Although cycling itself might be a sport with green credentials, it's not always easy to keep being a climate conscious cyclist if you enjoy splashing out on the latest kit or bikes. With its innovative approach to clothing design, newly-formed British brand, Kostüme aims to make sustainability and cycling apparel coexist a little more harmoniously.
It does so by utilising a limited edition pre-order model which significantly reduces waste and ensures that there is no unwanted stock left over. Kostüme also limits the number of items it makes, in the inaugural #Edit001, which we were able to test, the brand produced just 350 units. This therefore means there is less demand on resources – shipping, packaging and warehousing all have a strain on the environment.
In fact, Kostüme’s commitment to reducing its environmental footprint is considered in every facet of the business. From keeping brand photoshoots local to Bristol (where the company’s founder, Ed Bartlett is based), to managing the entire operation remotely, to partnering with Stripe Climate to contribute 1% of every Kostüme transaction to projects that remove CO2 from the atmosphere, to working with factories that exceed EU requirements for ‘green’ practices, to working with recycled fabric and using smart design practices to reduce waste, all the way to using recyclable packaging and choosing not to attach a tag to each item, the brand has an impressive attention to detail.
Aside from sustainability, another key pillar to Kostüme’s brand is collaborating with artists to create different collections or “edits.” #Edit001 has been designed by UK op-art duo Kai & Sunny who are known for their hand-painted line work. Kostüme explains that the pattern used in #Edit001, 'Dawn Wave', was “created to echo the energy, colours and movement experienced while cycling.”
It’s fair to say that Kostüme is ticking the boxes both from an environmental perspective and when it comes to aesthetics, but cycling clothing also needs to perform well to be worth the investment. Comfort, fit, chamois and aerodynamics all contribute to a perfect cycling experience. We put Kostüme’s #Edit001 to the test to see if it lives up to expectations.
Women’s signature short sleeve jersey
For me, the biggest selling point of Kostüme’s Signature Jersey was the striking yellow and blue print designed by Kai and Sunny. I found that the bright print quite literally put a smile on my face when I got ready for my ride, not forgetting the added benefits it has of keeping you visible out on the roads (there are also reflective logos on the jersey to help with this). The rear of the jersey is a solid blue, and I think this is a good choice from the British brand – it balances out the loud patterning on the front and ensures that the Kostüme and Kai and Sunny logos stand out against the block colour.
The entire body of the jersey is made from a stretchy, elastic fabric which I found both comfortable, lightweight and flattering. It was breathable and wicked sweat even on hot rides. My only gripe is that Kostüme hasn’t carried this fabric on to the sleeves of the Signature Jersey. Instead, they’ve used a thicker fabric here which, according to the brand’s website, is a “regenerated yarn secondary fabric, made from recycled plastic bottles and recycled elastane.” It isn’t quite as breathable and doesn’t sit as close to the body. This gave me the only problem I had with the fit of the jersey: it is slightly baggy on the arms. Otherwise, I found it was a flattering cut to the female shape. The size medium I wore was true to size and fit similarly to other cycling apparel brands – I would note that it was more of a comfort than race fit, despite the aerodynamic, low collar.
I liked that the jersey was longline for added protection from any splash from the roads, and the gripper on the hem helped with this too, keeping the jersey firmly in place even when I was getting in and out of the saddle regularly. This gripper is just one example of the clear attention to detail that has gone into creating the Signature jersey: there is a zipped pocket for valuables and the main three pockets have an added mesh layer on the outside for additional storage. The YKK zipper also has the addition of a rubber pull which makes it especially easy to do up and undo on the move.
Overall, the jersey looked good and, perhaps most importantly, made me feel good too. Not only due to the unique pattern, well-designed cut and breathability, but also because I could rest easy that it had been produced ethically and with environmental concerns at the forefront through the entire production process. At £135, I think Kostüme has managed to keep their pricing reasonable considering the detail, thought process and size of the business in its current iteration.
Women’s signature bib short
Bib shorts undoubtedly are one of the most important parts of a cyclists’ wardrobe. Unlike a jersey, where brands can afford to focus slightly more attention on aesthetics, the technical specifications of bib shorts are especially important and can hugely impact how enjoyable a bike ride is. Kostüme says that its Signature Bib Shorts are “designed to be the most comfortable on the market” and I’d ascertain that they have come pretty close to this lofty ambition.
As soon as I put the bib shorts on for the first time I was hopeful that they would perform. There was no struggle to stretch them over my legs or hips with the fabric having enough give to get them on comfortably. Once on, I was impressed with the fit of the Signature Bib Short, they hit almost the exact length I like on my legs: not too short or too long. The bib straps were snug without being restrictive and it’s a nice touch from the British brand to carry on the patterning seen in the jersey over to the straps and Kostüme logo, too. I’d prefer the front of the bibs to sit slightly higher on the body for a more flattering shape: the waistline cuts directly across my midriff, but this had no impact on the ride feel or comfort of the shorts.
Once riding, Kostüme’s 4-layer chamois, which features memory foam and 'permanent' aloe infusion was supportive and comfortable even on the longest endurance rides. I was sceptical to see no gripper on the raw cut hem of the shorts, but the compressive fit meant they stayed firmly in place (I have the tan lines to prove it!) The mesh fabric used on the bibs was breathable and airy, while flatlock seams ensured there was no friction.
I was also relieved to see a brand so new to the market make considerations for nature breaks on women’s shorts. Kostüme’s Signature Bib Shorts feature a fastener free seat drop which means you can simply pull them down to go to the toilet without having to remove the bibs themselves. This makes things easier and quicker when nature calls on a ride, and is especially helpful when the weather is chilly. The bib shorts retail for £180, and I found the performance to match this price point. In fact, the comfort and support they provided actually exceeded some of the more expensive, premium brands I’ve tested in the past.
Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by Kostüme’s #Edit001 Signature Women’s Collection. Admittedly, I’d never heard of the brand until I was offered the chance to test the kit and I was unsure how a company so fresh to the game would create clothing that matched up with brands that have been producing cycling apparel for decades. However, once I was riding and wearing the kit, it was immediately apparent that it had been developed by people who cycle themselves and understand the requirements of a comfortable on-bike outfit.
Kostüme has a unique approach to producing kit and the quirky print sets it apart from other brands on the market who are moving constantly closer to dull, dark colours. Add in the huge efforts that the brand is making to reduce its impact on the environment and I’m further convinced that Kostüme could quickly grow in popularity in the cycling apparel industry. I often find myself reaching for this kit ahead of its more well-known competitors – especially the Signature Bib Shorts – and I’m excited to see what comes next from this innovative English brand.
Kostüme's #Edit001 collection is available now on the brand's website for both men and women. Shop here.