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Riding for equality

POC’s stylish Commuter Collection underscores the brand’s core values.

27022019
Words Nick Rice

It was just over a century ago that citizens of Mannheim in Germany were the first to be introduced to one of humanity’s most influential inventions. The “Draisienne” or “Laufmaschine” arrived in Paris next, in the year 1818, and it continued on to astound people around the world.

Created by Baron Karl von Drais, a German civil servant, this velocipede was the precursor to the modern bicycle. The two-wheeled rider-propelled machine was steadily improved upon with models such as the ‘Dandy Horse’ right through to the modern day ultra-advanced bikes that can cost more than your average family car.

The bicycle has since transformed our lives in immeasurable ways. As the Earth is subject to increasing unprecedented threats — pushed ever closer to irreversible environmental collapse — the bicycle is perhaps more important now than ever before, providing an emissions free, planet-friendly form of transportation that is accessible to rich and poor, young and old, and eminently unisex.

Equality and sustainability are two of the core values upon which the Swedish sports equipment and apparel company POC is built. Damian Phillips, Head of PR and communication, explains:

— It’s about equality, and inside of that is sustainability, and that’s one of our strong Swedish values which we hold extremely close to us. When we are doing any product, what we want to make sure is that it’s egalitarian, it’s fair and equal in a lot of ways. How does that come out in reality? For example, we believe strongly that whatever helmet our pro-riders get to use in our pro-team that rides the Tour de France, that should be exactly the same helmet that you can go into a store and buy. And that is the case. We embody that principle of equality, and within that, there’s sustainability as well.

POC was founded in 2005, “to do the best we can to possibly save lives and to reduce the consequences of accidents for gravity sports athletes and cyclists.” Focusing on safety, performance and functionality, they’re now established in 25 countries and the company has earned major success in the skiing and cycling sectors. With the launch of the recent Commuter Collection, the brand continues to push the limits with developing bike gear technology and creating fabrics and garments that are as stylish as they are safety enhancing.

In a cute play on the phrase “back and forth”, and to emphasise the brand’s goal of enabling their customers to be ready, prepared and appropriately dressed for changing occasions through-out their day, the Commuter Collection is called POC and Forth.

Including the Corpora Aid helmet, which features a series of rechargeable integrated LED lights, wind and wet jackets, chill vests, toe caps and even a sleek silk scarf, the POC and Forth line has been instantly well received by consumers. The knowledge and intense work behind the line has also been rewarded with critical acclaim. Adding to over 60 international awards for safety, design, innovation and business, the POC and Forth collection was recognised with the prestigious Design S award — Sweden’s national design award that commends creative and innovative solutions across all fields.

Speaking on a darkening winter’s evening before heading out on his own bike, Damian said:

— That was very nice as it is a Scandinavian award, and it’s important to us to be recognised by our peers.

Damian, who has an impressive background in competitive cycling, expands on the helmet saying:

— The important thing about the Corpora Aid helmet is that it’s a commuting helmet. It’s not about performance from the racing perspective. This helmet has a hard shell meaning it’s sturdy and it has an extremely long life to it. It has ventilation design for different types of weather, meaning it’s more closed but can also manage perspiration. And it’s a multi-impact helmet — so it can withstand more than one fall. Those are the fundamentals, but what’s really important is the integration of the lights. Putting electronics into a helmet is actually quite a hard thing to do, but we’ve integrated an LED panel with wiring through it — and it’s a rechargeable helmet.

The implicit gain for the cyclist in the Corpora Aid helmet is being prepared for unexpected situations. If your bicycle lights are damaged, missing or flat, you’re covered and safe using the lights in your helmet. Versatility is provided — and that extends across the whole range. Reflecting on the aims of the collection, Damian says:

— When we talk about our commuter as a starting point, what we’ve always aspired to is eliminating the boundaries between the commute and the office, then the office going onto the restaurant, the restaurant onto the bar… the collection for us needs to be something where you can go seamlessly from the bike to the office and not be noticed as such — it’s a very nicely tailored piece but it has real function and form.

Joining the interview is Monica Lindström, Head of Apparel. With a solid background in textiles and senior roles in the fashion industry at brands such as Filippa K, Monica brings both fashion sensibility and a driving passion for materials and their possibilities to POC. Commenting on the audience for POC and Forth and balancing functionality and form, Monica says:

— It’s a combination… we want to inspire all people to prioritise safety, but with apparel we also have a lot of details and functionality. For example, we’ve used reflective prints and tailored the cut of the sleeves to have a pre-bend, to be more adapted to sitting on a bike, so it’s a garment that you can use on the bike but also off bike.

The textiles and wearable tech industry is rapidly developing and this dynamic atmosphere of change has clearly informed the passion behind the POC and Forth line. Monica adds:

— You can see a lot of technology and a lot of new fabrics, but creating products in a really sophisticated way and keeping the POC aesthetic has been, not the challenge, but I would say the real pleasure with the work. The brand has such a good history when it comes to design, so having that paired with technology has been so much fun. I’ve learned so much since I started here and there’s still more to learn… the collection will continue and for next Spring we’ll introduce more LED lamps and keep building with new additions, such as rain trousers adjusted in fit.

POC’s many strengths as a brand comes from the inherent quality and high performance of their products and it’s the work behind the scenes that makes this possible. There is a solid team at POC that comprises CAD and polymer engineers, industrial, fashion and graphic designers and communicators, marketers and ambassadors.

Their work means that POC is at the driving edge of progress, taking bike heritage and culture and merging it with what is around the corner, such as widespread wearable technology and connectivity. And most importantly, making advances whilst supporting a greener world and elevating the crucial role of the bike across countless societies.

Before he gets into the saddle himself, Damian sums things up saying:

— It’s long been known that the bicycle is the most efficient means of transport and holds the keys to solving many of the world’s problems, be it mobility, health, sustainability or happiness. New and integrated technology will only make cycling more relevant and even if the bike is a reassuring constant in a rapidly changing world, carrying its rider from A to B with efficiency, style and comfort, it has never been so relevant. Its time is now.