Spotlight on Bicycle Fashion Designers – Vespertine

Sarah Canner’s Vespertine introduces reflective fashion and accessories for women.

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Spotlight: Sarah Canner

Reflective fashion and accessories for women.

Founded 2011 | New York City, NY

While navigating the streets of Paris, France, on a Vélib’ bike share bicycle in 2007, Vespertine founder, designer, and creative director, Sarah Canner, was concerned about visibility. “As I reluctantly donned a yellow crossing-guard safety vest, the seminal idea for Vespertine struck,” said Canner. “Why did safety functionality have to be ugly?”

Canner soon began making safety clothing that she would actually want to wear with the intention to also encourage more women to ride. “I make Vespertine gear for Vespers,” said Canner. “ The word means evening star and evening prayers. A Vesper is anyone who is active day and night, like a prayer in motion, riding, walking, running, keeping themselves and the planet healthy. I think there are a lot of nascent Vespers waiting to be born, like I was before starting to ride in Paris. I make Vespertine for them, too.”

“In New York City, men outnumber women 5 to 1 on bikes,” shared Canner. “This is not biological. In the Netherlands, there are more women biking than men. To have a truly robust cycling culture we need more women in the saddle. And if women can feel safe and chic on their bikes, I believe they will be more willing to try.” While Canner readily admits that designing products for women who ride bicycles may not be the most lucrative business model, she is undeterred. “Everyone knows that biking has triple bottom line benefits, but the little secret that doesn’t always get shared is just how empowering and fun it can be to navigate life on two wheels. I want everyone to experience that.”

Sustainability is also an integral part of Vespertine’s DNA. In addition to producing gear in NYC, Canner uses Eco Circle fabric for many of her designs. “It’s a recycled polyester fabric that is produced in a cradle-to-cradle closed loop system,” said Canner. “That means it’s recycled polyester that can be recycled back into polyester. We use Eco Circle in a number of our products, especially the VESP.”

The VESP is a re-imagined safety vest that provides 360 degrees of 3M Scotchlite reflectivity that is also a chic fashion accessory. Cut to be flattering on all figures and able to be stuffed into its own compact pouch so you can toss it in your purse and always have one on hand, the latest version of the VESP has an inner pocket for cell phones and other items. “It’s truly Haute Réflecture,” said Canner.

While intended to turn heads on city streets, Canner’s chic take on reflective gear is also receiving international attention from the bike industry. “It was a huge honor and boost to win the ISPO Brand New Award in Munich in 2012. It allowed me to make inroads into the European Market and gave my fledgling brand real legitimacy and support. It was also a nod to the rising importance of women consumers in the biking market.”

Canner is now working on expanding her ready-to-wear collection to include shirts, skirts, and pants as well as bringing in some really exciting new reflective fabrics. Also in the works is an expanded accessory line and new packaging for the VESP.

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