Cover by Velo-a-Porter 2018 Edition for Nutcase Helmets

For this inaugural collection of Cover by Velo-a-Porter, designing a flattering shape for a bicycle helmet was a design challenge of seemingly epic proportions.

That being said, I only spent a year in development. Many have told me that this is a very short period of time. However, the first three months were a series of crushing challenges. The first was finding someone who could help me bring the idea of Cover to life.

Fashion designers, dressmakers, factory owners and fashion development gurus had no idea what I was talking about. None were bicyclists and certainly no one understood how I could bicycle to work in dresses and heels. The other challenge was deciding which helmet to design for. I borrowed Michelle's helmet and tried a few different ideas with a fashion designer in Paddington. All of my ideas failed. 

Cover by Velo-a-Porter

No, no, no! Ack!

Consequently, I took matters into my own hands by taking a series of private lessons with Natascha at Make & Learn. I learned the techniques of draping and patternmaking. I also had a refresher on using a sewing machine. She had me start on a Juki industrial machine which made sewing much more efficient. It was a welcome change from the sewing machines I used in year 7 at Highview Middle School in Minnesota.

Sew Make & Learn Cover by Velo-a-Porter

Exhausting but fun learning some new skills!

We developed a cloche shape together. However, I changed the brim to be much more bicyclist-friendly. The original narrow brim reduced my field of vision which is a scary prospect for most on a bicycle. 

Cover by Velo-a-Porter

Early prototype cloche shape. 

By this time, I had found Laura at Bobbin & Ink in Stanmore. I also decided to try designing for the very popular Nutcase Street helmet.  At Bobbin & Ink, I spent nine months working and reworking the pattern for the helmet to the best fit possible. I tried different fabrics and learned how they affected the shape of the original pattern. I redesigned the brim to flare out and provide a greater field of vision. I also realised that I needed lining to protect the seams. And as I am a great fan of beautiful lingerie, I thought a lace lining would be perfect. Like lingerie, only you know that it's there doing a very important job. Ultimately, I was able to make a series of prototypes that disguise the helmet as a hat. 

Sew Cover by Velo-a-Porter

Working on a prototype version of Cover at Bobbin & Ink in Stanmore.

I wanted to use fabrics that are breathable, durable and beautiful. Consequently, I knew that I would need to use primarily wool, cotton and linen fabrics. This first production version is mostly wool with some synthetic to help it retain its shape. I'll be manufacturing small collections and when the remnant fabrics run out, that's it for the year. I'll also be offering a degree of customisation with some of the remnant fabrics that I pick up from around Sydney. You can see a good example of this in the Yasmin Cover.

I have a team of testers called Cover(girls) on Facebook. They have been invaluable for providing me with feedback on design, packaging and everything else. I hope that when more women purchase Cover, they will be inspired to join.

Cover is manufactured in Sydney, Australia. Many have asked me if I plant to manufacture in China. The answer is no. The design process is long and the possibility of quality issues great. 

Instead of Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter collections, I plan to design for the year as my customers are based in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.  As it is February in Sydney now,  we are sweltering in heat and humidity. Meanwhile, I know that the Northern Hemisphere is suffering through one of the coldest, snow-filled winters. 

I'm also planning to offer a degree of customisation to you. 

Please let me know what you think of Cover and send any comments and questions my way via this site. I'm also very active on Instagram and Facebook. You can follow my daily adventures there!

Happy Bicycling!

X Sarah