VSA’s Lauren Ayers shifts into high gear with new cycling apparel

The world of cycling is one of high speed, determination and intense passion. And over the past year, VSA Designer Lauren Ayers found herself in the center of it. Ayers’ experience hasn’t only been her first encounter with competitive cycling; it’s also been her first foray into fashion design. Her latest apparel line went on sale at the end of March by Tenspeed Hero.

The Chicago-based cycling journal and company was founded by Luke Batten and Jonathan Sadler, two professors who combined their shared passions of cycling and art into a community for fans of both (called, appropriately, “Heroes”). Ayers was first introduced to Batten as a student attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Years after graduating, the two reconnected at a design reunion hosted by the school. “She looked like she always does: wonderfully dressed with an easy elegance. We knew the world of sport needs Lauren’s thinking,” recalled Batten. Shortly after the meeting, she received an email from her former professor simply stating, “We should talk about socks.”

Ayers was given her first assignment: a sock line for the company’s La Girafe Sportive collection, to be released in the summer of 2013, called Les Cent Marches. Although Ayers prided herself on her design experience, the practice of designing for apparel came with a big learning curve. “I’d paid attention to and appreciated fashion since I can remember, but other than some light experimentation with my own wardrobe, I came into this completely unfamiliar with how apparel is mass produced,” Ayers said. “So there was some trial and error in designing pieces that could actually be made.” She and other Heroes visited the factory in Italy that produces many of Tenspeed Hero’s pieces to gain insight on manufacturing techniques. “I definitely had some epiphanies when seeing in person how Lycra was made, how heat transfers happen and how jerseys are assembled.”

After her La Girafe Sportive success, Ayers continued the line by creating a stowaway jacket and cap. Her designs quickly caught the eye of many within the Tenspeed Hero community. As Batten reported, “We work with a wide variety of designers but Lauren has an exceptional eye for color and pattern. Her patterns have this clarity and classic feel that grounds the design, allowing her to be more experimental with color. It’s a great motivation to produce images and copy for each design.”

And her work was noticed by Cady Chintis of Les Petites Victoires, a Chicago-based elite amateur women’s cycling team; LPV adapted her Les Cent Marches design into a team jersey and cap. “I get a huge kick out of the idea that there’s a pack of badass women racing (and winning!) wearing things I designed,” she said. Ayers continues to work with Tenspeed Hero on a number of different products, including jerseys, shorts and more caps and socks. When asked if she plans on continuing her relationship with Tenspeed Hero, she replied, “I don’t know how to say ‘no’ to them because it’s been nonstop fun. I think they’re stuck with me.”

Learn more about Tenspeed Hero and the La Girafe Sportive line by following them on Twitter and heading to their official website. Visit the Tenspeed Hero store to purchase their newly released apparel, as well as prints and accessories. And follow Les Petites Victoires’ calendar to see Ayers’ uniform in action throughout 2014.

Apparel photos by Luke Batten and Samuel Copeland, courtesy of Tenspeed Hero. Lauren Ayers photo courtesy of Lauren Ayers.