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Svelte Heritage Jersey and Classic Bibshort review

5 May 2016

Kickstarter campaigners Svelte offer simple styling, merino wool blends, and a 'Made in London' tag.

In the old days you made an appointment, put on a suit and called the bank manger sir. He knew your wife, where your kids went to school and how many shillings you still owed him. He also wore a bowler hat. Nowadays we have the internets. Got a product idea you can’t afford to execute? Drum up financial support via websites like Kickstarter, and if enough people are into it, it’ll get made. Goodbye bank managers, hello crowd-funding.

It’s an interesting platform, and one that new UK brand Svelte has capitalised on. ‘We’ve been up and running for about eight months now,’ says Svelte’s founder, Tom Barber. ‘The idea was to combine three values we thought were missing from cycling: local sourcing, timeless style and a fair price to consumers.’ Noble tenets, but is the reality living the dream?

Tops and bottoms

Getting stuff made in the UK is difficult for a number of reasons, which are all traceable back to globalisation and/or Thatcher. What industry is left is often expensive to contract, so kudos to Svelte for managing to get the Heritage jersey made in east London, yet to keep the price down to £90. Not cheap, but goodness knows there are plenty of manufacturers out there charging more, and goodness knows the Heritage is really rather good, if you like that kind of thing.

If you’re looking for a lightweight summer jersey then the Heritage isn’t for you. It feels substantial on and doesn’t have that pro-lycra sheen, being made from a blend of Merino wool and synthetic yarn. But if you’re after something that feels racy yet looks retro without being try-hard, then you might just have found it.

The cut is forgiving without being baggy, with a higher-than-most collar that is particularly good on windier days for keeping out the chill. Rear pockets are generous if slightly saggy when laden (a side-effect of the wool-style construction), and come with some nice detailing including a buttoned key pocket. Looks are subjective, but for my money the simple styling and deep blue colour looked incredibly classy.

That blue extends into the Classic bibshorts, however the ‘Made in the UK’ moniker does not. Barber explains Svelte is looking to bring the bibshorts manufacturing to London, but ‘we currently lack the technical machinery to do it’. As it stands, then, the Classics are made in Italy.

Bibshort fit is an incredibly personal thing, but in the Classics I felt immediately comfortable. There are few frills here – no lazer cut hems or aero panelling – but there is an excellent seat pad from Elastic Interface and the lycra it’s stitched into is perfectly lovely. I can’t attest to their life expectancy, but after 250km of riding, including several washes, they felt and looked new, save for one detail: the white painted-on Svelte logo. It seems to be made from the rubberised stuff you get on t-shirts, and like said stuff, it began to crack after a few washes (for the record I only washed the Classics in non-biological powder at a low temperature). For me it seems a superfluous inclusion on the shorts, and hence an avoidable problem, but then again, I’m not a designer, so each to his or her own (although embroidery or sublimation might work better).

All in, then, the Svelte kit is one of those rare beasts – a successful Kickstarter project that has manifested in an excellent, keenly priced product. Neither garment is perfect and nor will the styling suit everyone, but both are well-thought out, well-executed and very comfortable pieces, and what more can you ask for? OK, a free repair service for wear and tear would be a nice touch. Hang on second, Svelte has got that too…

£90 jersey, £90 bibshorts

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