‘It can be daunting’ - Claire Goodman on how to start a cycling clothing brand from scratch

Founder of female cycling clothing company, Petrichor Products, Goodman explains the challenges and intricacies of making a brand stand out in a crowded market

When you click on the Petrichor Products website, there’s only four items for sale: a beanie, a packable bag, socks and a pair of bib shorts. For a brand that has garnered plenty of accolades since it launched, those browsing might find the skeleton range somewhat surprising. But, as the company’s founder, Claire Goodman, explains, this is entirely intentional, and it all forms a part of her detailed plan for the sustainable future of Petrichor Projects.

“I don't really want to be another brand that just proliferates with things like a matching jersey and a cap, because there are so many products out there already. I really wanted to be quite considerate with what I launch and launch things that I have really put the time and the effort into,” Goodman explains. “I wanted to focus on key products that I knew people would respond to, and that maybe there were gaps in the market for. The ultimate pair of bibs that you can wear for most of the year round, that was a great place to start.”

With a background in fashion design and after time working for cycling clothing manufacturing giants such as Rapha, Goodman explains that she felt well equipped to start her own brand five years ago. It wasn’t just the experience she garnered within these companies that Goodman relied on when starting Petrichor Products, but she also was able to address the gaps in the industry she’d noticed – something she believes is essential to propelling the sport of cycling forwards.

“The idea started formulating for Petrichor Projects around 2019. With my background, my passion and with my knowledge, I felt like I was the right person to do it. I really wanted to start this size-inclusive, technical brand, because I felt like there was a real gap in the market,” Goodman says. “A lot of brands are either size-inclusive or technical and many don't put women first. I wanted to make sure that innovation was at the forefront.”

Of course, having an idea was just the start of Goodman’s journey into turning Petrichor Products into the functioning, thriving business that it is today. From sourcing fabrics, to finding factories and effectively being forced to work without the company bringing in any revenue for a long period of time, Goodman doesn’t shy away from the fact that launching Petrichor Products has come with its own set of challenges.

“It was super daunting. The bibs were three years in development. I put so much R&D into it. Luckily, I've got really great contacts with the leading factories and I know what fabrics to use from my experience as well. I set out to create the ultimate pair of bibs and I knew it had to tick all of these boxes. I knew I wanted to have a good SPF rating, I knew I wanted an easy-pee break feature, for example. I basically wrote myself a brief of all of the things that I wanted to get right that I felt other brands weren't doing,” Goodman says.

“I wanted to make sure that the bib shorts looked super flattering on by putting the seam lines in a really flattering way for women's bodies. I don't think other people are really thinking about those specific things for women's shapes.”

Goodman explains that she went through long periods of testing different material and chamois samples in varying conditions, from the hottest summer months to colder autumn days.

“Each sample just got whittled down, iterated on and improved. Because I was doing eight sizes, that was like a lot of work to get all the sizes right,” Goodman says. “When they were finally released, I knew I’d thrown everything at it.”

The hard work that Goodman put in to bring the first set of Petrichor bib shorts to market was rewarded when she began to get feedback from customers about the performance of the garment. She explains that sales have followed such a positive trend, she’s made another order of bib shorts from her supplier, and is regularly receiving comments from customers that support her belief that her Petrichor shorts are better than the competition.

“The response and the feedback from the industry has shown that people really appreciate the thought going into it. You never quite know what to expect and you never quite know what the reaction would be,” Goodman says. “So many people reach out to me on Instagram and say: I’ve heard these are amazing, or my friend recommended these to me, or we were talking about these. I think that’s the ultimate feedback, word of mouth and people talking about you for good reasons. That has been so rewarding and so refreshing.”

Goodman now faces the challenge of how to grow Petrichor Products while staying true to her original ethos of keeping the collection small and focused. She adds that sustainability is another important pillar of the business, so the aim is to grow slowly with as little waste as possible.

“There's so much product in the world. With the bib shorts, all of the fabrics and all the materials are very consciously considered. The main fabric is recycled yarn from nylon fishing nets, so it's reclaimed yarn. All of the trim, the pad, the fabric, the straps, the binding, it’s all made from recycled fabrics as well,” Goodman explains. “Every single element has been really considerately chosen for a reason. All of the packaging is paper packaging – I really wanted to make sure that every single box was ticked and I want to continue that.”

As for the next release from Petrichor, Goodman is being careful to avoid making rash decisions and wants to ensure she doesn’t create products that she believes are anything less than perfection. She argues that keeping hold of her original mission when she first founded Petrichor will be integral to the long term success of the brand and more widely, important to female cyclists in general who will have more options of products designed specifically with them in mind.

“I was thinking of launching a jersey for this year, but I'm not prepared to put something out that isn't right. The next product is going to be a winter tight – that follows on from what I've done with the shorts,” Goodman says. “I'm already working on a jersey for the following year and that gives me time. It's about getting things right and putting them out there when they're ready – and really awesome.”

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