Makers Gonna Make

Did you know we just designed and made a new Black Line London cycle jersey? Of course you did, because we haven’t shut up about it.

But the reason we haven’t shut up about it isn’t to try and sell you one (although actually you’d look great in it, what with your stunning athletic physique) but because the whole process of making and doing is something we really love, and we’re quite proud and deeply satisfied to have produced something that people actually want to wear.

The very idea of Black Line London was born of a ‘let’s make’ approach, so our new jersey feels like a great progression. Plus, we’re easily bored and don’t like standing still, so decided to go for it.

Going for it, it turns out, is the easy bit. First, we had to find a manufacturer. We didn’t know what the jersey would look like yet, but we did know that they had to be high quality. We wanted that skinny fit, and we wanted those great razor edge, Euro-style sleeves. And then…a moment of serendipity. BLL’s Cape Town based co-founder Troy joined a cycle group one morning who were wearing a jersey that ticked all the boxes, and even more serendipitously, it turned out that South African age-group Ironman hero Raoul de Jongh  owned the local brand rights to the manufacturer – a perfect fit. After a few pow wows (AKA flat whites) with Raoul, it was clear that he and his team totally understood what we wanted to do, and were committed to helping us get it right. So we decided to go with Cuore of Switzerland as our manufacturer, confident we had made a good choice.

Jersey Mood Board

Still with no real idea of what we wanted it to look like, we gathered together loads of disparate bits and pieces that we liked and thought captured the essence of where we wanted to go. Although we’re slightly design obsessed, neither Paul or Troy are designers (as much as Troy likes to think he is). We do however understand that designing is an art, and a skill, and is best left to the professionals so we delivered our ‘moodboard’ to Raoul’s design team in Cape Town, along with what probably seemed to them like a pretentious verbal waterfall of ideas, thoughts and suggestions. Luckily for us they were indeed pro, and managed to turn our sprawling vision into an amazing set of first pass designs. Looking back on them now there are some great versions that we passed on, as well as one we thought we might kindly offer to Norwich City FC. 

We made some quick decisions, ruling out a few straight away, and then spent a bit more time (sorry Raoul) tweaking a couple of favourites, looking at colour samples and even getting a bit of advice from founder Nick Hussey. Getting positive feedback on our direction from him was really gratifying…thanks Nick! After stretching the patience of the designers to the limit, we finally agreed on the final design. In typically amateur fashion, we hadn’t really thought about cost, but it really was crunch time. Let’s just say that it’s not a business to go into on our small scale if you want to make a profit (which BLL isn’t by the way), plus Paul’s wife also doesn’t know the half of it.

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Then, the boring bit…waiting. There’s no getting away from it – when you’re excited about something arriving it’s a ballache to wait. Meh!

But the cycling kit Gods were kind and BLL HQ was surprised by a big box of brand new, sparkly jerseys, delivered on time – a rarity when you speak to most people who work with kit manufacturers. The jerseys turned out better than we could have hoped, much better in real life than we had seen on paper or computer screen. A flurry of WhatsApp photo messaging and virtual high fives followed.

Troy then took the opportunity to bag a favour from ace Capetonian action sports photographer Andrew King to get some nice shots of the jersey, and Troy’s coffee pot. Never before has the putting on of a jersey been so well documented. 

Next up was a second batch of photos with fellow BLL’r Carel Du Plessis  in the not-quite-as-glamorous-as-Cape-Town location of Motspur Park. The 6am start time was also slightly suboptimal, but Carel is a pro (really…he is actually a professional photographer), so with the sun out and the banter high quality, all worked out just fine. It’s not known what the two old ladies walking their dogs thought we were up to though.

Later that same day, we unleashed our creation on the world, by which I mean you guys – our Twitter and Facebook followers. 

A massive thank you to those who liked what we did enough to put their hands in their pockets – we are genuinely blown away by that. 

*Ahem* It’s not too late for the rest of you…

A final notable moment was seeing the first image of the jersey in the wild, thanks to Claire Doherty’s tweet. Thanks Claire!

If you’ve ever thought you might like to do something similar, for your club, team, or group of mates, here are our top tips:

1. Spend time finding the right manufacturer. Look at as many real examples as you can, then if possible, speak to others who have used them. We came across a couple of great looking jersey samples but got such negative reports on the experience of making and ordering that we decided to steer clear.

2. Start gathering together loads of images (Pinterest is a good way to collect these). Not just jerseys and cycling brands but anything that sums up the colours, themes, patterns, style and even moods you like. This will be a really valuable thing for the designers.

3. Use a proper designer, and ask to see examples of their non-cycling work.

4. Don’t settle until you are 100% happy.

5. Give yourself more time than you need. 

5. If you’re doing it because you want to make money…don’t.

If you’d like to get your hands on one of our jerseys, you can get one here.

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