By Guest Writer | April 20, 2010
I am ever so thrilled to host this outstanding guestblog by Poliana, the ultrarad scooterist pictured on the left (amazing photo by Damon Landry), about a new option in the search for fat-friendly riding gear. It’s nearly enough to make me want a scooter myself, but I live in Metro Boston and would fear for my life. To those of you braver than I! -L
The question of where to find motorcycle and scooter riding gear for plus-sized women has come up more than a few times in the Fatshionista LiveJournal community (click here and here for two examples). Each time, the best solution has been to spring for custom-made gear, which can be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming for the average rider. Very few companies will create custom riding gear — those that do, command a high price. And unless the rider can visit their store, this means e-mailing some measurements and hoping for the best. This process goes something like this: place an order, wait a few weeks, try on the gear (assuming it’s not lost in the mail), send it back for some adjustments, wait a few more weeks for the alterations to be done, and then riding season is over.
Riding gear is sometimes available off the rack in larger sizes for men, but it can be hard to find, especially in extended sizes. As a woman who has been fat all of my life, I of course have purchased clothes in the mens department. I can take ill-fitting street clothes and “make it work” by not zipping a coat over my bust, cuffing up too-long sleeves, or wearing a mens’ shirt as a tunic dress. That’s not the case with riding gear. Because of the position of potentially life-saving armor and panels of abrasion-resistant fabric, good fit is of utmost importance. That being said, women riders of all sizes often make do with mens gear as a last resort. It beats riding with no gear, or even worse, not riding at all.
The few companies that do offer plus-size options for women are notorious for their wonky fit. These jackets are typically based on a mens design, with very little ease given for a woman’s hips and bust. One recent style takes a mens’ jacket and adds corset lacing in order to cinch the waist, with the resulting flare at the top and bottom of the jacket creating room for bust and hip. Another company took their best-selling mens’ jacket and placed stretchy panels in the sides to give the womens’ version some curvature. Believe me when I say these riding jackets are as unattractive as their descriptions.
For too many years, women have paid far too much money for ill-fitting and ugly safety gear. That was then, and this is now. Enter GoGo Gear, the groundbreaking line of stylish safety apparel designed by and specifically for women. GoGo Gear is the first fashionable protective riding apparel for today’s woman on the go. The line comprises cutting-edge, feminine outerwear with robust interior engineering that includes abrasion-resistant fabric, quality CE-approved armor in the back, shoulders and elbows, and highly reflective details.
President and CEO Arlene Battishill created the Los Angeles-based company to provide women with chic alternatives to traditional riding gear. She combined her educational and corporate experience to undertake an exhaustive R&D effort, utilizing social media such as Twitter and Facebook soliciting ideas, opinions, and measurements from women riders. I first heard about GoGo Gear via Twitter, and I was very skeptical. I may have only been riding scooters for four years, but I’ve certainly tried on enough poorly-made and even-worse-fitting “plus-size” riding jackets to fill a lifetime. My first Tweet to @LAScooterGirls was something like, “Your jackets sure look cute, but how do they FIT?”
I had the opportunity to check out the goods at the 2010 Cycle World International Motorcycle Show in New York City. Seeing first-hand the attention to detail going into these jackets and coats was a thrill. The fabrics have beautiful hand and feel luxurious and durable. The construction is exacting, and the customizable belts, snaps, and buttons make each garment look tailor-made when worn. I observed women of all sizes trying on the prototypes and was amazed at how the riding armor stayed invisible as they walked around the booth. I honestly think this company is doing something completely revolutionary. Never before have we seen womens’ riding gear designed from the ground up. Thoroughly inspired, I asked Arlene for an interview:
Your standard sizes include petite & plus ranges. Why did you, as a brand-new scooter gear line just starting out, decide to include sizes other than S-M-L?
We started out, day one, with sizing that was petite to plus because that’s how women are made. It is always easier and more cost effective for manufacturers to make garments in S-M-L, but that’s for the convenience and profit of the manufacturer, NOT for the benefit of the consumer. We pride ourselves on the “fit” of our jackets, and we could never offer the S-M-L sizing in our jackets because they wouldn’t look right. Our jackets have a very sleek, refined look to them and you can’t retain that look if you do the generic sizing.
