Jun 15, 2020

INTRODUCING JENNIE

  • Rob Passmore Photography
  • Rob Passmore Photography
  • Rob Passmore Photography
  • Rob Passmore Photography

“I’m a down-to-earth Yorkshire lass...” Jennie tells us, pausing from her sketch-book, pencil in hand and hard at work on our new women’s collection. “... and possibly a little stubborn. If I set my mind to something, I tend to want to complete it. That’s how my dad would describe me anyway!”.

With almost a year complete at Chapeau and a complete season’s worth of design, Jennie is far from a new face in the office. As we roll into Summer and start to see her hard work appear in our collections it feels like it’s time for a proper introduction.

A bit of context is probably a good place to start. We’ve always created our collections in-house, with Designer Nick undertaking the hard job of the creative stuff. We’ve grown fast in the last couple of years and knew we needed to add some more talent to the team and broaden our perspective a little. Cue Jennie Roberts, originally from up north and now residing in Exeter and a creative force in our team.

“I was working as a freelance designer before I joined Chapeau!, mainly specialising in outerwear. I’ve been a cyclist all my life though and I’ve always wanted to move to design clothing for doing what I love”.

It felt important that our new designer wasn't just creatively talented but was also as mad about cycling as the rest of us. Again, cue Jennie.

“I got my first road bike about 12 years ago. It was an aluminium Specialized Allez Elite and I still commute to work on it every day” she continues. “I started off taking part in British Sportives and I’m currently training for my fourth ironman. I love the endurance stuff. There's something about taking part in events that brings people together. I love the community in cycling. It's one of the only sports that you can take from childhood to a very old age”.

What Jennie doesn’t say is that she’s putting in 100miles a week on the roads to test her new creations and make sure that they meet her expectations. 

So, why now?

We are, and always have been, proud of the Chapeau! women’s collection. We’ve always made sure that it’s designed and tested by women and isn’t simply ‘shrinked and pinked’ versions of our men’s kit.

But, we’ve always relied on freelancers and wanted to go a little further and invest in some talent of our own. We wanted someone in-house that could bring more continuity to the range and could be part of the whole life of our products from start to finish.

And so, whilst Jennie’s influence will be seen across the men’s and women’s collections, she’ll bring some dedicated, in-house talent to the female side of the brand. She’ll allow us to create concepts, design, test and produce women’s kit from start to finish in-house. She can work directly with Kathryn, our Product Development Manager, to bring products to life and make sure they’re as good as they possibly can be when they go on sale.

“I’ve created plenty of easy to coordinate pieces and made sure that there’s a base layer to match every jersey. I’ve also created looks that aren’t just shrunk-down versions of the men’s kits. They’ll match the men’s in terms of performance but are unique designs”.

As far as inspiration goes, Jennie admits that it’s the 60’s and 70’s that get her excited, as well as elements from nature and the changes of the seasons. “I take a lot of inspiration from colour, particularly when I’m out on a ride” she tells us. “The latest collection was inspired by the artist Mark Rothko and some of the letter press work from Norman Ives. It can be challenging to sometimes tie that inspiration into design that work for men and women but I think we’ve made it work really nicely”.

And her plans for the future? “I’m looking to push the boundaries of our women’s kit, for it to continue to be the best quality and to be something that people want to spend their hard-earned cash on”.

“And… of course” she adds “I’d really like to grow the community of female riders that love Chapeau! I really want a range that appeals to lots of different women and is inclusive. I'd love to be a part of someone’s cycling journey from the beginner to expert… and to bring that community together to share their experiences”.