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Swrve apparel brand announces plans to close

Published February 27, 2024

LOS ANGELES (BRAIN) — Cycling and outdoor apparel brand swrve plans to close after 20 years in business, citing escalating operating costs. While no more orders will be placed, swrve will continue operations to sell off inventory in the coming months.

"After 20 years, the landscape of our industry has changed," said Muriel Bartol, general manager and co-founder. "We've seen the cost of business increase across the board, from the cost of our fabrics, to cut and sew, transportation, shipping, e-commerce platforms, payroll, marketing, etc. etc. It's never been easy to run a small business, but every year we face growing costs to the point where we can't raise our prices and remain competitive."

Swrve, which became one of the first companies to offer cycling-specific jeans, would like to find a buyer.

"We would love to have swrve continue with the same dedication to quality and customer engagement as always," Bartol said. "We think our brand has tremendous potential with the right partner; if you know of anyone that fits the bill and could be interested, send them our way."

A new owner would have to navigate a challenging apparel industry, in which sales in the bike specialty channel were down 13% last year, according to Circana Group/Retail Tracking Service. In NovemberPace Sportswear closed after 45 years, the result of declining sales following the pandemic. A year ago, Kitsbow Cycling Apparel closed after a community financing round fell short. In 2022, longtime wool cycling apparel brand Kucharik Bicycle Clothing announced it was closing. 

At the same time, outdoor brands including Outdoor Research, Rab, and others have entered the market, focusing on the touring, gravel and mountain bike segments. And one of the industry's largest apparel brands, Pearl Izumi, changed hands in 2022.

"We are a teeny-tiny company and have been able to hold our own with apparel behemoths for 20 years, and we're incredibly proud of that," Bartol said. "But we simply don't have the buying power to negotiate the size and price of orders like they do, nor do we have the volume to negotiate discounts in shipping and other overhead costs like the big companies do.

"We've always seen increasing costs with each new run we do, but in the past few years, the price increases and minimum-order quantities have increased dramatically, to the point where it makes it difficult to move forward with how we do business."

In 2011, swrve moved into an 8,200-square-foot location that houses all operations from design to warehousing.

"We started swrve with a single product: a pair of knickers intended for urban cycling that were designed and made in a tiny rented studio in downtown Los Angeles and sold via word-of-mouth through the local bike community," said lead designer and co-founder Matt Rolletta. "We grew into an innovative outdoor company found in shops worldwide with quite a few notable achievements."

In addition to the cycling-specific jeans, swrve was the first to use stretch Cordura denim, Rolletta said.

“We want to add that though these are the external pressures the swrve is facing, we’re ready for a new adventure,” he said. “We’re excited to start a new chapter in our lives with time for other interests that we have mostly set aside for the past two decades. As the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens, and we are eager to find out what lies beyond for us.”

Swrve co-founders Muriel Bartol and Matt Rolletta.

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