This article was produced in association with Megmeister
“We need to look after the world that is our playground for the sports we love, so why would you wear a polyester shirt that will go into a landfill for the next 500 years?”
This was Vanessa Ruiterman’s response when Rouleur asked why she and her husband, Jos Ruiterman, established Megmeister, a Dutch cycling clothing brand aspiring to craft the world’s finest cycling gear while reducing its environmental impact – a commitment woven into every aspect of the Ruitermans’ approach to creating garments for cyclists.
They don’t follow in the footsteps of other cycling apparel brands when it comes to manufacturing and sustainability, however. The couple have forged their own path instead, redesigning and creating clothing from the ground up with the aim of improving what is already on the market through unique yarns and technologies.
A deep-rooted history
Jos has spent more than two decades in the fabric industry and has seen first-hand how industry giants innovate and produce their clothing. But it was the lace industry that first brought him from the Netherlands to Nottingham, where he worked in a factory working with the fine, delicate fabric, providing lace to British companies such as fashion retailer Marks & Spencer. After two years, however, the factory closed, and Jos found a job working for another company that produced sportswear.
As a sports lover, Jos admitted to being in his element, helping to find ways for the company to innovate with its fabrics, until he realised he was giving away all his best ideas, and that is how he stumbled across the idea of producing a base layer. “I realised that base layers were very universal, so I thought, if I do a really good job with this kind of product, I have a lot of opportunity on the market,” said Jos.
His wife Vanessa added: “You were also disappointed with all the polyester being used in these products on the market, because it didn’t actually perform. I just remember, one day, you came home to me and said, ‘I want to create the world’s best base layer.’”
With Jos having previously worked with fine yarn such as lace, he already had indepth knowledge about knitting machines and how to use yarns and technologies to produce a product that functions. They jumped in – fully committed to their vision – and established Megmeister in 2018. After years of meticulous research and development dedicated to base layer designs, Megmeister’s base layers now stand as the flagship product in their array of cycling apparel.
Jos Ruiterman, Founder
Form, function and high-level performance
“I wanted to create the best base layer in the world,” said Jos.“And I knew how to do it in order to be the best. I created a base layer that was seamless, so it fits better. I wanted it to be the best in terms of comfort, too, so I used yarns that do not smell and are super hygienic. I wanted it to be the best in performance, as performance is really what a base layer is all about. None of the base layers on the market that are made from polyester function to perform. They claim it, but they don’t do it.”
With performance at the forefront of design when developing their base layer, Jos and Vanessa created Megmeister’s Drynamo dual-layer yarn technology. This is designed with two layers of fabric – hydrophobic on the inside and hydrophilic on the outside. This means that when a person starts sweating, for example, the inside fabric, which doesn’t like moisture, pushes excess water to the outside fabric, which is water-loving. This results in keeping a person’s skin dry despite sweating, thanks to the dual construction and the fabric’s properties. The base layer is also made using warp-knitted intelligent body mapping to allow for extra ventilation where riders need it the most – helping to manage moisture even more and enhance cooling to keep body temperature stable.
Jos and Vanessa also wanted to create a base layer which fits like a second skin and decided to make the base layers completely seamless. “A lot of products that are ‘seamless’ are actually made from two tubes – one for the body and the other for the arms – which are then sewn together. But our base layers are made as one piece, so there are no seams, no restriction of movements, and no waste,” said Vanessa.
In order to create its seam-free base layer, they used a machine which other brands do not use. Jos explained that base layers by other manufacturers are made using a cylindrical-shaped machine, which is the size of the body, that knits together the yarn and forms the body of the garment and then the sleeves, which are then stitched together and secured at the seams to ensure they don’t unravel. However, the machine used to make Megmeister’s base layers is a flat, long machine which produces the garments in a row, allowing for the yarn to be knitted close together and all in one piece.
This seam-free design was the first of its kind in the industry, and the unique garments produced by Megmeister attracted attention from some of the bigger fish in the industry.
A small fish in a big pond
Adidas, the renowned global sportswear brand, contacted Jos and Vanessa in 2019 about the opportunity to work with the Dutch brand after its base layer technology and design caught their attention, and sent a representative to meet the Ruitermans.
