Images by Ben Ingham
Cycling brand Rapha has partnered with London design studio Accept & Proceed for its latest Pro Team capsule collection. Clothing and accessories feature a graphic pattern based on data gathered from a rider during a grand tour...
The Pro Team range is Rapha's most technically advanced product line, developed with cyclists from Team Sky. Caps, jerseys and accessories feature a striking graphic chevron pattern based on the performance of a single rider during one of the sport's grand tours. The pattern features a central line representing the total distance of the tour, while the height of each chevron represents the distance of each stage. Chevron length represents that stage's altitude, and a line mesh within chevrons represents the cyclist's training stress score (used to determine the intensity and duration of an athlete's workout) throughout the race, with heavier lines indicating increased physical pressure.
Accept & Proceed has been working on the project since November. It is the first time the studio has collaborated with Rapha, and the first time the brand has partnered with an external agency on a product range.
"Rapha came to us as they had seen some of our previous work with data," says Accept & Proceed creative director Matthew Jones (the studio has worked on several data visualisation projects and graphic patterns for Nike). "A lot of our work is data-inspired, and we’ll often create technical work that is layered – a design or pattern that first and foremost should be beautiful, but should also reveal an extra level of information," he says. "It was a good collaborative process between us and Rapha's creative team: we developed a number of possible directions and stories that we thought could work on their products, and they chose the data story, then applied it to the capsule range."
While Rapha often works with external photographers and film-makers (such as photographer Ben Ingham and film-maker Andrew Telling, whose work for the brand was featured in our December 2013 issue), most of its creative is produced in-house.
"Retail design, print, packaging, website and creative concepts all come from the internal team," says lead designer Jack Saunders. "As a brand so embedded in the world of cycling, and with a very knowledgeable audience, I think it's hard to produce creative that hits the mark unless you have that expertise, and there aren’t any agencies that specialise in designing for cycling audiences – with an animation for example, we can help make sure the way the rider moves is natural, and make sure everything is technically accurate. With the data print, [however] we wanted to collaborate with A&P because they specialise in that area and could bring some fresh ideas to it. Their aesthetic – monochrome, angular and geometric – is quite a good fit with Rapha’s Pro Team visual language," he adds.
With its large-scale black-and-white prints, the collection has a much bolder look than other Rapha product lines, which often reference classic jerseys worn by cyclists in the 1960s and 70s (a key inspiration for the brand's aesthetic, as founder Simon Mottram explained to Design Week editor Angus Montgomery in our May 2014 issue). Saunders says the aim with the new look was to create more differentiation between ranges, while highlighting the technical features of the Pro Team collection.
"Rapha has been in business for over ten years now and our collection has grown considerably...We’ve been looking to create a bit more definition between our product ranges and articulate the fact that these are garments born out of elite performance, and felt it was also time to shake things up a little creatively," he says. "The graphic pattern using rider data is a brilliant metaphor for this, showing that we now have far more technical insight [into a rider’s performance] because of our link with Team Sky," he adds.
"We went down a very modern angle and aesthetic, as opposed to historical," adds Jones. "A lot of Rapha’s products, while high performance, are more traditional but this was to have a more technical, graphic look – a bit more of an edge."
Twenty-five-year-old cyclist and current British Road Race champion Peter Kennaugh has been chosen as the face of the new range - the first time the brand has sponsored an individual rider. "[Using Kennaugh as the face of the collection] is also quite a notable change for us," says Saunders. "Peter is the current British national champion, he has great potential to do some amazing things in the sport and that, coupled with his age and look and passion for the sport, made him the perfect choice for the collection."
As well as being applied to Pro Team products, the graphic has been used to create in-store visuals and an interactive window display, which will respond to cyclists passing by Rapha shops. A&P has also created an animation inspired by the print - but not based on actual data.
Photographs: Ben Ingham
Music: Luke Abbott
Art Direction: Jack Saunders
Pattern design: Accept & Proceed