People often ask where the inspiration came from for LUMO. The short answer is lying face down at a mini roundabout next to Battersea Park, after an altercation with a small Hyundai. The only damage done was a bruise the size of a baked potato, and the driver went on his way after apologising that he 'just hadn’t seen me' in my dark jacket and jeans.
It struck me how close the moment had been to being something more serious, yet I was more offended at his suggestion of buying some fluorescent gear than I was at being knocked over. As a seemingly rational and logical bloke, the realisation that vanity was outweighing safety in my decision-making was a bit of a thought-provoker. I wanted all the function of cycle clothing but from good looking gear, something I could walk into the pub in without looking like a radioactive lemon, a drowned rat, or covered in sweat.
The idea had been sparked. We created LUMO clothing to subtly integrate useful technology with classic, understated style.
In the process, we’ve learned a lot about the design, sourcing and production requirements that go into making the myriad of garments in your typical wardrobe, and have formed our own views on what is important to us here at LUMO. All of our designs have to pass three essential tests to make it from the design easel into production:
2. Comfort and convenience
3. The pub
First up is the functionality test - does it do what it’s supposed to do? In the case of the Clissold Bomber, the primary function is making the wearer visible to traffic from over 400 metres away. This was the by far the most intensive part of our design process, developing the LUMO lighting system that is hidden behind fabric panels that allow the light from the 14 ultra-high brightness LEDs.
Integrating lighting behind fabric panels means that you need to find textiles that match the main garment fabric, are substantial enough to disguise what’s behind them, yet translucent enough to allow light to beam through. We eventually settled on a high quality nylon that we found in a family producer in the Portuguese textile belt just outside Porto. After a countless prototypes, we found the perfect combination of fabric and LEDs that allow the lights to be visible up to 400 metres away yet mean we can design garments that look normal and not make you look like some kind of futuristic oddity like Google Glass.
the original design sketches showing how leds would be integrated
Next up is the comfort and convenience test, the principle that what we do has to work both on and off a bike. Fundamentally, that means not having to carry changes of outfit depending on whether you are cycling or are walking into an office or bar, and being comfortable in either case.
This all came about thanks to a number of failed commuting outfit experiments in the run up to the incident with the Hyundai. What I quickly realised was the normal clothing just doesn’t work well on a bike for a Northern bloke with a propensity to sweat at the merest of physical effort. If I wasn’t arriving at my desk to hoots of derision at the clinging map of Africa on my back, I was skulking to my chair soaked to the skin after a downpour. It was apparent that my wardrobe options either kept water out on the outside but generated more heat than a Naga chilli, or kept me nice and ventilated but left me soaked at the first hint of a rain shower. Most traditional water-resistant fabrics seal the fabric with a finish that means nothing can get in nor out. However, after a lot of searching at textile trade shows and fairs, we were introduced to some of the world’s best in Schoeller, a Swiss fabric manufacturer who work wonders with fabric finishes that sit inside the fabric rather than outside it, and somehow manage to resist water on the outside, wick away moisture from the inside, and all while allowing air to circulate too. We have used their 3XDRY® fabric on the Clissold Bomber jacket, allowing us to keep the natural cotton twill aesthetic we like, all the while maintaining water resistance and breathability.
"What I quickly realised was the normal clothing just doesn’t work well on a bike for a Northern bloke with a propensity to sweat at the merest of physical effort"
The Bomber fabric is both water resistant and breathable
There are a host of other small details that make the Clissold comfortable and convenient to wear, whether that is the cross-over collar to keep the wind off your chest, the dropped tail to keep the rain from your nether regions, the sleeve or inside zip pockets to keep your phone and essentials safe, or the USB-rechargeable battery pack that means you don’t need to remember to bring it with you to charge it once you’ve got off your bike.
Doug critiquing one of the first Clissold Bomber samples
Last up is the pub test. Would I feel good walking into a nice pub to meet some mates wearing this? It’s simple, it’s unashamedly subjective and it’s 100% fundamental to LUMO. After all, it was the recognition that style was coming before safety that started this whole journey in the first place. So, it’s down to the George & Dragon we go, and if it passes the critical eyes of our most style-conscious friends, it’s going to be hitting the production line.
"Would I feel good walking into a nice pub to meet some mates wearing this? It’s simple, it’s unashamedly subjective and it’s 100% fundamental to LUMO."
The evolution of the Clissold Bomber Jacket
The Clissold Bomber Jacket is now available on Kickstarter at a special pre-order price of £125. Click here to shop.