Several months ago, I visited the Swrve headquarters. Located in downtown Los Angeles, it’s quite impressive; serving as the office, warehouse and factory. It wasn’t the first time I’d been up there, but this time I took some photos. Then, I interviewed one of the folks behind the whole thing, Muriel. Then, then, then… I forgot about it! Well, I’ve unearthed the photos and interview, and am bringing them to you for your reading and viewing enjoyment. Just keep in mind that like, all the products mentioned are out already… find out what makes Swrve tick after the jump.
First, let’s dispense with the usual bits; who is Swrve?
Matt Rolletta is the lead designer and Muriel Bartol is the general manager.
What experience did you have in the bicycle and/or fashion industries, prior to starting Swrve?
Matt was a bike shop employee with no fashion experience except for being a fashion whore. Muriel… none, but ditto on the fashion whore.
I know from the product tags that you pride yourself in keeping a full-time staff (ie: not laying off in the slow season); how many people do you employ? And do all those folks work here in the Los Angeles office?
We have 7 sewers, yes, all of them at the LA office
The office is in a great location, near the LA Fashion District. Are you able to conduct any of your daily business by bicycle?
Yes. Also, a lot of stuff (bank, pattern maker, some fabric vendors, post office, fabric shows!) is nearby enough to walk to and we do a lot of that too.
There are tons of maps (bike maps, regular maps, Southern California, New York City, etc.) all over the office. Who is the map nerd?
Matt is the map geek. You should see his art studio to be properly blown away…
In my opinion, there’s three companies who really stand out in the bicycle fashion world; Rapha from London, Outlier from New York City, and you guys from Los Angeles. Although you may have some similar products in each of your lines, you all seem to represent your respective cities extremely well. Why do you suppose that is?
Dunno, haha. We wouldn’t necessarily consider ourselves representative of the LA fashion world [touché]. Though i guess we are heavily influenced on what we see, so it makes sense that we proliferate a sense of aesthetic from our hometowns.
Recently coming off the hottest day in recorded LA history at 113°F; how are you guys so good at designing and making cold-weather clothing?!
Matt is from Buffalo, so he knows riding in cold wet sleeting snowing slushy icy weather (super fun!) and Muriel is a sissy when it comes to the cold, so she is keen on making things to keep warm.
Speaking of hot days, you guys were recently at Interbike in Las Vegas. What new products did you have to unveil to the world? Did you see anything at the show that stood out for you?
We’re super excited about our upcoming wax cotton jacket. We’ve been thinking about it for a long time and we are currently working with a UK company on getting these made. If all goes well we should see them at the beginning of November. We’re also finishing up some 100% New Zealand Mapp merino wool Belgian caps (with ear flaps!) [I own one, and it’s so great] and some full-zip sweaters in this same amazing fabric. We’ll also be making the Belgian cap in a windblock body with fleece ears.
[What we saw] at Interbike: Phil Wood belt drive parts!! We think it marks a nice market shift in the US. Last year at Eurobike we saw tons of belt drive things and are excited to see it make it over the pond. Also, the Knog booth was hilarious, we loved it. And Matt met Jens Voigt!!
I’m jealous of meeting Jens Voigt. What’s the favorite Jens joke? Mine is “Jens Voigt can touch MC Hammer.”
I remember him saying something about Jens needing no oven mitts…
You seem to have two color palettes in the line; some things seem to stick more earthtones and black/greys, and other items go with an array of vibrant colors. Is that a design difference between the two of you, or something else?
Matt and I have distrurbingly similar taste; we see our color choices on a linear scale rather than in two groups. we tend to like neutrals and when we do have color we tend to like rich colors that are well balanced. A lot of it has to do with what is available, since we are still so small; we don’t get to determine the color of the fabrics. We get what we can get… but it’s fun to pick them out, like kids in the candy store.
Any upcoming products you can give us a hint of?
The wax jacket and Matt has been working on a merino jersey for the spring. it is really beautiful and looks really great on… and we’re working on a few accessories we’re keeping on the DL for now…