The Pilgrim Cycling Company is a brand new, British, independent cycling apparel range set up by London based designer Tom Probert. With the first collection launching very soon, Pilgrim will fill a serious gap in the market for stylish, design-led casual cycling wear, with plans for much more. The DIY Eye caught up with Tom to talk about his fledgling business that’s almost ready to take off.
How did the idea for Pilgrim Cycling come together, can you give a little intro to the company?
I started to identify myself through cycling, but there weren’t any brands out there that fitted what I love about the lifestyle. Cycling gear was either very functional with no style, or very stylish but very serious and focused on racing. That’s when the idea started to creep in. I wanted to make something less serious, less intimidating, celebrating the small details that make an adventure special, memorable. I wanted to make a brand for people who have cycling at the centre of a laid back, carefree, adventurous lifestyle.
How has cycling itself inspired you?
I have my best ideas on a bike. The ideas for Pilgrim started to form over a 2 week ride across the Pyrenees. With so many hours each day in the saddle, you get in a little trance and there’s something about it that sets off a wave of ideas. Moving through beautiful landscapes is inherently inspiring, the new cultures, sights you see and people you meet along the way give me ideas to feed in to the brand. And then there’s a rich visual language of cycling that everyone’s familiar with, which is there to use and to build on.
Congratulations on a successful Kickstarter project. Can you tell us why you decided to raise funds via Kickstarter and go for the DIY approach rather than raise investment other ways? Was it important to keep the business independent?
Kickstarter fits the scale and nature of my project perfectly. I’m so excited that there’s this technology now that allows me to get off the ground whereas 10 years ago when I wanted to start a clothing brand I would have needed to get traditional investment, or get together my own savings! It allows me to launch the brand without the risk and commitment of getting investors onboard, and also it’s been a terrific platform for spreading the word.
Being forced to present the whole brand and share it with people was a priceless shot of motivation and in itself accelerated the project and forced me to look at it through others’ eyes. At this stage it’s important to keep things independent. I’ve got plenty of ideas for the future, but I want to grow carefully and naturally, keeping everything manageable.
What it does it mean for the company now that you’ve raised over your initial target?
I set a really high standard for myself, so I’d made some pretty ambitious decisions about producing and presenting my products. If I hadn’t have surpassed my target I would have had to compromise on this, but now I’ve got free reign to make sure every detail is the best it can be.
Secondly it’s allowed me to start work on development of two new products that I’m really excited about. One of them I’ve had loads of requests for and should be ready for the winter, the other one is a total secret but I’ve had some good meetings with a collaborator and work has already started on a prototype.
What future plans do you have for Pilgrim?
Telling stories about cycling through t-shirt prints will always be at the heart of what Pilgrim does – each collection will tell new stories in different ways. In the future I want to compliment the t-shirts with gear that we will design and manufacture from scratch. Importantly, I want to make a technical jersey that you can use for a proper cycling adventure! I’ve got a lot of exciting ideas and when I find the right people to work with there will be some great garments coming from Pilgrim.
You’ve collaborated on the t-shirt designs with other illustrators and designers. As a graphic designer you were more than equipped to design your products by yourself, so is collaboration at the heart of Pilgrim? Are there plans for more?
I’m a massive believer in collaboration. You’re right I could have had a go at doing all my own illustrations, but the result would have been nowhere near as good. There are so many reasons to collaborate: Firstly, the people I work with are specialists that are the very best at the thing they do, so their work is of unbelievable quality. Also, giving someone else an idea to interpret always generates things I would never have thought of and that’s really important, it allows the brand to grow beyond my limitations. Thirdly, all the illustrators I have worked with have their own followings, so it spreads the reach of Pilgrim to new people, and in Alan Berry Rhys’ case, new continents! I feel so lucky to be able to work with people I truly admire, there will be plenty more!
I was super impressed to see that the manufacture of your products is climate neutral. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and why it was important for you to work with a climate neutral factory?
The garments themselves are made abroad in a climate neutral, wind and solar powered factory, then the t-shirts are hand printed in London using non-chemical inks. So it’s not the perfect solution, but it’s very very good. Ultimately I would like to manufacture everything in Britain, but there are financial constraints on a start up and this is the only way I could get started. Doing my own thing means I get to make every decision, and faced with that possibility, it was a no-brainer to make the product as low-impact as possible, it’s the only responsible thing to do. The thing I love most is being out in nature, and it’s our job to preserve it.
Pilgrim Cycling has a strong identity connected with seeking new, everyday adventures. How would you convince someone to pick up a bike and get out there?
I would get them on a bike and take them on a ride in the English country lanes on a beautiful Summer day, stopping for lunch and a pint in a country pub along the way, and a cake from a village bakery on the way back. That should do it!
Do you think adventuring by bicycle gives you a unique perspective, inspiration and appreciation of what’s around you?
Yes absolutely. You’re going at a human pace so you notice more stuff around you. You have to get yourself up the hills, so you gain a real appreciation for the relief of the country. You’re exposed to the elements, so you learn to respect what nature can throw at you. Finally, after a long day in the saddle you gain a unique appreciation for small luxuries like a toasted cheese sandwich, a beer, or a comfy bed!
Where is your favourite place to adventure to?
I like to find adventures every time I go out on my bike. If you have the right attitude, there are interesting things to see everywhere. Big trips like crossing the Alpes and Pyrenees are obviously incredible, but in London where I live I’ve had unexpected adventures just getting from A to B – discovering hidden rivers running through the city, even a lighthouse!
Where can we buy the first range of Pilgrim Cycling products?
If you’re in London on the 5th – 7th December Pilgrim will be at the Spin London Xmas show where the whole range will be available. The website will soon be up and ready to take orders too, at www.pilgrimcycling.com.