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Inclusivity and domestic manufacturing are benchmarks of Ocean and San clothing

Published January 25, 2022

VENICE BEACH, Calif. (BRAIN) — Alec Wilimovsky, Andy Lau, and Jake Durrant created Ocean and San cycling apparel to manufacture casual but functional tops sized for all body types.

And to do it all in the U.S.

"We designed Ocean and San to allow people from all walks of life the opportunity to ride in comfort and in style regardless of cycling experience and without breaking the bank," Wilimovsky said.

Officially started last March, Ocean and San is primarily direct-to-consumer with a dealer network of 10 Southern California stores with more partnerships being explored in the Western U.S.

Wilimovsky said the genesis of the Ocean and San came from wanting apparel for all styles of riding, from commuting to the coffee shop to hitting local mountain bike trails and gravel roads. The collection includes short and long-sleeved tops and tank tops, all designed with three back pockets and constructed from a cotton-polyester blend Dri-Release fabric. The short and long-sleeved shirts also have a front pocket.

"We designed the All Day Shirt because we were sick of riding one hour to a coffee shop in a jersey that was designed to win the Tour," Lau said. "There was a large disconnect between how we were riding, and what we were wearing."

Upon getting feedback from friends and other cyclists, Lau and Wilimovsky discovered their apparel would have even more applications.

"We quickly realized that this apparel was perfect for more than just the cafe ride," Wilimovsky said. ... Our evening gravel spins were always more enjoyable in a T-shirt. We just needed one that could safely hold our belongings. When running errands around town, it is always more comfortable to ride with our wallet and phone in our shirt, rather than in our back (pants) pockets. The product we designed solved all of our concerns, and feedback showed us that we were not the only cyclists with these concerns."

Despite the trio having no previous fashion design experience, Ocean and San began after Wilimovsky retired as a professional triathlete and invested his savings into starting the company. But that only resulted in a website, one short sleeve sample "and about enough fabric to produce a single table cloth," Durrant said. That's when Wilimovsky's older brother, Jordan, loaned enough money to proceed further.

"We were confident in the product that we wanted to make," Wilimovsky said. "There were months of research and development before we landed on a product that we were excited to ride in, but then came the obstacle of turning this idea into a reality. We had a lot of uncomfortable miles riding in prototypes that were not quite what we wanted, i.e., armpit rashes, dropped phones, and sweaty backs. Eventually, we landed on the perfect prototype to move forward with, and produced a few to test on friends and the community."

While comfort and functionality were paramount to the team, inclusivity also was a consideration. Ocean and San men's clothing features sizing up to XXL and women's ranges from XS to XL.

"If you have ever zipped up a race jersey with a few extra unwanted pounds, you know how uncomfortable and intimidating it can be to walk out the door and start your ride, let alone have the confidence to join a new group ride." —Jake Durrant

"The cycling world can be an intimidating one to get into. A lot of high-fashion cycling brands can often feel unapproachable, elitist, and for a beginner cyclist, the cost of a full kit from many brands can be enough to turn them away from the sport," Durrant said. "If you have ever zipped up a race jersey with a few extra unwanted pounds, you know how uncomfortable and intimidating it can be to walk out the door and start your ride, let alone have the confidence to join a new group ride."

Men's and women's prices range from $75 long-sleeved shirts, $68 short-sleeved, and $55 tanks.

"We work with low margins so that we can offer high-quality domestic-made apparel that doesn't make you reach into your savings account," Durrant said.

And manufacturing locally fits with Ocean and San's ethical beliefs.

"We love that we can text our factory manager at any time," Durrant said. "Manufacturing just down the road from us allows us to keep a close eye on quality control, keep overhead low(er), and make any design adjustments as needed. It was important to both Alec and I that we could walk into our factory and be on a first-name basis with the people who cut and sew our apparel. Because we manufacture locally, it allows us to be more accountable and transparent with our customers. We also know that our consumers appreciate the fact that we produce locally and in the U.S."

Durrant said "fast fashion" — manufacturing overseas, shipping to the States, while ignoring environmental impacts — is one of the worst pollutants in the industry. All Ocean and San shirts come in recyclable packaging and local deliveries are made by bike. To keep overhead costs down, Ocean and San manufacturers in small batches whenever inventory is low or when a retail partner needs to fill stock. That strategy has an added benefit of giving it the ability to make product improvements when needed.

"We also take steps to ensure ethical sustainability," Durrant said. "For example, when sourcing a factory in L.A., we made sure that all workers had fair working conditions and were paid a living wage."

Expanding its dealer network is a goal going forward. Luft Los Angeles Cycling Shop was its first retailer. "We try to partner with dealers who share our brand values," Wilimovsky said. "We love cycling-community spaces and shops that bring local cycling communities together. Luft was founded with the goal of bringing together the L.A. community, increasing representation, and expanding cycling culture beyond the bike."

Topics associated with this article: DEI and Sustainability

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