Cycling through the streets of London is an arduous task. A lack of cycling lanes paired with an abundance of testosterone-fuelled road rage and cruel weather means that getting from A to B is often taxing – both emotionally and physically. 'You have to feel empowered to cycle in London,' says Pippa Roberts, a 46-year-old interior designer and cyclist. 'You have to get your armour on.' But cycling gear is notoriously unflattering; the combination of raver-esque shades, clunky helmets and the unfortunate, lycra-induced 'man bulge' have never looked good on anyone. To make matters worse, most cycling gear on the market is catered towards men, leaving stylish women in the city high and dry – plus, the functional requirements of the garments mean chicness is largely out of the question. Wanted to cycle to that important meeting in a dress and high heels? Forget it.
Estonian designer Johanna Parv has created an alluring alternative: high-end, luxurious cycle wear. Her new S/S 22 capsule collection, entitled 51°30′26′′N 0°7′39′′W PARV (also the official coordinates of the designer's studio in London), pits the professional women cycling through London's streets as muses. 'I wanted to look for ways that enable professional women to cycle and go into work without changing,' she says. 'It is about looking elegant before and after the commute.'
Parv established her namesake label after graduating from Central Saint Martins' MA Fashion course last year, and has a CV that includes both high-end fashion and sportswear (she has worked at Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Burberry, and also Soar Running). In 2020, she appeared on Sarah Mower's notorious 'Sarah's List' of designers to watch, and has already stocked her S/S 21 collection with Machine-A.
The S/S 22 collection's billowing, asymmetrical orange hooded cape-shirts, handy skorts and hybrid skirt-trousers in a nylon-lycra blend will allow women to finally cycle in style. Safety and functionality is still a priority; if you're in the mood for heels, there are knee-length leg warmers tailored to fit around them, while Parv's signature patchwork action shoulder bag has been miniaturised in reflective material for visibility reasons.
A woozy, documentary-style fashion film directed by Luke Clayton Thompson follows five London-based women through the city on their bikes wearing Johanna Parv. 'I spent hours and hours cycling alongside these women, talking to them while they covered their regular routes,' she says. 'The goal was to understand how cycling influences how we dress, how we perceive the city, and how cycling can affect our lives.' Eve Lam, a 24-year-old jeweller and cyclist, speaks of the casual sexism she encountered while working in a bike shop – she later quit and started a female charity called Broad Bikez. Others discuss the meditative aspects of cycling, bemoan the lack of functionality in womenswear, and marvel at the urban landscape as they speed by. 'Sometimes I have really great ideas on my bike,' says Theresa Begon, a 26-year-old student at the Architectural Association.
'I want to change the way the female body and power is represented and perceived,' says Parv ambitiously, and it shows; the women in the film appear like urban warriors, their garments billowing in the wind – the gustier the weather, the more majestic they seem. 'I think fashion design allows us to create more meaning in life.'