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Champion System: custom by design

22 May 2018

This feature was produced in association with Champion System

Many brands use words like ‘custom’ to describe their products, but for Champion System it’s more than just a marketing buzzword.

Serving hundreds of clubs throughout the UK, Champion System has been making waves in the technical apparel market internationally since its launch in 2005.

Using state-of-the-art sublimation printing technology and only high-end technical fabrics sourced from premium European mills, Champion System offers a unique production model that is honed on the WorldTour stage in collaboration with some of the world’s leading pro riders on UAE Team Emirates.

How it all began

Champion System was founded in Hong Kong back in 2005 and is the brainchild of Louis Shih, an cycling enthusiast who experienced first-hand the limitations of ordering custom kit for his own cycling club.

With a background in the world of fashion, Shih decided to set up his own custom manufacturing platform, and Champion System was born.

Shih’s vision was to combine industry-leading manufacturing processes using only the best technical fabrics with an ordering platform specifically built from the ground up to offer custom performance apparel to cyclists at all levels, from amateur weekend riders in local clubs right through to professional teams fighting for victories on the world stage.

Little more than a decade later, Champion System serves a network of 600 clubs in the UK alone, with a total of 30,000 registered cyclists on its database.

It also works with elite-level teams such as WorldTour pro outfit UAE Team Emirates and women’s pro cycling team Wiggle High5, with the invaluable feedback gained at the sharp end of professional competition used to constantly refine manufacturing processes and garment production methods across the board.

In other words, the manufacturing processes and custom ordering system bend to the needs and requirements of real-world cyclists, not the other way around.

It’s an approach built around flexibility, but one area where there is no flexibility is the quality of the core fabrics Champion System uses to create its products.

The company itself may be based in the Far East, but the core of its fabrics are sourced from premium Bluesign-accredited European mills such as Eschler, Schoeller and Miti.

These mills have been at the forefront of fabric innovation and technology for generations, and are consistently pushing the boundaries in areas such as moisture management, temperature regulation, compression, aerodynamics and thermodynamics.

Recognising the benefits of using tried and tested fabric suppliers is crucial, but to deliver on the promise of truly custom garment production you need to control the manufacturing process.

Champion System’s garments are produced at a company-owned 53,000 square ft factory in China using state-of-the-art sublimation printing technology and garment construction methods.

The personal touch

In a reflection of the unique nature of the production model, 100 of its 700 employees at the facility are graphic artists, who work with customers to turn designs submitted online using the Champion System ordering portal into finished kit layouts ready for production.

This deliberately human touch is a far cry from the advanced technology and innovation at play in the company’s production process, yet is a crucial part of the custom business model Champion System is built on.

As such, garments only go into production once the customer has approved the final design, at which point all that advanced technology clicks into gear, with a four-week delivery guarantee.

The production model is built to be scalable, allowing for low minimum orders without any compromise on the quality of the finished product, or increase to the production cost.

It’s a formula that’s clearly a proven success on the UK club scene, but what about the rarefied air of professional competition?

Having launched the Champion System ProContinental team as a vehicle to develop local Asian cycling talent in 2010, Champion System was invited to jump into the deep end of elite-level competition when approached by WorldTour team UAE Team Emirates – then known as Lampre – to become its official kit supplier.

Working with leading cycling icons such as Dan Martin, Ben Swift and former World Champion Rui Costa, the partnership provided the company with a vehicle to develop pioneering fabric technologies and designs at the highest level, using wind-tunnel testing to deliver the kind of marginal gains that make all the difference at professional level.

Champion System’s CS Dimple™ fabric technology takes inspiration from the surface of a golf ball, creating a turbulence over the surface of the fabric to reduce drag.

During the winter the company spent days at the Politecnico di Milano Wind Tunnel in Milan developing the pattern and fabric technology of Martin’s Elite Speed Suit to ensure he had every advantage going into the season ahead. The same skinsuit is now available directly to all Champion System customers, customisable in your own team’s colours.

Another area that sets Champion System apart from the rest is its dedication to serving the women’s market with an equivalent range offering to the men’s.

The company’s entire clothing range is available in a women’s-specific cut, making it the biggest custom cycling collection for women on the market.

To ensure that it caters for the needs of the female rider with the same level of detail and comfort that it puts into its men’s range, Champion System has worked in collaboration with world tour team Wiggle High5 in developing performance fit for the female figure.

The very kit that Wiggle High5 are winning stage races in is available as an inline option, of course customisable with your own branding.

Everybody wins

It’s just another example illustrating the benefits of Champion System’s unique structure – of how a commitment to not just being a flexible supplier to the cycling community but also driving innovation through research and development is ultimately delivered for the end user – the club rider.

The company has come a long way since 2005, but having scaled its own ambitions upwards to match the innovative service the company is built on, it’s a journey that’s far from over yet.

Check out some of Champion System's featured products: 

Apex Summer Race Elite Carbon Speedsuit Apex Aero SS Jersey