Cyclewear has something of a bad reputation in fashion circles, with the so-called Mamil (middle-aged man in Lycra) counted by some as one of the greatest style crimes of the 21st century.
But Yorkshire brand Paria is seeking to overturn perceptions and place cyclewear firmly on the fashion map with statement designs that offer something new for cyclists. Its designs for cycling jerseys, bib shorts, jackets, gilets and more combine urban influences with what the brand describes as “the grit and fervour of the Yorkshire countryside”, adding: “We aim to design apparel that delivers exceptional performance and looks great, without ever compromising on technical ability or durability.”
The brand was born from an appreciation of the irreverent, the independent and the alternative, twinned with a love of cycling and a keen eye for great design, merging cyclewear with street style and fashion in a similar way to skateboarding wear.
“I always bought and followed streetwear, street art and left-field sub-culture,” says Paria founder Sam Morgan, 45, who lives in north Leeds with his girlfriend, Fran, daughter Peggy, dog Portland and cats Pringle and Marvin. With its off-the-wall jersey designs, Paria is striking out on its own path in the cycling world as a popular alternative to mass-market brands, collaborating with independent businesses, including coffee shops, breweries and local gig venues. Key looks include abstract and graffiti prints, shots of neon, grungy monochrome looks and rave culture inspired pieces. It offers cycle tech-wear, such as jerseys in premium Italian moisture-wicking fabrics, constructed with flat lock stitching so there is no rub or chafe; bib shorts, tights and skinsuits in specially constructed fabrics for comfort, durability and performance, and accessories including eyewear, caps, socks and leg warmers.
The brand has recently expanded its range of casual “off-the-bike” clothing and accessories, with hoodies, T-shirts and tote bags featuring slogans such as Choose Bike, Push Bikes Not Drugs, and Ey Up.
Sam, who has five A-levels and a degree in Philosophy from the University of Leeds, plus further qualifications in marketing, grew up in Manchester with his father, who worked in food and drink production management, his mother who was a medical secretary (both are now retired), a sister who now works in marketing and a brother who runs a bar.
“I got back into road cycling in my early 30s and felt there wasn’t anything which encapsulated this subversive style in the cycling apparel market. What I wanted to achieve with Paria was to bring the skate style of brands like Stussy, the Quiet Life, and outerwear like Carhartt WIP, Patagonia and Brixton, to cycling.”
So Sam researched to develop his products and decide how to present the brand via a website and social media, using his savings to fund product design, stock buying and website building. The name is adapted from “pariah”, reflecting the fact Sam always felt like an outsider on a bike.
“We work really hard to push against what historically has been perceived as an exclusive and elitist sport,” he says. “We look to work with like-minded people, brands and businesses who are up for bringing together products and designs and making some noise around two wheels.”
The brand collaborates with artists and designers from across the world, from Germany to Jakarta, Durham to Barcelona. “I really like our North Brew collabs, in particular the latest one with Indian street food restaurant Bundobust,” says Sam. “We also have featured local artists Freddie Denton and Bobbie Bearcubs, with a real mash-up of mural art and pop art icons.”
Product development and design is done in-house in Leeds and manufacture is predominantly in Europe and UK, sold through the Paria website, supplied from its Leeds warehouse. There are five staff, plus an army of freelancers. Paria is an official sponsor of several cycling teams, including Huddersfield’s Paria Magic Rock Racing and youth team Tofauti Everyone Active, and offers a custom kit design service for clubs and teams of all sizes.
“Our customers are anyone who wants stand-out designs on quality apparel,” says Sam. “We would love to get our own flexible retail space – a hub where good food and coffee meets the lifestyle and culture of bikes. We are also going to look to push our presence internationally.”
Lockdown benefited the brand, says Sam. “People were limited to certain types of exercise – cycling being one of the pursuits you could enjoy. We were well positioned with our website and stock.
“How we buy fashion has clearly been changing over the last few years and it feels this evolution has been accelerated as a result of the pandemic. The high street is in a state of flux and change and, while my personal view is that it isn’t dead, it does need to flex and pivot to meet the demands of consumers. It can no longer rely on just presenting its wears and expecting the natural footfall from being located in city centres or malls to deliver revenue. There needs to be a real reason or driver to go ‘into town’ now.”
Paria prices start at £12 for accessories and go up to £95 for outerwear. www.paria.cc