A lot of us sit here and complain that there isn’t enough female specific MTB clothing around! Yet we don’t do anything about it! But one women that did do something about it was Hannah Myers! She turned a Uni project into what is now one of the most popular UK based MTB brands around today!
Hannah and her fiance Ben are the brains behind Flare Clothing Company! If you don’t know what or who Flare are then….. Where have you been? Flare Clothing Co, was established back in 2012, at the time they were solely focused on girls specific riding gear. But three years on they have expanded there range vastly, with the introduction of a male line in 2015. We caught up with Hannah to find out where and why Flare began, where it is going, the hurdles they have faced in the industry and what their plans are for 2016!
Hi Hannah! I think it is fair to say most people in the UK that mountain bike are now aware of Flare Clothing, but where did it all begin?
H: Thank you! It definitely feels as though we’re getting much more recognisable with the number of women (and now men) wearing our kit all over the country. It all started in a place of frustration that we’ve all felt as female mountain bikers – and cyclists, that there just wasn’t any good-looking, functional, well-fitting kit out there for women. I wanted to look feminine but powerful and there wasn’t anything that I liked, so thought I’d put my design background to good use and do something about it.
2015 has seen the introduction of a male line too! What made you branch out from just having a female specific line?
H: The guys asked for it! We started Flare to bridge the gap between what was available for men and what was available for women – at the time they were very different, and thought that the men were well catered for. As the first year went on we had more and more men ask “are these shorts only for women?” and “when will you make this for men?” so thought why not?! We never intended to be exclusively female – when we go riding we’re in groups of all different people and genders, the demand for the male range just came a bit sooner than we anticipated.
Have you experienced any hurdles branching into the male market, which is already so evolved?
H: We don’t have nearly as strong USP for the guys as we do for the girls. In the women’s market we are trying to do something very different to what’s out there (with exception of a few brands) and I think people recognise that, whereas in the male market we’re adding another option, so there’s definitely less to separate Flare from the rest of the crowd.
Mountain Biking has been very much a Male dominated sport, but the growth in Women Mountain biking in recent years has been huge! However to you think MTB manufacturers are still lacking behind the times and focusing far too much on the male dominated market?
H: It’s a tricky one because there are some women who are resistant to “women’s specific” anything, which is great because ultimately it’s them who have their pick of the bikes, accessories and clothing. However, as much as I love this sport it can be incredibly intimidating – online videos of guys hurling themselves down canyons, bike shops that have 12 different types of pedal and they all look the same. So to get more women riding and engaging in the community I think that specific bikes and other products make the sport more approachable, not just from an entry-level point of view, but all the way up to full-fledged race machines as something to aspire to.
I think that manufacturers are without a doubt stepping up – boutique brands like Juliana and Yeti are standing alongside industry heavyweights like Scott, Specialised and Giant (Liv) are showcasing some really well-thought out and designed products for women. However, the people with the power to deliver those fantastic products to the customers who want them are bike shops, and I think it’s these that have yet to change. For the most part (I am generalising, there are some great ones) enter any trail centre shop and you see the same collection of stuff whether you’re in Scotland or Kent, because these are the tried-and-tested, risk-free products that are neither going to cause problems or excitement. That’s what I think needs to change.
Do you think their needs to be more coverage of Women’s Mountain Biking in mainstream MTB media?
H: Again, this is a tricky one. The short answer is yes. The long answer is that unfortunately so few women (by comparison) are providing content – there are far fewer women racing to cover for stories and a smaller pool of products to test for review which reflects the much smaller section of the community, so “women’s mountain biking” as a topic is always going to be put in second-place. However, what many mainstream media outlets are now doing (MBUK and BikeRadar for example) is rather than segregating women they are being made part of the main dialogue and featuring in stories alongside the men as equal riders and participants. I think this is a fantastic way to balance both sides and a very positive way for the industry to move forward.
What changes do you have planned for your product range in 2016?
H: Well we’ve moved our production to enable us to include more technical features in our shorts for the same price, as well as using some new fabrics along with completely new graphics. We’ve also removed the Solar Tank jersey from the product line and replaced it with a t-shirt style jersey (although we Britons pray for long, balmy days of summer sun and dusty trails, they’re probably never going to happen!). Next year is very much about refinement, we made some big changes in 2015 and want to get them spot on in 2016.
You have sponsored the womens category at the BDS for the last 2 seasons do you plan to continue that into 2016 along with your sponsorship of the new British Enduro Series?
H: For 2016 unfortunately we won’t be supporting the BDS in such a large role. We felt that over the past two years we’ve provided those category winners with some great clothing that hopefully they’ll continue to use and enjoy, but ultimately our time had run its course, which is why we’re moving over and supporting the Cannondale British Enduro Series and UK Enduro Series. We’re still going to be at a few rounds of the BDS though, so be sure to pop and and say hello.
You have a large number of riders sponsored by Flare! Do you plan to increase the number of sponsored riders for the 2016 season?
H: We’re making some changes within the women’s team, but we’re really happy with how everything has gone through 2015 so won’t be holding an open application process. On the men’s side we’re currently looking for guys to apply as some of our riders have been snapped up by teams, so more information is available on our website. Along with that though, we are looking for youth and junior male and female riders to apply to be part of a development team we hope to run during 2016.
Hannah above everything you began Flare because you are a mountain biker! So where is your favourite place to ride?
H: My favourite in the UK is an oldie but goldie, Coed-y-Brenin. This summer I was lucky enough to ride on the Pacific Northwest in America, miles of buff singletrack in epic scenery – I can’t even imagine anything better!
What is your bike set up at the moment?
H: For my main trail bike I have a Juliana Roubion at the moment but have my eyes on a Yeti Beti SB5c… I also have a Canyon Torque FRX Rockzone for DH.
Away from Mountain Biking & work what other hobbies and interests do you have?
H: I love a bit of Crossfit, especially on these cold autumn evenings, and I have a 1 year old border collie who of course takes up lots of attention!
Finally… There is clearly a lot of thought put into your ranges! But what is your favourite flare garment that you have designed so far?
H: Ooh that’s a tough one! Although they’re the most understated product we have in the current collection, I just love the Stage enduro shorts. They’re so comfortable and just move with you on the bike (it feels like you’re not wearing anything!) we’re hardly making any changes to them next year we’ve been that impressed.
Thanks Hannah & Good Luck for the future!