Spotlight on Bicycle Fashion Designers – Proof

Omar Rada’s Proof makes technical daily performance wear for men and women.

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Spotlight: Omar Rada

Technical daily performance wear for men and women.

Founded 2012 | New York City, NY

“To be honest, there weren’t any surprises,” said Omar Rada of Proof when asked about jumping into a career in fashion design. “Because I knew that I didn’t know anything!” He chuckled, remembering his early naiveté. “A lot of learning, a lot of asking silly questions, and not being afraid to learn on the job.”

Based in New York, Rada’s ­first career was basically the opposite of apparel design. He began in finance and investment banking. After a ­five-year stint with Fresh Direct, New York City’s grocery delivery service, he found himself pulled in a diffierent direction.

“I’d always been interested in clothing that was versatile. For years I wore a simple SmartWool base layer more than any other piece in my wardrobe, but I’d never really thought about why. “Then one day I looked around and I realized that a lot of other companies were using these performance fabrics in interesting ways, and it dawned on me: I could do something.”

Influenced by active Manhattan urbanites, every article in the Proof collection is a neatly tailored piece that is at home in the big city: the tastefully understated winter coat; the flat front, tailored trousers, cut slim to flatter an athletic ­figure; the plain white tee updated in merino wool, a natural fabric with performance qualities. But it’s been a steep learning curve. “I mean, I love doing it, but it takes an incredible amount of attention to detail to make a beautiful garment.”

It all starts with the fabrics. At Proof, there is an emphasis on specialized textiles that belie the high-tech bells and whistles. “At a glance you just see a beautiful pair of pants.” The goal is to make the performance aspect completely invisible. Noticeably comfortable, almost surprisingly so, the pants are also highly abrasion resistant, owing to the high tensile nylon that makes up the core of the fabric (80 percent of it). “I suppose that I rarely design garments 100 percent for bicycling,” said Rada. “But rather for a life that is heavily influenced and inclusive of bicycling.”

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is not to take ‘No’ for an answer.” Rada said of his search for high-tech fabrics that meet his exacting standards. “But once the mills realized what we were doing, they were interested. We’re making really beautiful clothing, not just the same sporty stuff that’s been done for ages.”

Launched in May 2012, Rada is looking forward to expanding the line based on client feedback. “We’ve spent this last year trying to figure out what customers really like and how we can improve.”

Research is a key part of his method. For Fall/ Winter 2013, a classic button-up shirt was re­fined and then beefed up with high functioning fabric. As part of his design process, Rada got his hands on 250 versions of the wardrobe basic. He measured and spec’d each collared shirt, looking for the ideal formula. Then he spent four days in a Laundromat testing materials under real world conditions before choosing the best cloth for the ­final product.

When asked about his future as the head designer of a growing apparel brand, Rada demurred. “You know, I feel guilty saying that I’m a designer. I’m self-taught. I know so many great designers and I really respect what they do. Really, I’m still learning. Everyday.”

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