Building up to our PSFK SEATTLE event on May 10th, we’re interviewing the creators and thought leaders who will be sharing their latest ideas with us. Ann DeOtte Kaufman is the founder of Iva Jean, a bike fashion and lifestyle brand in Seattle, Washington. Iva Jean provides functional and fashionable clothing—encouraging women to incorporate cycling into their everyday lives. Their garments are constructed of high quality materials and produced in Seattle, Washington (USA). Iva Jean has been featured in Momentum, Seattle Met, Huffington Post, Fast Company and VeloJoy.
What was the inspiration behind Iva Jean?
The inspiration behind Iva Jean came from my own experience starting to ride a bike as a young professional in Seattle. I was intimidated my first month or so; I got destroyed by spandex covered men and women, and messengers on fixed gear bikes toting monstrous waterproof packs. After spending a month in Europe, pedaling next to women, men and families of all ages riding their bikes in everyday clothes, I decided to take this lifestyle back with me to Seattle.
As I continued my love affair with biking in the city, I realized that I didn’t need all of the bike-specific goodies. Although, I did start to notice the things that made biking easier; rubber-soled heels, 4-way stretch pants and a big ol’ basket. This is why I set out to start a line of apparel designed to make biking easier for more women.
What design decision do you prioritize when creating biking apparel for urbanites?
I focus on flexibility and durability first. Being a lady that bikes in the city, hell, just being a lady in the city, I know how important these qualities are. Flexibility means that each piece has a timeless and sophisticated aesthetic, working on your bike, in the office or on the weekend. We also need more clothing that will last years – not be ruined by grease or coffee stains, stretch out quickly, or look worn after a season.
What experience or success has been the biggest affirmation for your original idea of starting Iva Jean? What has been the biggest challenge?
Winning the DailyCandy Start Small, Go Big contest was the first time I had strangers, professionals and tastemakers saying that they believed in what I was doing. It was such a boost of confidence and energy. Kickstarter was also a great opportunity – I was able to reach customers and enthusiasts that would have been impossible (or much more difficult) to reach. I love getting to know the women that are wearing our garments or support the idea.
I’ve faced plenty of challenges, but I am constantly trying to be more efficient and effective with sourcing and production management. It takes a lot of time and energy to make sure that things are running smoothly. You also have to put all of your trust in your patternmakers and cut/sew contractors
If you could change one thing about American city pedestrian/bike infrastructure, what would it be?
We desperately need more protected bike lanes or paths that get people from point A to point B. It has to be easy for new and veteran bikers, eliminating both real and perceived fears for those that wish they could bike more.
How did your interest in cycling begin and how often do you ride? Do you own a car?
It was 2006 when I first considered giving up my car and get around by bike. I was an ambitious, though broke, single twenty-something working at a urban design firm in the city. A lot of my co-workers were regular bike commuters and participated in Bike to Work Month.
At the same time, blogs like Copenhagen Cycle Chic where making bikes sexy again and reminding the world of how smart and beautiful a city on bikes can be. I was determined to become a lady on two wheels.
I moved to Capitol Hill, where I could walk, bus or bike to and from work, the grocery store, shops, and restaurants; watching my car sit parked for over a month. Shortly after, I turned in my car for a vintage black Motobecane, a lucky consignment find at a neighborhood bike shop for just $100. I was really excited to embrace a more urban lifestyle.
Since then, biking has become a huge part of my life – I ride my bike most days in the spring, summer and fall or on dry or light rain days in the off season. I always dress for the destination and take a slower approach to riding, I think this makes biking possible for me. As for the car, we recently bought one after deciding that we wanted to prioritize snowboarding and getting out of the city more often.
Thanks Ann! Meet her May 10th at PSFK SEATTLE.
Visit PSFK SEATTLE to see who else is speaking and click below to buy tickets.