Lauren Steinhardt came to my attention when she commented on my review of the REI Novara Whittier Dress – she was the designer! How cool to get feedback! I looked her up on LinkedIn (I’m such an internet stalker) and her background sounded really interesting – she has a Master’s Degree in Apparel Design from Oregon State University, and her thesis was on Women’s Commuter Cycling Apparel! So I took a chance and asked if I could ask her some questions about her background and experiences with bikes and designing clothing. Luckily for us all, she agreed!
This part of the interview lets Lauren explain a bit about herself and her experiences and influences. The second part, to come next week, focuses on the retail and sports clothing industry, and how it relates to what we wear on our bikes.
Which came first? Bikes or fashion?
Well, I don’t really consider myself a “fashion” designer. I design clothing, but it isn’t always fashionable, depending on its end use and the needs of the company. In fact, I can’t say I endorse the “fashion industry” in regards to fast fashion and stuff, but it is important to make a nice looking product that makes people feel good when they wear it or engage with it.
Starting from about age five, I always knew that my future vocation would be to design clothing. I had bikes growing up and as an adult, but my relationship with them has always been a utilitarian one – how can I use this device to get me from point A to point B, and why is my clothing not made for bike riding when it seems like guys’ clothing is? I didn’t start riding recreationally until I moved to Portland in 2002, mostly because there is such amazing bike infrastructure here and it’s so easy to get around.
What is your favorite type of biking?
My favorite type of biking is everyday biking. I commute by bike and use it to get around town. This is mostly my personal area of interest for designing bike-friendly clothing too. I think it would help more women get out there on their bikes. I’d like to try some bike camping or bike-packing – sounds like it would be fun!
How many bikes do you own?
Just one, it’s an 80s Nishiki road bike frame that has commuter rack and fenders. My favorite bike ever was a vintage Roadmaster Cape Cod 3-speed that I got at the thrift store in Olympia 🙂
What is your favorite biking destination?
What would your dream vacation be?
Probably a long backpacking trip – maybe into the Olympic rainforest? I want to be Mick Dodge when I grow up.
What are your favorite bike accessories and fashion companies? What do you use and why?
I don’t do a lot of clothing shopping myself, and when I do I tend to stick to the basics. But there are a few companies that have been making really exciting products that I want to give a shout out to. Iva Jean started out making rain capes and now they have expanded their line with some really cute pieces. And BetaBrand is a fantastically inventive company that accepts design submissions from the public.
Where do you look for inspiration?
My #1 source of inspiration is my own experience. What feels good, what’s easy to use, what do I feel comfortable in? Ultimately, wearing clothing is about the way we experience the world. We might spend a few minutes looking in the mirror, but we spend all day in our clothing. So it’s got to work and it can’t impede us from living our lives. How can clothing help us live our lives more gracefully? That’s my main inspiration.
Thank you, Lauren, for sharing your story with us!
Next week, I will post the second half of her interview, in which Lauren gives some insights into the industry that makes cycling (and all sports) clothing. Stay tuned!