ONE MINUTE WITH
"each product is made to our exact specifications with function at the heart of it. Every time you finish prototyping a product and put it into production you feel a sense of achievement (or relief), but you know it counts for nothing if people don’t want to use it."
What is Albion?
We’re a British brand who make products for road cycling in all sorts of weather.
How would you describe your brand in 3 words?
Functional cycling gear.
Why / How did it all start? Why cycling?
We spent a lot of time together, seeking out remote British landscapes to ride our bikes in. Landscapes have a unique ability to make you feel very small and insignificant, which we find gives us grounding and perspective. On one of our favourite long rides in Wales you can easily experience all four seasons in a day as you pass through the valleys and we loved that. Riding all day in those types of conditions places unique demands on the clothing and kit you need, and it started to make us think about approaching cycling clothing with that in mind. It was very different to what cycling brands at the time were talking about, with sundrenched switch backs and loud race kits seemingly dominating the aesthetic of the market. We wanted to do something different, but that was also true to the way we ride, and I think we've done that.
What’s the best thing about designing and making your own products?
Talking to the people who use them. There’s nothing better than someone talking about how useful the waterproof pouch was on a wet day. We decided early on that we wouldn’t work from generic templates, so each product is made to our exact specifications with function at the heart of it. Every time you finish prototyping a product and put it into production you feel a sense of achievement (or relief), but you know it counts for nothing if people don’t want to use it.
What is good design for you?
For us it’s about function. Our approach to making things always starts by asking how it will improve the riding experience. If we can answer that then we know we’re onto something but it has to work well at the expense of everything else. The style, the price, the story, that’s all secondary. A lot of our inspiration comes from outdoor brands that placed function at the heart of everything – Rohan, Rab, Berghaus – they all set out to make gear that works, over and above everything else.
Where are your products made? What has that been like?
We’ve been really lucky with our manufacturing partners so far. Where things are made is very important to us, but our first priority is always making it as good as it can possibly be. Currently we work with manufacturers in Britain (Scotland and the Midlands) and in Italy. Both are passionate about their craft and experts at what they do so it’s a pleasure to partner with them.
What’s your favourite material? Why?
Waterproof cotton. We source ours from Halley Stevensons in Dundee, and they’re pioneers in the development of modern waxed cotton. They’ve got an impressive history with their Baltic Works factory which has been running for over 150 years and it’s one of the original performance fabrics. When we came up with the idea for a fully waterproof pouch we thought a lot about materials, and we’re just lucky there happens to be the perfect partner so close to home.
What brand is killing it at the moment for you, why?
We’re big fans of Mamnick. Thom, who runs it, is a cyclist and you can see those influences coming through in the clothes and accessories. It’s a brand that it’s easy to get lost in because there are so many interesting pieces. He works closely with manufacturers in his hometown of Sheffield and has produced some beautiful Sheffield steel products, check out the chip fork. He makes clothes you want to wear everyday but feel much more special, his accessories are interesting and beautifully made, and his ethos is one that we admire and respect.
What have you bought in the last year that you think will stand the test of time and you’ll still have in 5 years?
A new Parka. It was needed for a trip where the weather was -10 degrees, and it won’t go out of style. Then for Christmas, a Mamnick stainless steel chip fork. It isn’t ever going to break.
What does quality mean to you?
It won’t let you down in bad weather.
What’s next for you?
Season 2 at the start of April, really excited to introduce some new products for Spring. We’ve also got a collaboration lined up for this Summer that should be interesting. Hopefully we can continue to offer more than just cycling gear as well, we recently worked with a data visualisation artist called Owen Powell. He helped us produce a 3D terrain map of the Irfon Valley in Wales, a favourite ride of ours, and we want to do more projects like that. Any way we can transport people to those sorts of places, be it with our gear on their backs, through imagery or even 3D terrain maps that let you experience it from your own desk.