Naomi Mahendran | Brand Consultant
I can’t help smiling when cycling across London Bridge on a morning when the sun shines brightly with the Thames and Tower Bridge in the distance.
As a freelance Digital Brand Consultant, Naomi spends much of her time exploring the city on her custom built bike, working on a variety of projects across London. A love of cycling and her personal style has inspired her to create Hackney St Cloud – an online destination for women looking for cycle-friendly apparel.
MX: I understand you are launching a new e-commerce platform Hackney St Cloud for female cyclists. Can you give us a brief background into your career to date and how this has influenced setting up your new venture.
NM: I have been working as a digital producer/project manager in the creative and fashion industries for the past 8 years. Working with companies to set up websites, social media and how their brand is positioned online has made for a natural transition to building an online platform like Hackney St Cloud.
MX: Tell us about Hackney St Cloud; what inspired you to start it and where do you aim to take it?
NM: Hackney St Cloud was started in 2013 as a blog documenting style news, street style and features for women cyclists who didn’t want to sacrifice style and comfort when on their bikes. I am now re-launching in 2015 as a destination for women who want to look good on and off their bikes, offering a range of established and emerging designers specialising in cycle-friendly clothing and accessories.
I love fashion and am passionate about maintaining my own personal style and have never let that get in the way of cycling. On my travels I’ve been lucky enough to run across niche fashion brands who are dedicated to bringing cycling and fashion together in creating stylish products that don’t sacrifice the comfort women cyclists need – and my goal with Hackney St Cloud is to make these clothing and accessories accessible to urban women who want to keep their personal style while on their bikes.
MX: With the recent rise in cycling related commerce, how do you intend to separate yourself from the existing market?
NM: Women have different needs when looking for cycle-friendly clothing. The growth of ‘performance’ cycling clothing and brands catering for sports cyclists hasn’t addressed the requirements of a woman who uses a bike to cycle to work, and then straight out to social events and still be able to arrive looking polished and styled.
As more women incorporate cycling into their daily routines a gap has grown for an offering of cycle-friendly, yet stylish clothing and accessories for fashion-aware, urban women who don’t want to sacrifice their personal style in favour of comfort and function when riding. Hackney St Cloud will offer cycle-friendly clothing that still retains a fashion edge for busy, urban women who don’t want to carry a change of clothing wherever they go.
MX: How long have you been cycling for and how has your cycling evolved over this time?
NM: I’ve been cycling for the 5 years I’ve lived in London. I first rode a heavy Giant mountain bike borrowed from my parents, but soon traded it in for a lighter, single speed steel Viva Bellissima city bike that I used to potter around my local area.
As I gained confidence, riding grew to become an integral part of my day to day life. It’s been my main form of transport for years now, and most recently I’ve found a passion for longer rides; getting the train out to destinations around England and riding back to London. It’s an incredibly rewarding feeling to ride back home just as the sun is setting after a good 5 or 6 hours down beautiful country lanes and across bumpy downs with the anticipation of a celebratory pint at the end with your riding companion.
MX: We’re very envious of your custom built chrome Colnago road bike. Tell us more about it.
A year ago, I decided to challenge myself and build a road bike. I enlisted the help of a frame builder friend, who helped me source a beautiful chrome Colnago steel road frame from the 1970s. I showed up at his workshop and over the course of an afternoon he helped me assemble my bike, complete with full groupset, all the way to the handlebar tape. The sense of achievement I felt once it was complete was and still is, unrivalled.
MX: Tell us about your cycle commute to work, how often you do it, how far it is, and why you enjoy it.
NM: I live in East London, but as I’m a digital brand consultant my contracts can take me all around the city. I found early on that cycling was not only the easiest way to get around, but the most enjoyable.
My commute varies depending on the agency or studio I’m working with – but no matter where it is cycling is my main form of transport to get to and from work. At the moment I’m in London Bridge, so my journey takes me 20 – 40 minutes, depending on whether I go through Bishopsgate and over London Bridge or take a longer route and ride through Holborn and across Westminster Bridge.
London is one of the most historic and iconic cities in the world – one of the most enjoyable things about cycling is the close experience I have passing famous monuments and beautiful locations every day on my commute. I can’t help smiling when cycling across London Bridge on a morning when the sun shines brightly with the Thames and Tower Bridge in the distance.
MX: How do you integrate cyclestyle into your everyday wardrobe and what key pieces do you find work best for cycling?
NM: I’m a firm believer in the idea of cycling being able to fit into my life as seamlessly as possible, which means not sacrificing style for comfort when riding. I would describe my style as a little sporty, a little feminine and edgy, and I don’t want to compromise that when I ride. I tend to buy clothing and accessories that are cycle-friendly and work double duty for everyday wear on and off the bike.
A good backpack or messenger is essential, ideally with separate pockets to hold bike lights, puncture repair kit and a basic set of bike tools. My Michaux Zodiac is my go-to cycling bag as it also doubles as a chic handbag when off my bike. Also a waxed oversized parka with a hood that I can layer over button down shirts and skinny jeans to protect against the damp London elements.
A good pair of cycling gloves is also a must to protect against sore palms and biting winds in the colder months. I like the vintage, knit and leather fingerless ones by Veeka, inspired by the versions made famous by competition cyclists in the 60s and 70s in iconic European races.
MX: What is your favourite bag from the Michaux range and why? Tell us a bit about how you use it, where you go with it and what you carry in it?
NM: My Zodiac messenger bag is a key part of my everyday cycling wardrobe. I’m definitely not a minimalist – and it’s big enough to hold my daily essentials like a laptop, wallet, makeup bag, keys and notebooks. The smaller front compartment perfectly fits a lock and cable, basic bike tools, puncture repair kit and bike lights and there’s a hidden side compartment offering easy access to my phone. I also love the fact that you can extend the strap if I’m not riding to turn it from a messenger into a long-strapped shoulder bag – perfectly paired with heels, skinny jeans and a blazer for a night out.
Follow Naomi’s blog Hackney St Cloud here.
Photography of our Michaux Woman series by Rosie Holtom.
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