Q&A With Bike Fashion Designer Sarah Canner of Vespertine NYC

Sarah Canner’s the talented, smart, beautiful and gracious woman behind the clothing line Vespertine.

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I’ll be honest. I have a girl crush on Sarah Canner. She’s the talented, smart, beautiful and gracious woman behind the clothing line Vespertine. With her inspired take on reflective clothing and her charming personality, it’s easy to see why she recently won the ISPO BRANDNEW award for Apparel. True to form, she took time during her vacation to answer a few of my questions.

How did it all begin? Vespertine I mean . . .

It started with the introduction of Paris’ Vélib’ bike share and a Custo coat; Custo is a Spanish designer known for bold prints and loud colors. I had friends who insisted that city biking was the best way to get around town, but I was convinced it was suicidal. I was living in Paris when Vélib’ started and a station sprung up right outside my apartment, so I felt obliged to take one for a spin. I liked it. My confidence grew. I could get places quickly and I was discovering a whole world built for biking – one I had been totally unaware of as a public-transit riding pedestrian. It quickly became my favorite way to get around, but my sense of danger didn’t totally disappear.

Here’s where the coat comes in. I had a beautiful Custo Coat – white with a loud ’50s-inspired print splashed across it. When I wore this coat my sixth sense told me I was visible, and it helped me get over my fear of biking in the city. I loved the coat but I didn’t want to wear it every time I rode. And because I was using the Vélib’ system there were days when I might spontaneously ride a bike after having left the house via subway, etc. So I got the idea of buying a safety vest – something I could wear over whatever else I was wearing to become more visible. But the only options available were the standard crossing guard/ construction vest. Why did safety wear have to be ugly? That spark started Vespertine.

What’s been one of the best moments for you since you started Vespertine?

Wow – that’s tough! There have been so many great ones – they mostly involve the amazing support I’ve had from people who have been excited about what I’m doing. A top moment was seeing the NYC Commissioner of Transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan, in Vespertine’s Trench Oyster at the BE Chic BE NY Fashion Show! She has done so much to promote and improve biking in NYC and is one of my heroes.

And one of the worst?

My background is in film, so making the switch to the apparel business has had its challenges. One of the worst production moments I’ve had was when a roll of expensive 3M Scotchlite reflective material was cut incorrectly. I had all these pieces I thought I couldn’t use – then I realized they could become a really cool new design!

What do you think is going to happen to the cycling clothing industry over the next few years?

I think the interest and demand for fashionable functional clothing that enhances the “city” cycling lifestyle is growing. At the moment, the distribution channels for athletic bike apparel and for city cycling apparel are quite stratified. The majority are selling online or directly through fairs and shows. It will be interesting to see how bike shops and the larger bike industry incorporate the city cycling trend in the next few years.


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