This year, a time trial was held as part of the Tour de France in Laval southwest of Paris, the birthplace of Florian Jardin. The eventual winner Tadej Pogacar was the fastest there. Perhaps it would all have passed Florian by if he had not started a company in cycling clothing at the Brightlands Campus in Sittard at the beginning of this year with his brother Mickaël and associate Peter Roozemond. On New Year’s Eve, both brothers decided to combine their passions: Sustainability and cycling. Not to get rich but out of genuine concern for the world, more specifically climate change.
Florian (33) had worked for the French company Mecaplast for years. That brought him to Shanghai where he lived for five years and where DSM was one of its main suppliers. In 2017, he went to work for DSM himself and relocated to the Netherlands. He worked on projects where sustainability and the reduction of CO2 were very much at the center. A stroke of luck for him, because Jardin believes that industry and business should take responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. ”DSM was and still is an example when it comes to sustainability, I have learned a lot from them in that area.”
Making a contribution
As far as the state of the world is concerned, a certain sense of despondency takes hold of him. He effortlessly quotes figures from reports that show how dramatically far we are from achieving the Paris climate agreement goals. He himself lives very happily with his wife and child in Maastricht, but to bring another child into the world is a major issue for him. One of the answers to the question: ‘What can we do ourselves? is: Velor Cycling.
Florian and Mickaël come from a family of bakers. “We grew up with the idea that it would be nice to develop and market our own products.” They decided to set up a start-up with sustainable cycling clothing. They did not want to make it too complex right away, so the portfolio is still quite modest with two cycling shirts and a pair of cycling shorts. Nevertheless, within a hundred days they had set up crowdfunding and found partners for the design and production.
Affordable and sustainable
But are cyclists really waiting for recycled or sustainable cycling clothing? Florian Jardin: ‘People say that we should produce and buy more sustainably but nothing much comes of it. The big cycling clothing brands all offer something in that area but it’s still very marginal. And above all, it tends to be more expensive.
And that is not what the brothers from Laval want. “The price should not be an excuse. That does cost us a profit margin because the material is a bit more expensive.” As stated, the brothers have a mission. As a matter of fact, the cycling shirts currently cost 79 and 89 euros.
What the men of Velor underestimated, they said, was that cycling is essentially a fashion business. “Cyclists want to look good when they go out. The feedback so far has been: ‘We think it’s a nice concept but we don’t think the design is hip enough yet.’ That’s what we are working on now.”
Significantly, former cyclists Bram Tankink and Tom Veelers have endorsed the idea and have also tested the clothing. For cyclists, it is important that moisture and heat are regulated. Velor has managed to pass that test too.
As of this year, DSM has its own team in the pro-cycling world tour. Wouldn’t they make a nice partner? Florian: ‘We are in talks with people from DSM but we are still quite small. The first shirts and pants which we financed from the crowdfunding are now coming in. We still have a lot to learn, for example in terms of design and sizing. But of course it would be fantastic. The Spanish company Movistar is also experimenting with sustainable cycling clothing.
Starting a movement
The nice part is that the whole creative process at Velor starts with collecting plastic bottles. Eight bottles go into each jersey. It is then woven, printed, cut and sewn. The ‘fabric’ comes from Italy, the processing is done in the Czech Republic. “The key, of course, is that the whole process uses as little energy as possible and the carbon footprint is as low as possible.” In order to be fully circular, customers can return the clothes if they are worn out or damaged, so that the clothing can be recycled again. For now, all Velor clothing is only available through their webshop, although they hope that will change soon. The fact that the Netherlands is a country of bicycles bolsters their confidence.
“I do know that we are not going to change the world with our company,” Florian Jardin says. “But if we can get the big brands to move towards sustainability, that would be great.”