In the course of a decade, Morvélo has gone from operating out of the corner of a friend’s office to being one of Britain’s brightest cycle clothing brands. We look at how the Brighton-based design gurus have achieved their success.
If Morvélo were to produce a t-shirt or jersey design that accurately encapsulated its attitude to business, it would have to say: ‘dare to dream big’. Because, no matter what trials or tribulations all young companies encounter, the Brighton-based clothing luminaries have never been afraid to do things their way.
The Morvélo story officially started on April 1st 2008 at the Brighton Big Dog mountain bike race. Having spent £500 of their own money, Morvélo’s founders — Oli Pepper and Dave Marcar — set up a stall to try to sell three boxes of self-designed t-shirts. The reaction was good; certainly good enough to suggest it was an enterprise worth pursuing.
Both Dave and Oli worked as graphic designers for many of the big brands in extreme sports — skateboarding, surfing, BMX and snowboarding. However, with lifelong obsessions in riding and racing bikes, they realised they could bring some of the same influences to cycling. Taking cues from history, cinema, music, art and other areas of popular culture, Morvélo’s designs were a stark and fun departure from the relatively fusty old world of traditional cycle wear.
From squatting to spinning
Although Morvélo’s beginnings were humble — ‘squatting’, as they liked to call it, in the corner of their friend’s office — gradually business increased, with all income reinvested back in the company. This allowed Morvélo’s range to grow, expanding from t-shirts into cycling jerseys, shorts and, eventually, Morvélo even moved into its own office.
Morvélo’s product development continued, too, with new designs coming out every six months and new items being introduced simply when Oli and Dave’s own riding needed them. “I’d come in one day thinking I could really do with a gilet, so we’d set to work and design one, pushing the factory to make it exactly how we wanted it,” Oli says.
With constant, organic growth, Morvélo were also able to branch out into other areas. They promoted their own cycle events, such as the ‘Spin Up In A Brewery’, in partnership with near-neighbours Dark Star Brew Company. Then they created the revolutionary CityCross and Battle Royale events, supported by Red Bull. In 2017, the brand even sponsored the Basso Bikes amateur squad, creating the Morvélo Basso team, which uniquely receives funding via the sale of distinctive team kit.
Across the world…
With more than a decade of products, Morvélo’s kit has been worn for thousands of miles in endurance events, in professional races, by millions of ‘normal’ riders and is stocked on six out of seven continents (“We’re working on Antarctica,” Oli says.)
The brand has also collaborated with a wide range of like-minded people, from the Tour de France to Paul Smith, graffiti artists to Formula 1 car sprayers, filmmakers to charities. When a long-term Morvélo friend and rider passed away, a decision was made to produce ‘F*ck Cancer’ socks. These non-profit garments, which always sell out, have raised £45,000 to date.
“The learning curve has been massive,” Oli says. “We’re simply two riders and designers who have had to learn on the job about fabrics, trim, production and distribution, let alone the pure business side such as sell through rates, margins, profit and loss, stock holding and all the myriad of other jobs that essentially create a proper business. We never started out with a grand plan. Everything we have done is based on gut feeling.”
…and here at Evans
Now we are proud to say Morvélo has entered into an exciting new phase with Evans Cycles. This year, for the first time, we will be stocking Morvélo’s full Summer range, “We think Adventure Road and E-Bikes will bring a whole fresh crowd into cycling and invigorate those already here,” Oli says. “People who love the outdoors and see the bike less as a means of sport, but more as a means to get out there, which to us is taking it back to why we all got into cycling: escape and adventure. We want to keep making great products and enjoy the process. But, most of all, we want to keep enjoying the ride along the way.”