Spotlight on Bicycle Fashion Designers – Iva Jean

Ann DeOtte Kaufman’s women’s attire designed to enhance and inspire riding.

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Spotlight: Ann DeOtte Kaufman

Women’s attire designed to enhance and inspire riding.

Founded 2011 | Seattle, WA

I managed to catch Ann DeOtte Kaufman as she was getting ready for her photo shoot. “I’ll curl my hair while I talk to you,” said the head designer of Iva Jean, a line of fashionable and functional bike clothes.

“At the beginning of the year, we ran a survey,” Kaufman told me, referring to a questionnaire that asked women who bike about their everyday clothing habits. “We had over 300 responses. It really con­firmed what I had suspected all along.”

Kaufman, like the women who responded, found she was having a hard time dressing for a life on and off the bike. “Women are so resourceful. They’re wearing things and trying to make them work for all-day use. But there aren’t very many options out there. They’re always searching for something better.”

“I’m excited to be a resource for women who bike. I want to solve the problems they face so they can avoid the trial-and-error.” She decided to expand her successful line of feminine basics by adding a pair of pants that are designed for women right from the very start.

“A lot of what’s out there for women is either sporty or derived from menswear. There are some great brands making great basics, but they all start with their men’s pants.”

For Kaufman, it’s not enough to take a men’s style pant and adapt it with a shorter hem and some slight tapering at the waist.

“We started the process with a conversation,” she said, referring to the survey. “Now we take the sensibilities and aspirational qualities of a woman with great style, add the research, and make a great pant.” The new Iva Jean trouser is scheduled for late Fall 2013.

“I really want to keep the production in Seattle. That’s very important to me.” Kaufman eschews overseas production. “We partnered with Outdoor Research, a well-respected company that did our seam sealing.” The relationship began through a local connection. “Keeping in touch with the right people can open a lot of doors.”

And making connections certainly goes both ways as Kaufman is committed to the Seattle bike community. She recently completed a 16-week bicycle advocacy program with the Cascade Bicycle Club. She also volunteers her time as a bike mentor. “You connect with someone in your neighborhood, help them ­find the best route, and ride with them so they feel comfortable.”

The highlight of her advocacy work has been through Bike Works and the Seattle Girls School through a program that teaches kids sustainable living, including how to build their own bikes. This year the sixth grade science class studied bicycles. “It’s mechanics, physiology, ecology, all taught through the bike.”

The culmination was a three-day bicycle camping trip with 26 11-year-old girls all riding bikes they built themselves. “You see all these girls, they are so pumped. It’s so inspiring to spend that time with them. They’re great.”

“I’ve always valued community,” shared Kaufman. “By working on a local level you can make big changes.”

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