1 - ABLE TO BE MAINTAINED AT A CERTAIN RATE OR LEVEL.
2 - ABLE TO BE UPHELD OR DEFENDED.
The story that you're about to read has come around from our ambition to make headway in the sustainability of our products.
We know that we produce garments and products made from plastics. We know we aren't perfect. We know that we can't wave a magic wand and transform overnight. However, step by step, season by season, we apply new learnings, new technologies and new mitigation strategies to make sure we limit our impact in every possible area.
The first step was taken way back in 2018 when we began looking into how we could improve our casual range. Currently, every item in our off bike collection is made with 100% organic cotton and printed here in the UK with only water-based inks. It's designed to last, not to be thrown away or discarded at the back of the wardrobe after a handful of wears. We're proud of this range, it marked the start of a journey towards more conscious production across the board.
The next generation of Off-Bike clothing is here. They honour the fact that your time off the bike is as important as your time on it. An athlete is Products designed specifically for men and for women, using producers and factories discovered on a fateful 235km ride in 2018. A journey between Leicester and Blackburn, that was as much of a social history lesson as it was a reconnoitre for future production. Here's David to take you along that journey.
What better way to honour Earth Day than to ride from Leicester to Blackburn. You’re probably thinking, “I think there are better ways of honouring Earth Day.” Bear with us, it will make sense. We were five, me (David Millar), Patrick Grant, Roger Seaton, Peter Denton and Stuart Clapp, a motley crew of intrepid adventurers, committed to a journey into the unknown, via the Peak District. So, why were we doing it? Well, there was a method in our madness, we’ve been working with Patrick Grant for over two years to develop a new line of CHPT3 casuals that are sustainably sourced, then dyed, woven, cut and sewn here in the UK. Patrick revived the Saville Row tailors, Norton & Sons, rebooted the brand E.Tautz, and rescued the famous Cookson & Clegg factory and founded Community Clothing. He remains the key person in all four of those businesses. He knows a thing or two about the clothing business, he is also one of the leading activists in waking people up to the damage that fast fashion is doing to our planet, search and watch his TED Talk on the matter.
It was in late 2018, during initial conversations with Patrick, while he was educating us on the processes and people who would be involved in this new manufacturing process that one of us came up with the idea of riding between factories, because if we really wanted to understand it properly then we had to go, in person. Not much more thought went into it, apart from back slapping about the brilliance of the plan, a plan bonded to our absolute belief it would happen. Britain once produced half of the world’s cotton cloth, without growing a single scrap of the plant, the raw cotton was mostly imported from India and later America, it was then spun into yarn and woven into cloth in Northern England.
This stronghold on the market was due to the invention of machines that could spin and weave on an industrial scale and spearheaded what we now refer to as the Industrial Revolution, sadly slavery and child labour were also key components to the massive expansion. The reason this happened in Northern England was because this is where fuel to power the machines was most readily available, first the rivers of the Pennines that turned the watermills, then the coal mines (serendipitously also found near the Pennines) that fuelled the steam engines.
In 1803 there were 2,400 looms in England, fifty years later there were 250,000. Nowadays there are only a handful of companies weaving in the entire of the UK, Patrick introduced us to one of those, Aristo Fabrics in Leicester. Rajen, the owner, was kind enough to welcome us at 7am on a Bank Holiday Monday to show us around and explain the workings, and it was from here that we were to begin our journey, the same journey our new casuals will undertake.
Only our casuals won’t have to battle a headwind for over 200km, then there’s the fact we did 235km because we got lost. Add to that we didn’t plan our route well (we didn’t plan it all apart from a look on Google Maps the night before over curry), this was mainly due to the fact we were completely reliant on Roger “Pathfinder” Seaton to lead the charge. We forgot to inform him of this. A good chunk of our initial miles was spent on a busy dual carriageway in a team time trial, actually – I did a time trial and the team sat on.
Our first fuel stop was at a motorway sized petrol station, it was not how we’d imagined it. Then the final pièce de résistance was that nobody knew each other, Patrick, Roger, Peter, and Stuart had met for the first time the night before. There is nothing like a random expedition to expedite relationships, or Stuart Clapp. Stuart is from Essex, he is the sort of person who could find morale in Chernobyl, it comes with a running dialogue because of some strange genetic predisposition that means his inner monologue is externalised.
