Interview Patrick Dahl by Velonode.cc
Nowadays, if you’re riding bikes in Stockholm you know who the cycle club La Chemise is. Their distinct kits with yellow fluo designs has been seen at many high paced training rides and claiming podium spots in local races.
This is the story of entrepreneur Patrik Dahl who run the cycle club and the shirt boutique with the same name, and also the distributor of custom cycle apparel Verge Sport in Sweden.
Hi! Please introduce yourself!
“My name is Patrik Dahl, and I’m 38 years old, I think. I’m born 1976. I live with my girlfriend in central Stockholm. I run a shirt boutique in Stockholm with my brother.”
How did you pick up cycling?
“I’ve always been interested in cycling. In high school I was finding myself really bored in the middle of the 80s. I bought my first mountain bike and I was bitten by the bike bug instantly. The possibility to control the training yourself appealed to me a lot. I could train whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And the bike made me feel free, Patrik continues.”
There’s nothing that keeps coming back more than the word freedom. I understand why freedom is so connected to the love for riding bikes. But I think it’s interesting how this feeling captures the emotion of cycling for so many. Perhaps it’s the most limitless sport there is, I thought to myself while listening to Patrik’s story.
“I started to compete -93. I was 19 years old and I was training a lot with my neighbour Fredrik Kessiakoff. I had a few good results during the first years.”
But it wasn’t until -04 when a very specific moment opened Patrik’s eyes to road cycling.
“I was home watching Le Tour de France. I saw T-Mobile use new frames from Giant that had top tubes that were sloped in a way that was unique for the time. I loved what I saw straight away.”
Patrik is referring to some of the first compact geometry road bike frames that was introduced and he describes the frames in a way that make me understand exactly how he felt when he was mesmerized by the pink bikes in 2004. It’s not many people who can describe what made them fall for the sport with such precision.
You mentioned that you’re also running a shirt boutique in central Stockholm, can you tell us more about that?
“It’s a family business that started 1965. Me and my brother are running it in the third generation now. I’m in charge of sales, purchases and marketing.
We’re very focused on the customers and we always appreciate feedback on our products. We do some bespoke shirts, but mostly we develop our own models and we’ve become really good at it. We work very closely with our factory and that’s key to getting an end product that is exactly how we want it to be.
We carry a stock that updates continuously and beside our own brand, La Chemise, we supply our customers with shirts from Ralph Lauren and Stenströms, and a few others.”
What about trends and new styles. What are your procedures of development?
“We try to lead the shirt trends all the time. A few years ago, we actually created the trend with contrast collars on shirts. It’s not very fashionable now, but it’s cool to be able to say that I started a trend that got so big. My work is with me twenty-four hours a day. You can find great inspiration in a Harlem alley or by the beach of a seaside resort. I like that contrast and constant development.
I don’t look at our competitors so much. I’m inspired by travelling, colors, tapestry and interior decoration. I’ll attend some fashion shows annually and I try to always keep my eyes open.”
Have the creation of bespoke shirts helped you when designing cycling garments in any way?
“Well, it’s given me confidence. When you’re an inexperienced designer, you’re worried about what others might think but the more experienced you get the easier it becomes to trust yourself and your designs. I think that’s really important. Also, I’ve learned to analyze products and find out that makes it valuable to a customer.”
Do you have any top three tips for designers?
– Dare to be unique and create something that really stands out!
– Make sure your product has financial capacity
– Understand your customers
Since a couple of years, your shirt boutique also has a cycling team connected to it. What inspired you to create your own team?
“I had an idea about creating my own team with my friends and likeminded people. I wanted a team that focused on riding fast and in the style of the latest team kit trends. My friends were very excited about the idea and the group was homogenous. We became the foundation of La Chemise Cycle Club.
I wanted to make sure that everyone was perceiving cycling in the same way. Relaxed attitudes was a demand from my side. Then I wanted to create a team of friends that wanted to inspire each other and increase everyone’s joy of riding. So far it’s been a great success.”
How important is the clothes to your team? Why did you choose Verge as your collaboration partner? How did that collaboration start?
“The team kit played a huge role from the beginning and I did a lot of sketching and trying to determine the design. I quickly noticed that the domestic cycle clothing manufacturers in Sweden wasn’t really an option and I decided to search for an international partner. I happened to be in New York on vacation and I saw Verge and they were on a list of 10 brands that I contacted for our custom clothing order.
Among these 10 companies, Verge was the most customer-focused company.”
Patrik says that he fell for the positive attitude from Verge. He recognized the customer-focus from his own business and they began to work with his customized team order.
“The team kit is extremely important. I think one of the biggest reasons for our great group dynamic. We have a strict clothing policy and we love to look good while on the bike” Patrik continues.
“I like to improve the design with every new collection but we’ve unanimously decided to keep the yellow fluo as a returning element of our design since so many products feature that color now. We have to limit the purchases of new shoes, helmets and custom-painted frames now (laughs).
We differ from many cycle clubs because we have a range of team kits in different designs. I don’t like the idea of limiting the team to one kit.”
What makes Verge unique?
“Customer focused, innovative, attention to details, high quality and not limited to traditions.”
What’s next for Verge Sweden, you and your team?
“This first year with Verge has been very successful with countless of great customers, and Verge’s goals go hand in hand with the team’s goals in many ways.
Keep on improving and developing. We’re really happy about the Skoda Cycling Team collaboration and I can announce that we’re creating a one-off collection for my friend and recently retired pro tour cyclist Fredrik Kessiakoff!”
interview by Emil Rosenberg