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Susan Mocarski saw a problem and set about designing a solution: in this case, a boutique cape that protects commuters atop bicycles from both precipitation and perspiration.
Mocarski founded Cleverhood LCC to address the needs of a huge demographic of cyclists, like herself, who ride on an upright step-through bike, in regular clothing.
She wondered why no one was making apparel designed for “slow bikers,” a term recently coined to describe people who ride bikes for daily transportation, as opposed to fast-road bike riding as recreation or sport.
“I was tired of sacrificing look for performance in rainwear,” she said. “One thing led to another, and I found myself at a textile show in New York, trying to find a waterproof, breathable fabric.”
She became a fabric fiend, traveling to Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer show, where she visited nearly 50 vendors and walked away with more than 100 sample fabrics.
Mocarski claims she only intended to make one piece, until a hurdle prompted her to go big: “The minimums were huge, and I thought, ‘I can do this.’ ”
Cleverhood LLC was incorporated in 2010, and the garment was launched in April 2012. The first place Cleverhood went into production was Jade Apparel Inc. in Newark, N.J., where she had to commit to at least a sample run of about 100. Mocarski says she quickly made adjustments, and there have already been two or three generations of the cape. “Meanwhile, [the first trial run] is what all my friends and relatives are wearing,” she joked.
The latest incarnation of the rain cape includes a fitted hood, to wear under your helmet; an outer loop for a coat hook or to hang a safety light; a zippered outer pocket; holes for your arms, snapped closed by magnets; reflective trim; and elastic loops hidden inside the cape to keep it in place over a bike’s handlebars.
“I hope it will ever evolve. Because we’re small, we can make those changes. We can be adaptive,” Mocarski said.
The first beta testers were buyers from the Brooklyn Bike Jumble, and the second round were New York City bike messengers, who filmed the cape in action. Cleverhood’s customers have been very helpful in shaping the product.