It is a super rare occurrence in the apparel industry to have the opportunity to work on a patented garment feature. Patents are difficult to acquire when it comes to clothes, as almost everything has been done before! Coming up with an entirely unique, new idea that could pass the patenting processes is almost unheard of within the industry. So in 2015, when I had the chance to work on Pearl Izumi’s patented cycling jersey speed sleeve, it was an amazing opportunity.
Even better than that, I was at the company during a time when the inventor of the patented sleeve was still there. Collaborating with him to come up with iterations on his original design was extremely exciting. Our goal was to take this professional-level athletic garment outside of the pro peloton and offer it to the masses. We wanted this technology to be available to anybody who wanted to try it, so we created an extension of the existing jersey product line to feature this technology.
Introducing new fabric options into the new levels of jerseys was difficult. Getting this unique sleeve shape to fit just right around a shoulder was tricky in the first place. And they had originally used an extremely stretchy fabric that could be pulled very tightly around the wearer’s body. This extreme tension in the fabric is what helped to create the aerodynamic properties of the sleeve, so it was important that we mimic it as much as possible in our new developments.
One fabric in particular gave us headaches for weeks. It had a great amount of stretch, but the recovery of the fabric was not very good. This means that we could pull the fabric over the shoulder for days, but it wouldn’t bounce back enough to create the tension we needed. It would just keep stretching and pulling, creating a wrinkled mess across our model’s shoulders. We eventually figured out how to make it work though, and the jersey was quite successful with its sell-through. Customers were excited to have Pearl Izumi’s pinnacle racing technology available to them, at a price point that wouldn’t break the bank.