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Innovation in denim at Rapha

29 June 2011

I’m always interested in innovations in fabric, and one of the excuses for featuring my favourite cycling brand – Rapha – is that they are constantly pushing boundaries here, whether on wool, leather (both of which I’ve written about here before) or cotton.

The latest innovation is a pair of jeans designed for cycling that combine the best aspects of tight-weave cotton (denim) and synthetic materials. Like the combinations of merino wool and nylon in the jerseys, this combination in the jeans means they retain something of the comfort and character of denim, but with the durability, stain resistance and quick drying of synthetics.

The cloth is actually a mix of nylon, cotton and elastane blend yarns. This makes it resistant to abrasion and prevents it wearing through at particular points, especially on the seat. The stretch, meanwhile, allows ease of movement.


The cut is also interesting. In order to be more comfortable on the bike, they are cut with a high-backed waist and lower shape at the front. And they accommodate pedalling by having offset inseams. Belt loops are also positioned away from fold points.

Elsewhere in nice design points, the front pockets are cut deep to keep things from falling out and the zip fly uses satin tape to reinforce it. They also come with a patch of denim for repairs, though I confess I didn’t realise this when I got mine – I threw it away thinking it was a fancy tag!

They ride remarkably well. I’ve cycled in jeans before and comfort in the seams as well as wearing on the seat are significant problems. I can’t say I’ve ever needed them to be quick drying, but I suppose that’s a bonus. These, the merino base layer in cream and a nice Oxford-weave shirt are perfect for cycling around town.

Unfortunately stock is low again, after the second batch last month sold very quickly. But a new one will be along in August.

While we’re talking of innovation in cloth, check out this post on Tim Everest’s blog featuring the winners of the Central St Martins weave competition. Students design different cloths to a given theme, with a target celebrity customer in mind. The winners get their designs woven into full-length cloth, which is made into garments by Tim and his team. Great to see this kind of thing is going on, and supported by Holland & Sherry and Fox Brothers, as well as Tim himself.