Behind the HYPE: How Rapha Blurred the Line Between Cycling and Fashion
HYPEBEAST unlocks the story behind arguably the sport’s most important brand.
When Simon Mottram founded Rapha back in 2004, their main goal was to rejuvenate the world of cycling apparel. The first label of its kind to actively steer away from the gaudy logo-adorned on-bike garments of the ’80s, Rapha went about designing functional and stylish apparel that not only contributed to high-performance, but looked good too.
Rapha’s intentions to push cycling’s boundaries and create products out of the ordinary was obvious only three years in, when it collaborated with British designer Paul Smith for a unique collection of jerseys, bibs, and casquettes, as well as off-bike apparel too — the first unification of its kind.
“A considered design approach is just as important as technical innovation,” explained Rapha’s Product Manager Robert Obeng-Manu in an interview back in 2020. “We began to realize early on that cycling clothing can be an extension of one’s personal taste and wardrobe, so really honed in on this theory and started to create garments people wanted to wear, rather than had to for functional reasons”.
These types of collaborations have continued to play a major role in romanticizing the sport of cycling into something more and, for Rapha especially, has seen it garner a loyal brand following like no other. Link-ups with Snow Peak, BYBORRE and, most famously, Palace has introduced both Rapha and the sport to an entire new audience in recent years and, in turn, has continued to blur the lines between cycling and fashion.
“Our aim was to really broaden the demographic of people watching professional cycling and then hopefully see them parktake in the sport too,” continued Obeng-Manu. “We know Palace has a reputation for disrupting sport at the highest level and what we did with them was a great example of playing on the cycling kits of the ’80s and ’90s.”
Watch the video above as HYPEBEAST looks at the origins of Rapha and how it continues to push the boundaries of cycling, and check out previous instalments of Behind the HYPE featuring among others the Rolex Submariner and Grand Theft Auto.