Why comfort comes first for women's-only kit brand, Fondo

We’re pleased to be featuring women’s-only cycling brand Fondo in the CyclingTips Emporium.

One of the most pleasing trends in our sport today is the rapid growth of women’s cycling. To keep up with growing demand, there are an increasing number of cycling brands focussing on women’s specific apparel and accessories. Still more unique are the brands focussed solely on women’s apparel with kit designed by women for women.

One such brand is Melbourne-based Fondo Cycling, which we’re pleased to be adding to the CyclingTips Emporium today.

Launched just two years ago, Fondo was founded by three friends, Emma Grella (below left), Kate Palethorpe (middle) and Anna Thomson (right). We caught up with Anna to chat about the brand and their experiences so far.

“Emma, Kate and I met when we were working together about five years ago,” Anna explains. “We were all just getting into cycling; Kate had decided to do a half-ironman, and Emma and I had been encouraged to try it by our partners who rode bikes too.

“The three of us learned to ride bikes together – clipping in for the first time, logging our first 100km together and buying bike gear together. During this time, we’d complain about the shortage of cycling apparel available for women. Everything was for men and the small range of women’s gear available was awful – pastel blue or pink and almost always featured flower patterns. We’d ‘joke’ that we should start our own apparel brand.”

That ‘joke’ started to become more serious, and the trio began to wonder whether they could make that dream a reality.

“Two years later (about three years ago now) there was still a gap in the market so we started to investigate apparel manufacturers (on Google!), and it snowballed from there,” Anna says. “All of a sudden we were meeting with graphic designers and we were testing kit prototypes.

“12 months later (two years ago), we launched our first three kits – Disco, Geo and Snow.”

While most small apparel brands are typically founded by someone with fashion or apparel design experience, Emma, Kate and Anna come from diverse backgrounds and so were forced to learn fast, particularly when coming up against resistance from manufacturers.

“Kate’s a lawyer, Emma’s background is in exercise physiology and I work in communications. Like starting any business, there is a lot of time and capital to be invested,” Anna says. “We also had to become ‘experts’ in so many different areas very quickly – whether it was importing goods or textile design.

“To begin with, we weren’t taken very seriously so it was difficult to find a manufacturer we felt comfortable working with and who shared our passion for women. We were targeting such a small part of the market so we probably weren’t worth investing in.”

The brand has a playful voice, and their hashtag #fondobutts embodies this.

“Fondo actually means ‘bottom’ in Spanish… and we’re all about comfy bottoms! So many of our customers tell us their kit is the most comfortable they’ve worn – it’s their ‘special occasion’ kit they can rely on when they want to look great and be super comfortable.

“We’re cyclists too so we understand, through our own experiences, exactly what women want in a kit. When we develop our products, we list all the features we want in an ideal kit and we make sure we tick all boxes.

“Quality and comfort is our biggest priority – if we had to choose between cost or comfort in a chamois, we’d always go for comfort. It’s a non-negotiable.”

While selling women’s kit to women is of course the goal, what the trio finds more rewarding is the community they’ve connected with and the opportunity to inspire other women to fall in love with cycling as they have.

“Our proudest moments come from the cyclists we connect with in our community. Over the past two years we’ve hosted a heap of women’s rides, giving us the opportunity to help countless women become better cyclists,” Anna explains. “Whether we’ve shown them new roads to explore, helped them conquer a climb they never thought they could do, or just given them the confidence to participate in a group ride … nothing is more rewarding than the opportunity we’ve had to inspire female cyclists through the Fondo brand.

“We’re absolutely not exclusive – we’re for all women who want to look and feel great on their bike.”

Fondo has just launched its most recent range, and we’re pleased to be adding the brand’s three new women’s kits — Honey, Astro and Cubism — and vest to the CyclingTips Emporium. You can find them here.

This content was written for the CyclingTips Emporium.


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