Created 17 years ago as our first ever product, the Classic Jersey still serves as the purest expression of Rapha’s original idea: cycling clothing that’s at once functional, refined, durable, and classic. So this year, when it came to updating our longest-serving garment, we knew these principles were non negotiable.
A Classic, Recycled
Part of our original collection, our iconic Classic Jersey and Bib Shorts have been ridden over countless kilometres. And now, with recycled materials incorporated into the luxury fabrics used in both, they’re ready for many more to come.17 March 2021
Recently, we have also committed to improving our impact on the world around us by finding more sustainable ways of creating our products. Any changes we made would not only have to uphold the values the Classic Jersey represents but also reduce its environmental impact.
We’re aiming to be a carbon-neutral business by 2025. Along the way we’ll be reducing our impacts by transitioning to 100% renewable energy, 100% low impact packaging, and environmentally preferred materials across 90% of our seasonal production. It’s a long and challenging road ahead, but the greatest changes often come from the smallest starts.
“What might sound insignificant at first – swapping out a fabric on one jersey – actually has a domino effect for our environmental impact as a brand,” explains Duncan Coulter, Rapha’s sustainability manager.
“Rapha Performance Merino (RPM) – the foundation of the Classic Jersey – is also used elsewhere in our range, making this a high volume material for us. In switching out the virgin polyester to a yarn made exclusively from post-consumer recycled materials, this benefit reaches out to a number of other products.”
From special editions to the Brevet collection across both men’s and women’s, RPM features in many of our garments and accessories – and rightly so. This innovative, proprietary blend of merino wool and polyester is a wonder material for cycling, providing excellent breathability, sweat wicking and natural odour resistance, all at a minimal weight.
“The new Classic Jersey represents a drive to doing things better,” says Emma Bentley, Rapha’s fabric development manager. “This garment is so prominent, and is such an icon, that making this change really demonstrates our commitment to reducing our environmental impact.
“We’ve taken the polyester content (64%) and switched to a post-consumer recycled PET yarn,” explains Emma. “In a like-for-like swap, this shift required no alteration to machinery or knit structure, allowing us to continue working with the same material supplier we’ve worked with since the beginning in one of our longest standing relationships.”
The recycled polyester yarn in question is GRS (Global Recycled Standard) certified whilst the merino content – which makes up the remaining 36% of the RPM fabric – is sourced under strict adherence to animal welfare standards, and is non-mulesed, like all wool at Rapha. Next year, our RPM supplier will achieve RWS (Responsible Wool Standard) certification – the highest standard in the industry.
But the environmental positives that accompany the fabric swap wouldn’t count for much if the durability or performance suffered as a result. “Decreased product lifespan creates more need for new garments,” Emma continues, “and for Rapha, one of the most important elements of this process was to ensure we weren’t making any compromises. The new fabric must be as long-lasting, resistant to pilling, and durable as the fabric that we’ve known for the lifetime of the brand.” Afterall, quality, durability – both physical and emotional – and material impact are all equally important components in the larger definition of sustainability.
To ensure these standards are met, the new recycled RPM underwent the same rigorous wear testing programme that all Rapha garments must pass before making it to customers. Over a season’s worth of riding time, our riders each put the jersey through its paces in a diverse list of locations, spanning both hemispheres.
From Melbourne’s humid winter to the dry heat of summer in Barcelona, the new Classic Jersey excelled just as expected. Wash after wash, our prototypes did not pill, fade or become misshapen. Once thousands of kilometres of testing on the road had been completed, the product development team were convinced.
Standards met and fabric approved, the new Classic Jersey could now fulfil its potential as the beginning of our commitment to doing things better. And for Duncan, the emotional connection at play was as significant as the environmental one.
“This jersey was Rapha’s first product, so starting here makes a big statement. We could have focussed on a less important product or even developed a whole new low impact collection. But by starting here, with our most iconic garment, we’re making a statement that this commitment to doing things better comes straight from the heart of the brand.”