Morvélo has been a staple of the UK cycling scene for what seems like ages, with its striking designs well-represented everywhere from Home Counties sportives to Alpine cols, Surprisingly the company has only been around since 2009 and is still run from a tiny office on the edge of Brighton’s Lanes by its founders Dave Marcar and Oli Pepper.
Oli and Dave were graphic designers with backgrounds in skateboarding and BMX, who had also worked in winter and extreme sports and who decided to set up a company to sell their own tee shirt designs. When they wanted some cycling kit too, it was a natural extension to design it themselves. They initially sold in small quantities to friends, but with the word spreading the Morvélo brand grew and grew. Its reputation for comfortable, quality kit and interesting designs has made it an attractive purchase for many riders.
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Morvélo’s growth has been entirely organic, fed by word of mouth, social media and sponsorship of some innovative events, such as the Brighton Big Dog, Battle Royale and CityCross. Dave and Oli made an early decision to concentrate on design and not to get involved in manufacture or fulfilment, with many of their garments made by a single company in Poland and warehousing and sales managed from Newcastle. They’ve recently taken on Lois in the Brighton office to help manage customer queries and delivery issues.
Some of Morvélo’s designs, such as The Unity and Chasseur de Cols, have proved very popular, but Oli and Dave aim to produce new designs based on their themes, rather than continue long runs of one design, so that wearers don’t keep bumping into other riders in the same kit.
Going forward, Oli sees more collaborations and Morvélo has recently worked with Brighton graphiti artist Aroe MSK on a capsule collection of two jerseys and a tee shirt. They will also produce more video content and have launched the Doorstep Epic series, where riders take on a challenge in their own area: the first video shows Oli recreating the Three Peaks cyclocross race on the South Downs.
More technical products
Morvélo’s autumn/winter range will be available from mid-September. This year they are looking to increase their use of technical fabrics, with the front panels of Morvélo’s bibtights being made of windproof material. This presents a problem as the windproof fabric cannot be printed on, so they have been juggling its position and extent to ensure that they can produce a design which presents Morvélo’s brand identity rather than being mainly black, whilst still providing wind protection and a good fit.
This year Morvélo will also sell a windproof/water resistant jacket in the Gabba mould. Called the Fuse, this will feature Morvélo’s distinctive graphics – another challenge to have printed on a technical fabric.
Listening to its customers
Around a third of Morvélo’s sales are overseas and its fit has evolved over the years to suit the requirements of these markets. Initially more relaxed, garments are now made closer fitting and more aero and its summer fabrics have also become lighter and more technical to reflect the needs of riders in warmer climes. In Australia and South East Asia, Morvélo’s customers have been asking for arm sleeves for sun protection and these will feature in Morvélo’s next summer collection.
They will also look to sell complete packages of items in a single design, to give a more pro look. Morvélo’s customer feedback suggests that some of its customers want more muted designs too, which they can more easily pair with their other kit, so this is a potential future avenue.
A wider audience
Oli sees the Morvélo brand continuing to develop. He’d like to see an increasing proportion of its sales coming from overseas. Representation in web giant Wiggle has been great for sales, but has also allowed them to understand their customer base in more detail.
The brand’s current customer base is biased towards male riders and the sale of road-style garments – although often these are worn by off-roaders. So expect to see Morvélo aiming to put more female riders and MTBers in its kit soon.