Around 80km in I remembered I had five disposable cameras, one for each of us, Stu went through his in approx 5mins, his explanation “There’s art everywhere, you just have to look.” Peter Denton kindly gave him his, that lasted 5mins more. One of the reasons to ride between factories, beyond meeting the people and learning more about the process, was to prove that it could be done within a bike ride. Because although CHPT3 has always sourced biodegradable organic cotton and used water-based ink, we have learnt we can do better, and that means trying harder, and looking closer.
As it happens that means working towards bringing everything as local as possible. Since starting CHPT3 in 2015 I’ve had to learn a lot, one of the most eye-opening lessons has been understanding the damage fast fashion has on our environment. One of the challenges of our ride was crossing the Peak District, that makes it sound easier than it was, our route meant we had to navigate from the southern extreme to the most northern point. There was slight (misguided) relief that we’d be leaving A-roads and civilisation behind, so to celebrate we had a fuelling stop in the village of Tissington.
The sun came out, it felt like we had the wind at our back and the sun on our side (we had neither for the duration apart for those 15mins), and so it made total sense to create a photoshoot in the graveyard opposite us. Unfortunately, this was a clear sign of delirium, and we were oblivious to it. It’s safe to say that for everybody Tissington was the high point, and we hadn’t even entered the High Peaks, from then on it got complicated – weather and wear. By a quirk of fate our route was going to take us through Hayfield, my home for 18 months back in 2005/6. I made a call to my Hayfield friends, Rob and Vicki Hayles, we go way back, they had lived in Biarritz back in my pro racing Cofidis days. Rob and I had been teammates and he and Vicki were one of the reasons I had moved to Hayfield 14 years earlier. It ranks as one of the greatest ever respite stops in the history of cycling.
From here on in it got grippy, and we became aware that time was not on our side, we were now “racing” against the clock to get back before sunset, destination Blackburn, some 90km away into a headwind. Textile manufacturing in Blackburn dates from the mid-13th century, and in a weird cycling connection, the industry was developed by Flemish weavers who settled in the area in the 14th century. From the mid-18th century to early 20th century Blackburn became known as the “weaving capital of the world” with a population that increased from less than 5,000 to over 130,000. It was at the beginning of this period, 1860, that Cookson & Clegg began working.
Their initial speciality was leather, from boot uppers in Victorian times, to flying helmets and other leather products for the British Army in the 1930s. Somehow they managed to survive into the 21st century when most other Blackburn businesses withered and died as contracts moved to the far east. This was achieved by applying the knowledge and skills to cut and construct military grade outerwear in both woven and modern technical fabrics and use it to produce premium apparel.
That was not enough though, Patrick bought the factory in 2015 when it was on its deathbed, even then he could not save it, and had to temporarily close it in 2016. Since then, he has managed to reopen and offer it a renaissance that so few similar companies have had. We hope it now makes more sense why we rode from Leicester to Blackburn, or more accurately from Aristo Fabrics to Cookson & Clegg – sometimes the stupidest decisions make for the best stories – it’s why the Tour de France and many other bike races were created: to make stories.
That is the same journey we are on now. Yet that is not all, we have moved manufacturing of all our own products to Europe, our performance cycling apparel is made in a factory that prides itself on both social responsibility and environmental sustainability. We choose raw materials that are organic and responsibly sourced for our casual apparel, and we prioritise recycled and recyclable materials for our technical apparel wherever possible. We are designing and developing a range of luggage made of upcycled rubber in Barcelona, the first of these products is already available – the Upcycled Essentials Case.
We prioritise and search for factories local to us that we can visit and build relationships with and take responsibility for while offering transparency. Beyond finding better manufacturing processes we have focussed on producing products that last longer in construction and transcend fashion trends. Designed to stand the test of time without ever compromising on performance or aesthetics: buy less and buy better. We want our products to be your go-to choice, usable not just in the season you bought it, but in the years that follow. CHPT3 products are elegant, playful, sustainable, and we want them to make you feel and look good however you use them.
Lastly, we have made the business decision to cut out the middlemen and sell direct to our customers, this allows us to lower our prices. Ultimately, we want to avoid seasonal sales through being more efficient in stocking and supply chain with longer shelf-life for our products. Taking responsibility regards sustainability comes at a price, we want to avoid our customers paying for it, after all, we’re all in this together.
The first of many more off-bike collections inspired by our Leicester to Blackburn ride.