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Panache – flamboyant confidence of style or manner – while uncommon among the every day language, the word is ingrained in cycling culture.
Panache Cyclewear, founded in late 2007 by Don Powell (below right), strives to bring an authentic fashion sense to cycling apparel and allow one to step off the bike and into the real world without sticking out like “Papa Smurf.”
The company’s beginnings are rooted in the cold, dreary days of Belgium in the mid-1990s when Powell rode for Saxon-Selle Italia Professional Cycling Team.
“It was kind of that time in Belgium where the weather was really bad over there, especially while I was over there,” Powell said. “It rained every day and I started not only thinking about how to make product better, but I was one of those people that was always just tweaking with my clothes and making new clothing out of the clothing we were given and trying to build-in a shell into the kit because I couldn’t show everyone outside that I was wearing just this black waterproof jacket, so I would put it underneath. I was just tweaking with things at that time, never thinking I would get into apparel or have a brand.”
Andy Pemberton (below left) began as an investor in Panache Cyclewear before joining the company in late 2009 and taking on the role of COO. “The way we’ve kind of worked together as partners, is [Powell’s] kind of product and messaging and I’m kind of the business side,” Pemberton said. “He kind of fine-tunes the message and I figure out how to get it out there. It’s a good relationship for us. We often don’t step on each other’s toes.”
Panache Cyclewear uses mainly Italian fabrics, along with Swiss and Japanese fabrics, as well as an Italian chamois for their bibs. “Those countries and really these top notch mills, they make great fabrics, but also they’re very consistent in what they make, which is actually not that easy when you’re making fabric,” Powell said.
“People who are inclined to have competitive inclinations,” Powell said when speaking of Panache’s DNA. “The word ‘racer bread’ has a lot to do with challenging yourself as well. If you’re racing, you’re challenging yourself to win or do the best that you can do.
“I think that’s the difference of our brand. We are more about pushing yourself. It’s not just in cycling, but also in everything. I think by challenging yourself you continually knock down these barriers, which you might of thought at one time were insurmountable.”
While Powell brings his professional racing background to Panache, Pemberton is more of an enthusiast.
“I do events that inspire me to do things I’ve never done before,” Pemberton said. “Whether it’s a mountain-bike stage race. I know I am not a candidate for a podium place, but I’ll battle other people who are at my same skill level. I take in the adventure and the course and all those things and that to me, the blend of our two kinds of experiences of the sport, is our customer.
“Apparel is a piece of your equipment and if you’re serious about your time spent cycling, it’s important you find performance. Racer bread, this is race tested. It will perform and by the way it looks good too.”
Powell grew up in Philadelphia, which unlike Panache Cyclewear’s home of Boulder, Colorado, is less accustomed to spandex-clad cyclists relaxing in cafés. When designing a kit the company looks to the fashion world for inspiration. “We like to be fashionable in our off the bike lives, so we bring that element over into the Panache designs,” Powell said.
Panache Cyclewear uses traditional designs, but also incorporates progressive aspects into their apparel. “We start with something traditional, whether that is the horizontal bar or a band on the leg and that goes back to when all they could do was a stripe,” Powell said. “There is that element in every single one of [our kits]. The progression comes from…we are not just going to block it on color alone. We are going to play around with hounds tooth, what can we do with hounds tooth. Now we got tie-dye or paisley.”
Pemberton added, “You can see a Panache kit from a distance on the road and recognize it and that’s the aesthetic we create, but it also has classic element to it that says maybe the pinstripes are just something that is recognizable. You just can’t put your finger on it and it’s something that is comforting in the general public. It’s not obnoxious.”
“I think one of the coolest moments is when you are in a bike race and you’re say three or four hours in and you’re with 50 other guys and everyone is trying to get to the finish line first,” Powell said. “You have these moments where you so utterly focused on your immediate sport in the world, so gutter is like echelon. You’re in the gutter.
“For us as a brand that’s kind of what it is, we are just focused on the moment of whether or not it’s the style, or function or whatever. Those moments bring out something in you that you don’t really experience a whole lot of other times in your life.”
Powell continued, “We know that we love this sport and let’s inspire others to get into this sport or if they are already into it, get them to enjoy it at a higher level. Part of the designing is to inspire people to put on a kit and go out and ride their bike. Not just on the weekend, but every day. Cycling is a lifestyle. We live it every day and we want to bring other people into it or at least give them an avenue to see what it is about.
“We really are authentic, we aren’t just designers that are coming out with some cool kit. It really comes back to ‘racer bread, style driven, gutter inspired.’ I think that authenticity and coming from a place of we really do understand.”
Panache Cyclewear ventures to be more than a cycling apparel company, but an inspiration to get people out on bikes and to push themselves to new heights.
View their range on the CyclingTips Emporium below and see the exclusive Houndsteeth kit here.
This promotional content was written for the CyclingTips Emorium.