Produced in association with Pas Normal Studios
Reaching for the right jersey, pair of bib shorts or jacket in the morning before a bike ride is easy. Zipping up and heading straight out of your front door with the expectation that whatever kit you have picked for the day will protect you from the elements is normal in today’s era of high-performance apparel. But as fabrics hug our skin, repel water and wick sweat so well we rarely have to think about it, it’s easy to forget the hours of development that have gone into creating each garment on our bodies. That is, of course, until you speak to someone who has been right at the centre of that journey.
Carolin Breintner is Copenhagen-based clothing brand Pas Normal Studios’ Quality and Pattern Manager. It’s not a job title most are particularly familiar with, but as Breintner explains, her role is crucial to the creation of the Pas Normal Studios kit which has meteorically risen to popularity in recent years.
“Part of my role here is to align a fit across our products and provide the best function for each garment together with my team from Design and Product Development,” Breintner explains. “I'm responsible for fit for both men’s and women’s kit. I'm a female cyclist myself and I ask all of our ambassadors: what are you missing? Is there anywhere on your body where you feel like the product is not providing the best fit?”
As well as talking to brand ambassadors about where they feel kit needs improvement, Breintner is also constantly gathering feedback from customers and implementing changes, striving to make the next kit release better than the one before. Quality control forms a big part of the German’s role at Pas Normal Studios, as she identifies if there are any issues with the fabrics, workmanship or fit being provided by the brand’s suppliers.“We take every customer's claim very seriously. I think it's important because you can improve and get better if you know what's going wrong,” Breintner says. “I talk to the suppliers to minimise the risk of any quality problems. We also test all of our products internally, that's the beauty of almost everyone who works here being a cyclist. I can just say, 'hey, can you ride this afternoon with it? For example, we did this sleeve with a bit of a different shape. Can you try it, and tell me if it's better or if it's worse?'”
Breintner also explains that she sends out questionnaires to brand ambassadors at the end of each season asking for detailed feedback on fit and material, ensuring they open up about any problems they’ve had with their kit.
“Before I started working at Pas Normal Studios they were doing amazing work and they’re so passionate about taking on board feedback, but now I can just support them a little bit more to get more data and numbers out of it. We want innovation to be at the forefront. Sometimes you try some things that don’t work and test two or three prototypes, but this is necessary to create the best product,” Breintner says.
As Breintner discusses her approach to her role with Pas Normal Studios, her experience in her field shines through. From starting out working as a tailor in her early twenties, Breintner has spent over 15 years working for global sportswear brands such as Adidas and Peak Performance, steadily becoming a renowned talent in the industry. She explains that she knew early on in her career that she wanted to work in apparel, but her calling for sportswear specifically came when she was working with Adidas in the run-up to and during the London 2012 Olympics.
“I specialised in pattern making, which is the technical construction of garments – how products can support you functionally. I always thought what I created should have a purpose, they don’t just look good, but have a function, supporting people doing their sports,” Breintner says. “During my time at Adidas, I was responsible for fittings for the Olympic Games. I was excited but also nervous about working with athletes who are the most professional people in their sport, but I understood quickly that they are some of the most humble people. I saw how important it was for them to get an outfit which supported them and made them even better in what they do.”
As well as sports like swimming in the summer Olympics, Breintner also helped fit kit for athletes competing in winter sports such as luge and skeleton, where milliseconds can decide if an athlete comes home with a medal or not. These marginal gains can often be found in how well their clothing fits and functions, meaning Breintner was crucial to the success of the athletes she worked with.
“I think that my first job in Adidas really made my heart beat for creating great products and understanding what the need is. I also worked with cycling apparel for the first time and I was amazed how much you have to take care of the technique on a cycling kit, especially for fit because the position is so different than in a lot of other sports.”
After over three years with Adidas and spending some time at smaller German brands, Breintner explains she was offered a job with Peak Performance, a company known to make some of the best ski and hiking equipment on the market. Her role there lasted for the next five years, until she made contact with Pas Normal Studios early in 2023. Breintner says she was drawn to working with in the cycling sphere again, something that was spurred on by her own, personal connection to the sport – key moments in her life have been shaped by cycling.
“My first bike adventure was when a friend said they were thinking about doing a Transalp with a mountain bike to bike from Munich to Italy. I thought, ‘I would love to do that with you. Do you think I could do it?’ She said that I could always get the train back if I couldn’t, but then I loved it and it became an adventure every year. For me it’s more about that discovery. It was never for being fast,” Breintner says. “Riding my bike, for me, is such a beautiful way of travelling because you can absorb nature and the surroundings so much more than if you were travelling with a train or with a car.”
She shares an anecdote about the importance her bike held during 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic, when she used it to cycle home to Munich from where she was living in Stockholm at the time as traditional travel routes were suspended.
“My dad was very sick at the time and he was in Germany, but I couldn't go home. I knew if I was on my bike, I could cross borders more easily, so I bought a gravel bike. I’d never ridden such a long distance but I wanted to see my dad – he called me everyday to see how far I’d got and was so excited to see me,” Breintner says. “After I arrived, he actually died three days later – I could never have spent that last time with him without my bike.”
Breintner’s own, personal, lived experiences on two wheels only fuel her passion to create clothing that can help others discover cycling and have a better time while doing it. She tells me that she shares this ethos with every employee at Pas Normal Studios, a company that has a markedly different approach to being in the sportswear industry than other brands Breintner has worked for.
“I think the moment you enter the office, you definitely feel that everyone who works here has such a passion for the brand and for the sports. Since we are all very dedicated and passionate about cycling, people want to make that product that goes a step ahead. We want products that are perfect, because we only want to wear the perfect kit ourselves,” Breintner says.
It’s not only in product development that Breintner believes Pas Normal Studios is on a different path to its competitor brands, she also argues that the business model and ethos of the Copenhagen-based company sets them apart.
“The founders are still the owners which makes it clear that we all have the same goals and understanding of why we’re doing this. I have a big problem with working for a company which is just chasing big profits and unnatural growth. This is something I would struggle with as it doesn't align with my person beliefs and passions,” Breintner explains.
“If growth comes naturally because people like what you do then that’s great, but to sacrifice quality and try to change price for products and for suppliers so the margin you earn is always higher, you earn more but no one really likes the clothing, I think it’s wrong. I'm happy I work for a brand now where I feel they are not chasing crazy growth. It's about something special.”
Joining Pas Normal Studios seems to have allowed Breintner to rediscover the reasons why she began her work in sportswear originally, helping her find the same reward and satisfaction she got out of creating kit for the Olympics now over a decade later. As we discuss what’s next for Breintner on her career journey in the cycling clothing industry, she explains that the most important thing for her is no longer promotions or job titles, but holding on to the love and passion she has for her sport and her work. Being part of Pas Normal Studios has allowed those two things to intertwine again, something Breintner says she feels grateful for.
“I want to be in a workplace where I love to go every day, where I enjoy working with my colleagues, where you challenge each other constantly to improve products and make good products,” Breintner says. “It’s about creating things that customers really like, or at least that they recognise and see the love and effort that went into making them. At the same time, I have time to bike on a weekend and there is room for having a longer vacation to do more adventures. That balance makes me happy.”