We want to be able to account for the small differences in sizing that are specific to women. Even within the styles and fabrics, there are minor differences in sizing, because we want to be able to have at least one GoGo Gear jacket that will fit a woman perfectly…because if it does, she’s going to feel like a million bucks! I think that a lot of companies happen upon plus sizes as one of those “aha!” moments where they suddenly think that there’s a market to exploit and then they go after that market, a market they’ve ignored for years. For us, we want our customers to know that we’re thinking about them from day one, in ALL sizes and working to come up with designs that we think are most flattering to women in the many sizes we come in.
I always refer to the “little black dress” as the inspiration for our GoGo Gear. Every woman has to have a little black dress in her closet. When she puts on that little black dress, something really special happens to her; she’s transformed, she becomes everything she feels she is! That’s what I want women to feel in our GoGo Gear, to feel like they own the world because the jacket fits perfectly and as a result, they look and feel great!
So many riding gear lines have tried to capture the female market, but have failed because their jackets are cut to fit male riders. What was your process for determining the correct sizes for women riders?
That is the 64 million dollar question! How do you EVER know what the correct size is for any woman! We come in all shapes and sizes. There’s no hard and fast rule for determining the correct sizes for women. In fact, big retail companies have spent millions of dollars on “fit” with respect to their garments and even they don’t know what the correct sizes are. As you can see with most any brand or garment, everyone is a different fit and the important thing for any woman is to just try things on and see how they feel in the garment. The whole thing is a very big process of trial and error.
Many riders equate scooters with the UK Mods of the 1960s, but let’s go one step beyond. Which era of fashion do you look at the most, and why?
I look a lot at the designs from the 1940s through 1960s from the classic couture houses of London and Paris. I think there is something SO elegant about the simplicity of the designs and that’s what’s most appealing to me. The designs from that era, particularly the 40s make me want to cry sometimes because for me, they are just perfect.
Since you’re in Los Angeles, I wonder what you think of today’s Hollywood.
To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time looking at Hollywood and how women are dressed. I think all too often the celebrities have stylists that go out hunting for obscure designers who make things that will never see the light of day in the stores where we all shop and so the designs are really inaccessible to women who are not part of the Hollywood celebrity club. I also find that having designs that are so expensive so as to make them exclusive (read: unobtainable) is a big turnoff for me. I love designs that make a woman feel like she could see herself in it, that she would feel and look amazing in it AND doesn’t have to break the bank to get herself in that design.
What’s on the horizon for GoGo Gear?
We are currently partnering with an Australian company to produce premium Kevlar jeans which we will be calling the “ultimate date night” jeans! We all know how much we like those sexy stretch denim jeans and to have them be protective as well…it goes without saying, we’ll be ready for that date!
We have several more jacket styles delivering over the next few months. In particular, the ventilated Café jacket will arrive in early May. This is the jacket for women who routinely don’t wear protective gear during the hot weather riding months. It’s abrasion resistant with armor and has side panels that are ventilated from the armpit area to the bottom of the jacket. It has a “mandarin” collar, is very sleek looking and comes in black, red and linen white. The other feature we’re really excited about with this jacket is the French cuffs we put on as a way to provide adjustable sleeves. Many tall women contacted us telling us that their sleeves were never long enough and given that jackets are all pretty much made with the same length sleeve, we used the French cuff as the method to make the sleeve adjustable.
The Racer jacket will follow in late May, early June. It’s our sportiest jacket and is also very sleek. It has curvy reflective stripes on the front and back, gorgeous silver zippers and ventilation in the armpit area. The “Café” and “Racer” jackets are our homage to the “Café Racer” bike!
Once we get to the Fall, we’ll see the much coveted Vintage coat with wool outer layer, a water repellent treatment to the fabric, a zipout liner for windproofing and warmth. The coat provides extra wind protection for the thigh area and has a large collar to create a snug fit around the neck. The reflective details are strategically located so they don’t detract from the look of the coat. This coat will deliver with a classic vintage black and white pattern well as a brown and blue more Mod pattern.
GoGo Gear is out now and available in shops & online: http://scooter-girls.com/
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