“I blew him off,” said Jos, shrugging his shoulders. “I said, ‘We’re a small brand, and I don’t think this is for us.’ I thought that would be it, but the guy was very persistent and sent me another email just asking for a Zoom call with us. I had a look on LinkedIn for the people at the meeting and noticed that these were very senior people, and I realised that maybe this wasn’t a Mickey Mouse trip.
“We had the call, and I put our cards on the table, telling them that I was really worried they’d just copy us. But the guy was pleased we had expressed our concerns and said that was exactly what he didn’t want to do. They just wanted our input, and they wanted to collaborate with us.”
Being a part of such a huge company was at first a bit daunting, Jos and Vanessa admitted, but after a few years with the brand, they now feel part of an “extended family” and have played a big part in producing base layers for Adidas’s athletes.
In 2021, together with Adidas Terrex – a specialised line of apparel and footwear by Adidas for outdoor and adventure sports – Megmeister developed an all-new eco-merino baselayer using regenerated yarn that is 96 per cent biodegradable. Not only was this an exciting product to launch in collaboration with Adidas Terrex, but this was also a real step forward for Megmeister in creating truly sustainable and high-performing sports apparel.
Jos is data-driven, and whatever he produces, he needs to see he is making a difference. He added, “It’s nice when you have your own company, and you can choose what you want to make, but you need to have an idea for it and some way of improving that. We’ve always Jos Ruiterman, Founder maintained that we will make something that is special.”
Vanessa emphasises the fact that the cycling apparel industry is crowded and that if a brand wants people to buy its products it needs to stand out. They believe that by having made their products from the ground up and rethinking the way they are designed, they are not only bringing fit and functionality to the market but also a totally unique product that puts a person’s enjoyment of the sport at the forefront of its designs.
This was also the story for Megmeister when they were researching and developing its bib shorts. Living in the Netherlands, Jos got to know Servais Knaven, former pro and sports director for Inoes Grenadiers at the time, who had asked Jos to look at making bib shorts that had a better ‘bounce’ or ‘damping’ in the pad. “I told him I would love to help, but my problem was, I needed to be able to measure my performance to know I am making something significantly better,” said Jos.
He went on to research bib short discomfort further and found that it was one of the most searched-for terms in the Netherlands. With a piqued interest, Jos was then introduced by Knaven to a German company that was able to measure pressure on the saddle, and this was how Jos was able to measure his bib shorts performance.
Testing a number of different brands before producing his own, he found that most pads in the bib shorts only had a damping time of around 20 minutes before they had almost completely gone, because they were made of just foam. Using his many years of experience in the fabric industry, Jos created a special fabric back in Nottingham, which he made into a figure-of-eight shape, creating a suspension system. After two years of development, Jos and Vanessa took this to an Italian pad manufacturer and created their own bespoke pad for Megmeister’s new bib shorts. And, of course, driven by the data, Jos re-tested the bib shorts using the same pressure mapping technology and could evidently see that their pad had a much greater damping time in comparison to other options on the market.
Protecting the future
Jos and Vanessa’s mission for Megmeister was to make the world’s best base layer and while they have received the stamp of approval from Adidas as well as developed their range of cycling apparel into cycling jerseys, bib shorts and accessories, one thing has remained the same throughout their whole journey – sustainability.
Both Jos and Vanessa are stringent in ensuring their products are as sustainable as possible. From their base layers being antibacterial, so people can wear them for many years, to their jerseys being made with their bespoke Nuyarn fabric, sustainability is inherent in everything Megmeister does. “We don’t do it because it is trendy,” said Jos. “We do it because we’ve seen the negativity that can come from not looking after our planet in the apparel industry.”
Vanessa echoes this, highlighting the fact that they have three daughters who will be growing up on the planet we are responsible for now, and they want future generations to be able to enjoy outdoor sports just as people do today, with beautiful countryside and spectacular views. But this will only be possible if people take care of the world today, and that means buying and manufacturing sustainably. That is why Jos and Vanessa Ruiterman are devoted to producing high-performing, comfortable, and stylish kit that will help the next generation, far into the future.