A motorcycling jacket equally at home in the freezing wind on your commute to the office or a sweltering ride through the Sahara, that will then look the part on a night out. A pipe dream right?
Wrong. A future where performance technology meets unparalleled design ethos and a classic timeless look is very much in the sights of Triumph’s Director of Clothing Kevin Charles.
“I came here because the mention of the word Triumph made the hairs on my neck stand on end. We’ve got a massive opportunity to create a premium lifestyle brand for a whole new audience all seeking that one thing that clothing and motorcycling offers… individuality.”
Kevin wears his devotion for the brand on his forearm with a Triumph tattoo. Oh, and the fact that he’s owned around 20 Triumph bikes, from Speed Triples and Tigers to Daytonas, since buying his first love – a Diablo Black 94 Speed Triple in the same year as the Rottweiler ad launch.
“I sold it and got a Daytona to go with my ‘65 Bonneville. A few years ago I was really missing it, so decided to get another one and after months of searching, found one at a dealership in the Cotswolds in the middle of England,” he says.
“I got there and it was perfect apart from a slight chip on the clutch cover. My old one had a chip in the same place. When I checked the paperwork my name was there as a previous owner. I had to have it and I did. I won’t let it go again.”
He’s been in the position for a year – evaluating the range, gathering consumer insight from Germany, France, the UK, east and west coast America and sampling new materials to make the dream reality.
The man who developed his commercial know-how working for industry-leading brands including The North Face, Vans and Converse says: “The foundation is that Triumph is an authentic British heritage brand and that in itself is almost priceless, but we can’t be complacent with it.”
He concedes that subtly reinventing and realigning a clothing range won’t happen overnight, but there’s a discernible shift in the way he believes they will propel the brand into a whole new arena, while still looking after the traditionalists.
Speed Triple style
Driven by a desire to look different – Kevin would scour the retro clothing shops in London’s Camden and South Kensington in his 20s – the allure of the original Speed Triple was was accentuated for him by its black leather jacket and indigo selvedge denim image.
“That’s what motorcycle clothing should be about. The clothing for a Bonneville rider is different to that for a Tiger rider because the genres are different. If you ride an adventure bike, you want clothing that protects you and reflects the tech within the bike but can be worn all year round, keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter,” he says.
“On the other hand, a Bonneville rider wants something that protects him or her, that they can wear down the pub and is iconically cool and timeless – two completely different things.
“If you ride a roadster, you’ll want gear that has a lot of tech included, that you can wear on the road and on a track day and still look good and feel safe. That’s a key area we’re working on across the models.”
Classic, iconic, timeless
Kevin insists that one thing must identify Triumph’s wardrobe of the future: “That’s the need for every piece of clothing to be a classic, iconic staple, capable of looking as cool and as relevant in a decade as it does today. Take the Bonneville… it’s a classic iconic look that’s got better with age. It looks as good today as it did 60 years ago, so why should clothing be any different?”
A passion for British cool
“So many people are passionate about our brand. The possibilities for creating a raft of iconic basics is endless. That kind of gear can be worn by anyone, including people who don’t ride, but who are inspired by the coolness associated with a Triumph motorcycle. It speaks about them because it looks good. Whether the branding is overt or covert, it reflects premium high quality and is aligned to one of the coolest British brands.”
Most of the new lines are still under tight security ahead of their official launch later this year, but FTR squeezed a couple of teasers out of Kevin.
“One thing I can say is that a lot of the new clothing will incorporate the Union Flag and product-wise, we’re launching a new Triumph airbag for autumn/winter 2019, which offers riders 360-degree protection front and back and fits under any jacket,” he reveals.
“It’s triggered by an integral box that has algorithms built in that inflate the airbag in a millisecond, has been developed by MotoGP riders and is Wi-fi connected at home for instant algorithm updates.”
That kind of innovation is at the forefront of Triumph’s work into continuing to pair quality, design and versatility with clothing that never dates. “In a nutshell, we want our clothing to be relevant, iconic and tech savvy now and long into the future.”
As they say, watch this space.