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Fashion students spin a new look for cyclists

In an effort to promote biking as a green form of transportation, New York City teamed with the Fashion Institute of Technology in a contest to create a stylish and practical wardrobe for cyclists. DKNY made and unveiled prototypes of the winning designs.
/ Source: The Associated Press

There's a new spin on the biker jacket.

In an effort to promote biking as a green form of transportation, the city teamed with the Fashion Institute of Technology and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton in a contest to create a stylish and practical wardrobe for cyclists.

Prototypes of the winning designs, including a jacket, poncho and bag, were made by DKNY and unveiled as part of the Summer Streets festivals that close certain roadways to motor-vehicle traffic for three Saturdays in August.

The mostly flat landscape makes New York an ideal place for cycling, yet most of the bikers LVMH chairman Renaud Dutreil sees are delivering packages or take-out food. He says he was surprised too see so few two-wheel commuters upon his move here last year from Paris, which has a citywide bike-rental system.

"The main goal here is to change people's minds about cycling," Dutreil, a recreational biker, says.

There appears to be a potential global marketplace for bike apparel and accessories. Research firm The NPD Group found that overall sales of "sport use" products are on the rise, with bicycling posting a 4 percent growth rate last year.

This product image released by LVMH, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc., shows a close-up of the "Tech Chic" envelope bag by "Bike In Style Challenge" winner Jessica Velaquez. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) students that participated in the Challenge were charged with designing a set of biking essentials: a poncho, a jacket and a travel bag for both men and women. Velasquez was awarded $5,000 for her winning designs.(AP Photo/LVMH)**NO SALES**Lvmh / LVMH

Ironically, the first-place winner of the Bike in Style competition isn't a cyclist. "I used to ride a bike when I was younger, but my bike was stolen from our garage," says Jessica Velasquez, who'll be a senior at FIT specializing in sportswear design this fall. "I have a small apartment so I haven't been in a hurry to get a new one."

However, she heard from friends that most biking-specific apparel doesn't address the realities of everyday life and, conversely, street clothes don't allow for safe or efficient cycling. One frequent issue, especially for women, seemed to be knee-length coats getting caught. Her solution? A poncho with a drawstring.

The poncho also allows for a refined look that doesn't pull when reaching for handlebars and it has pockets for all the electronics most riders in their 20s and 30s carry with them.

Other things students had to address were Mother Nature, visibility and the eco-friendliness of the materials, notes Joyce F. Brown, president of FIT.

"If it's going to be a hassle, people will more easily give it up — but you also don't want to look crazy," she says. "I think we're pushing all the right buttons."