Sandra Brown-Springer at the Brixton launch of a clothing range that combines safety with style
Coco Cripps launched her Alluminate cycle clothing range Downstairs at The Department Store, the headquarters of Squire & Partners architects on Ferndale Road.
Upon signing in, I was given a little flashlight, then I descended the staircase into a dimly lit, cavernous area which was intermittently illuminated by the flashing lights of bikes as they circled the space.
Benches were strategically placed against walls and a cycle path was indicated with reflective tape, weaving a route around the large space. People gathered on the periphery as they watched the models cycling, showcasing the distinctive attire which was the reason of the show.
Alluminate refers to this collection of garments, so named because they reflect direct light.
This is where the flashlight came in! We were encouraged to take pictures and videos with the flash activated on our cameras or phones, or use the flashlight while viewing the pieces, and as we did so the ingenuity of the garments’ design was revealed.
Each piece has a greater or lesser degree of reflective yarn woven through it, artfully making the wearer hyper visible once light was shone upon it.
While watching the models I was struck by the beauty of the various pieces, including trousers, a jumpsuit, a hoodie, a hat, scarf and other accessories.
Each model looked supremely comfortable. The garments looked stylish in an ordinary way in normal lighting, but under the glare of direct light intricate patterns or blocks of reflective material appeared.
I approached a model to ask if I could feel the fabric. The material was surprisingly soft, and lightweight, and I was told that it is breathable, comfortable and cool to wear. This sounds perfect for cyclists who invariably build up body heat as they ride.
As a cyclist I was totally sold on the collection – beautifully functional, versatile, and lightweight, and as a fashion-conscious consumer I just wanted to know when I could acquire a piece – Coco’s dramatic, elegant elbow-long gloves were of particular interest. I envisioned myself literally stopping traffic in them while riding about town in the dark.
No longer having to wear or pack the bulky, ill fitting, unattractive yellow hi-vis vest to be seen will transform my cycling experience. The audience were similarly in awe, and as I circulated the room to gauge peoples’ reactions, remarks such as – “revolutionary”, “genius”, and “gorgeous” were repeated.
After a glass of wine, I looked around for the creator to put a few questions to her. She was difficult to find amongst the crowd, but I eventually spotted her in the centre of a circle of admirers.
We found a quiet secluded spot but were constantly interrupted by well-wishers until we hid in the changing rooms.
Coco was animated and glowing as we talked, wearing the aforementioned gloves and a striking skirt with beautiful buttons along the seams.
She was one pf the first two young business people to benefit from Squires’ offer of a year’s residency in their Department Store studios along with mentoring and other assistance in developing and growing their products and marketing.
My first question was the obvious one – how on earth did you come up with this brilliant idea?
“I was cycling a lot during lockdown. One day I was on a long ride, going to the other side of London, and it was starting to get dark. So I’m just cycling along, seeing people in their hi-vis jackets, and thinking that they are so ugly, but recognising that they served a purpose, and I wanted my clothes to reflect,” she explained.
“So I started to think about it, and I later said to a friend ‘wouldn’t it be great if I could find a yarn that’s reflective, then I could knit something to wear while riding’.
“Literally the next week one of the shops that I follow on Instagram posted that they had a new reflective yarn in stock, so I ordered some and started experimenting with it.
“Then, with the residency, they were looking for an idea. Two days before the deadline, I thought maybe I could put forward what I was currently exploring and playing around with, so that led to me using this idea to apply for the residency.
“If it wasn’t for that, I would probably have just made myself a nice outfit, to be honest, because this all started with me wanting to wear what I wanted to wear, and reflect, and not have to wear an ugly yellow thing, or some really tight lycra … sometimes I just wanna wear a skirt. That’s how it’s evolved.”
“The pieces are designed around the user – it mimics the sort of thing they would normally wear, for example the model wearing the flared trousers is always wearing flared trousers, but what he’s wearing today has buttons on so that they can be secured to his ankles so as not to get in the way of the chain when riding.
“It’s thinking about how you can make things you want to wear practical enough to wear while riding, make it fun and stylish, wear it during the day then ride home at night. The model in the jumpsuit is in a band, and she could wear that while performing, jump on her bike afterwards, ride home and be safe.”
I asked how long it took to create the piece she was wearing – the skirt in particular.
“This took two six-hour days, which is quick for me. It took another day to sew the buttons on. The reflective yarn is quite temperamental, quite brittle and snaps a lot, so I had to find ways to incorporate the reflective yarn into a piece, in a way to make the wearer safe and visible, but to minimise the possibility of the yarn breaking during the creation process.
“The skirt took three days in total to make, with the finishing, buttons, etc.”
I went on to ask about the cost of the pieces, given the amount of time that went into making some of them.
“We are looking at ways to bring down the amount of time by possibly outsourcing the manufacturing process. Me making them by myself will mean that each piece is very expensive. But I do smaller pieces, like hats, and accessories, and bands for legs or trousers, so that the price point is more accessible.”
As I thanked her for her time, our hiding place was discovered and she was whisked away.
The overall takeaway of the show was beautiful, chic, cool cyclewear that can take you from the bike straight to the restaurant, bar or club without any worry about looking out of place.
The glittering designs would look amazing under the flashing lights of a dancefloor.
I was among the first to register my interest in a piece – if you would like to make an enquiry, you can contact Coco at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can learn more about Coco and her work at Coco Cripps – Home.