The need for better women-specific mountain biking clothing has long been evident, since the “shrink and pink” concept doesn’t cut it with lady shredders. Although there are more and more options appearing daily, these tend to be polarized with a style of riding—oftentimes resulting in full matching kits. Katy Hover-Smoot and Cassie Abel (experienced in the outdoor industry, having held positions at Specialized Bikes and Smith) founded Buttermilk apparel in order to fill the niche. Hover-Smoot, an avid outdoors woman of average height and build, still struggled to find mountain bike gear that fit, performed well and was aesthetically her style. Abel, tall and athletic, struggled to find anything to fit her. The two created a first collection that has caught the attention of many female mountain bikers looking for form, function and design conscious gear. We spoke with the Buttermilk duo to learn more.
What was the most requested item from friends and customers when designing the first collection?
A high-waisted chammy. We had so many friends wearing bib shorts but cutting off the tops to achieve a high waisted effect. We knew this was a pain-point for female cyclists. We also wanted a basic yoga waistband that would hold you in and not fold over while riding.
What were some of your inspirations for this first line of gear?
We wanted to develop classic styles that had a contemporary feel. We looked to fashion weeks to determine colorways and studied silhouettes from some of our favorite brands like Vince and Joie. It was really important for us to update existing outdoor and cycling options with a feel that would appeal to a design-forward audience. Being small, we also work with shorter manufacturing lead times so we are better able to adapt to trends we think might play well in outdoor.
Tell us a little about your manufacturing process?
Our winter 2016 collection will be manufactured in the San Francisco Bay Area. For us, this choice was as much about our connections to the region as it was about convenience. Working with a domestic manufacturer allows us faster turn around times, it allows us to work closely with the sample room, and it enables us to monitor manufacturing while it is in process so we can address any issues as they arise. Domestic manufacturing has so many advantages—in the coming years we will see more apparel companies leveraging the shorter lead times and better quality control that domestic manufacturing enables.
Can you share with us some information about upcoming designs?
For next spring we will be bringing in more neutral colorways, shifting our chammy to a more compressive fabric, and dialing in the fit for our Whitney Shorts. We’re also migrating from XS-L sizing to 0-12 numbered sizing to offer a better fit for more women.
Images by Ray J Gadd