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Staring at the sea: French brand Cafe du Cycliste draws on its surroundings for SS 2018 heritage-inspired designs

18 Jul 2018

Technical and stylish kit from Cafe du Cycliste

Raoul Dufy, a French painter, was known to draw heavily from the Cote d’Azur - Nice, specifically - in his paintings. The open-air social events and colourful structures for which the coastal city is well known assaulted the senses. From the water - the smell, salt and sounds - he created one of his more notable works, Baie Des Anges (1927), celebrated for its capture of Nice’s spirit, a city long on charm and discernable character.

It’s from this rich palette that Cafe du Cycliste - a kit brand born in 2009 - envisions its consistently distinctive jerseys, particularly as it competes in an apparel market spoilt, even saturated by choice.

Since its start, CDC has traded on French whimsy; an artistic spirit that still attracts creatives from all over the world to settle on the coast.

The company now sells kit globally in 75 markets, and through a growing network of cafes (in addition to locations in Nice and Mallorca, it opened a London cafe in 2017).

Remi Clermont, the brand's CEO and chief designer, maintains part of the company’s ability to consistently deliver originality is the testing done in the lower Alps surrounding Nice.

They are critical he says to the company’s strategy, quality and its originality.

'I’m inspired by what’s around me - the sea, the mountains, the roads and by the new-wave heritage which, against the vintage trend, offers the most modern product design,' he explains, answering questions over email.

'Unlike some companies, we don’t simply buy clothing off the shelf and change a colour here or add an image there. Everything is created from scratch and built from the ground up which keeps us one step ahead.'

Fringed palms and white parasols

Like Dufy’s artwork, it’s tough to separate CDC jerseys from the environment in which they are created. Their polka dot Fleurette jersey, for example, is a race fit, breathable technical top intended for riding in hot, humid conditions.

Like many jerseys in the CDC stable, this one has a bit of 'je ne sais quoi' baked into the subtle dot pattern; the rose colour is an eye-catching pastel that has clearly taken cues from French fashion.

There are also several elements that the cycling intelligentsia will celebrate for its attention to technical detail: reinforced rear pocket panelling; the high collar; the reverse black pattern under sleeves.

(I weigh 76kg and measure 183cm, and I was sent a medium jersey, medium gilet and small bibs for this article. I'd suggest sizing down on the jersey if you’re after a snug fit.)

There is a certain depth to the company’s spring and summer designs. Two noted staples in the line-up however, the Annabelle bibshort and Dorothee superlight gilet, have seemingly been mainstays for some time.

The bibs in particular are ones I’ve been after for a test for years. Does the integrated base layer make it one of the most unique bibs around?

The black and white stripes seem at home on a boat or Asterix cartoon. Wearing them offers the compressive benefits of tri-kit.

The stretch fabric is very carefully and intentionally woven; the mesh aerated panelling allows for plenty of airflow, fantastic for riding in super hot conditions when gradients and temperatures really start to bite.

The superlight gilet is also right up there among the better ones I’ve seen so far in 2018. It has a very clean, race fit and is littered with details that make it comfortable to wear: stretch fabric on the back and shoulders, grip band on around the waist and rear, incredibly light (56g in a medium) and packs up incredibly small in rear jersey pockets.

While Clermont is certain about the continuing down this design path, he is less so about a French win in this year’s Tour.

'Possibly I was too young or it was such a routine that it failed at creating a strong memory in my mind,' he says about the last French win in 1985 (Bernard Hinault).

Like it does every July, France is taking centre stage in the world of cycling; the subject discussed during every apero.

For CDC, it will be another rich landscape from which it will draw inspiration for their technically proficient and consistently stylish wears.

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