonathan, Thanks for the nice writeup. I love the suit and will be proud to wear it for many years to come.

In the short 7 years since I build my first bike my eyes have been opened to the beautiful world of craft. In the world of global economy it is very challenging to carry on age-old traditional crafts. I’m happy to do it and am glad that others do as well. The world is a richer place for it.

Beth, did you notice I was wearing the suit when we passed you in the park last night? It was a beautiful evening for a ride.

Cheers!
-Tony

Uma
Guest

I agree the price tag is a bit absurd. But then I am one of “those people” with a $5500 titanium mountain bike. Want to know how much that bike gets ridden? A lot doesn’t begin to cover it. It’s served me well, and everyone knows if you are find of the (insert object of adoration) you will (ride/wear/use) it more. Isn’t that what makes things sustainable: how much use a product gets?

As for Tony, I can’t imagine anyone in Portand who could sport such dapper threads so well. His bikes are classic, he’s a classic good guy and now he’s got a classic suit to match. He looks like he’s ready to deliver a sermon in Church of Bike. Get I get an “AMEN”?

matt picio
Guest

JAT (#23) – Not sure how that’s relevent, given that the Educational Testing Service was founded in 1947, and the SAT’s origins date back to 1901. Beth’s assertion is likely correct, as many means were used to enforce discrimination by a number of means at that time in history.

BTW, ETS no longer controls the SAT, but merely administers it. The “ownership” of the SAT is held by College Board, a not-for-profit member association of educational organizations.

matt picio
Guest

Tony – snazzy suit, lookin’ good!

Ken
Guest
Ken

Hott!! God I love a “more than two button” jacket!

beth h
Guest

Hi Tony. I actually noticed the smiles on your faces as you passed and didn’t notice the suit as much.

I STILL wanna know how Jonathan got you to pose without a cap on your head.

..::grin::..

Enjoy the fruits of your labors and happy riding!

Jeff TB
Guest
Jeff TB

Beth,

Here is another Tony pic without a cap.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/raphacc/2864316069/in/set-72157607345124837/

Classic Tony!

JAT in Seattle
Guest
JAT in Seattle

better research than mine, matt, still, inherent cultural biases notwithstanding, I tend to think that the stated goal of admissions testing – to increase access – being the actual goal is more parsimonious than some sort of crafty discriminatory plot.

Did I miss it? Again?
Guest
Did I miss it? Again?

I am neither “hate”-ing on Tony, nor the price of the suit. Just shocked that he would choose to work on a bike in it. Seems akin to pulling on silk gloves to change the oil in a car.

Tony Pereira
Guest

Brand new bicycles are not dirty.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

$5,000!

How many of your readers would spend such an absurd amount on a “bike suit”. I doubt its more than a handful. How about some reporting on practical, affordable, and sustainable aspects of bike commerce.

Uma
Guest

Some would argue that what’s well made and lasts a long time and gets extensive use actually *IS* sustainable. This suit will last forever. And besides, who doesn’t like to dress up now and then?

I thought BikePortland was for ALL of Portland’s bike culture, not just the proletariat side of the fence.

Jen R
Guest
Jen R

I’d like to see my man in a suit like that!

Obrah Winfree
Guest
Obrah Winfree

Rapha does t-shirts too, kids.

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

Just because you can’t afford it doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate it. I don’t have the financial means to afford such a suit, but it’s still slick.

Sometimes I get tired of the attitude displayed by people who for some reason hold disdain for things they can’t afford or for people who have the means to afford such things.

Is it your life? No. Is it hurting you? No. Live your life the way you want, and others do what they want.

Sorry the fenders on my bike aren’t made out of recycled pop bottles, and that my cycling clothing doesn’t consist of ultra-tight jeans from the Red Light… hope I don’t offend anyone while I ride by.

PDXbiker
Guest
PDXbiker

Hey, the man looks sharp and happy in his custom fitted new suit,regardless of price. In this case free – he did this win this as a prize. Congrats Tony.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“Is it your life? No. Is it hurting you? No. Live your life the way you want, and others do what they want.”

I suggest you read our constitution again. As a citizen of a pluralistic democracy I don’t have to let “others” (the ultra-rich, the oligarchs) do whatever they want.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Uma (#35) & A.K. (#38) – preach on.

Wear what you dig, ride what you dig and enjoy life.

By the way, that’s a sweet suit and a sweet bike.

Steve Hoyt-McBeth
Guest

Love the suit, and the ready-to-wear jacket. Props to the craftspeople.

erin g
Guest
erin g

Great story about a fun, creative, outside-the-box contest and one of Portland’s most awesome small business owners and community members.

That some people can find negative things to say about this is hilarious. I hope those folks figure out to have some fun and enjoy life, craft and culture a little more while being a little less quick to judge and complain. I wonder if they reacted similarly when Tony and Portland’s unique bike economy made front page of The New York Times a while back. I’m proud to have fantastic reporters/storytellers like Jonathan and crafts/businessmen like Tony in this community.

Most of all….

Tony, dang- you’re lookin’ GOOD! We’ll look forward to seeing you in this gem of a fine suit for many celebratory occasions this year and beyond!

Pengo
Guest
Pengo

Snazzy looking suit, but it seems like impractical is the new practical. The time when it comes full circle and someone here in town “invents” bibshorts and a jersey probably isn’t too far off.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Wow, $5500 for a suit seems crazy. Yes, you only need to have a couple suits in your closet, but the problem is that even quality wool suits WEAR OUT. When I was much younger I had a job that required me to wear a suit on a daily basis. I kept two suits in the closet at any time, but had a to buy a new one about ONCE A YEAR.

Needless to say I bought quality affordable suits, and never spent more than about $350 for one. Even accounting for inflation, that’s about a tenth of what this suit costs.

cold worker
Guest
cold worker

“This suit will last forever.”

I’m curious as to how you define “forever”.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

I have three words regarding this item:

Pee Wee Herman.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

A suit like that could possibly be easily worn in a white collar office setting. Seems like the kind of garment a person could leisurely ride short distances between appointments without suiting up for each specific activity; riding, business meeting. Heavy exertion in this get-up? If the suit’s going to tolerable and presentable for much longer than a week of use, I don’t see that at all.

I remember reading a NYTimes article within the last year about fashion and higher echelon business people’s growing interest in cycling. The story featured some of the gear they wore. Some of this suit’s features would likely fit their needs..and they’ve got the dough. Close fitting clothes are fine for ‘the look’, but from a practical standpoint, there isn’t much of one here.

How far would anyone ride wearing something like that? I’d hardly think wind resistance from a more luxurious fit…read ‘looser’… would be an issue for the distances covered over one ride by a person wearing such a suit.

Pee Wee Herman…or Maxwell Smart.

Paul Tay
Guest
Paul Tay

I’d want a cycling zoot suit. Spandex? Sooooooo yesterday.

Red Five
Guest
Red Five

People who come into work in the clothes they rode in without showing STINK! Sorry, but they do.