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Cycling in Fashion with Petria Lenehan

15 Aug

Note: we wrote a guest blog for the American Bike League — in an effort to show how great cycling in Dublin is (becoming). We’re republishing that same blog here. Feel free to let us know if you think we gave the right impression. Photo’s by Rich Gilligan.


Petria Lenehan is a Dublin fashion designer schooled in New York, Florence and London. She owns Dublin fashion boutique Dolls.

Dolls is a Disneyland for fashion lovers. Every item contributes to making it a magic kingdom for grownups: Panama hats, brown leather camera cases, and copper pharmacist scales line the walls. At the entrance stands a matte green Dutch bicycle.

Petria primarily has that bike because it brings structure to her days. With a dual role as fashion designer and boutique owner, Petria’s life is hectic. Five years after opening Dolls, she still finds herself sketching dresses in business hours – meaning she will have to do bookkeeping later that night. But now, with help of her bike, a change has come about.

Petria recently rented a studio, forcing herself to be business woman in her boutique and fashion designer in her studio. It does require Petria to frequently travel between studio and shop, though. For that, she heavily relies on her bike, which has become the beacon of structure in her working life. Every day at her boutique, she loads shirts and skirts in her bicycle basket and cycles to her new studio.

But Petria also has the bike for its style. When the Irish Times recently wrote an article about Dolls, it said ‘you don’t have to arrive (…) by Dutch bike, but if you do you will be among your tribe. This is Dublin 8, darling.

And so Petria decided to display a bike alongside dresses, hats, scarves, frocks, jumpers, socks and clogs. She also decided to get a Dutch bicycle herself. As with her fashion designers – such as Peter Jensen, Cahterine André, and Renate Henschke – Petria personally knows the owner of the Dutch bike company, Joni Uhlenbeck.

Next to Dolls, in the same building, is a café called Bibi’s. It is run by Petria’s sister: Maisha. The food at Bibi’s has won more awards than the King’s Speech won Academy Awards , and Dublin 8’s Dutch bicycle tribe now has an extra reason to go shopping at Dolls – many customers walk into Dolls with peanut butter brownie crumbs still on their lips.

Petria – knowing the amount of calories going into her sister’s brownies – is happy her clientele comes by bike. Seeing her customers cycle away assures Petria they had a guilt free shopping experience. And that they won’t come back to change clothes that all of a sudden no longer fit them.



Cycling Symphonies with ‘Koor de Stemming’

8 Aug

In what must have been the sunniest weekend this year, Amsterdam choir ‘Koor de Stemming‘ visited Dublin. To mark the occassion ot their visit, bear bicycles and the Dutch Embassy Dublin organised ‘Cycling Symphonies’ — a hit-and-run a capella concert tour through Dublin; on Dutch bicycles and delivery bicycles.

Here’s the video:


And here’s a look behind the scenes.

Before you watch this, it’s good to know that before the choir started its tour, one of its singers helped inflate the bicycle tyres of some bikes to well beyond the maximum capacity. When you then add in those tyres subsequently got to roast in the sun for several hours (causing them to expand), you’ll see the result is a ‘blowout’ (in Dutch: ‘klapband’).

Our filmmaker Paddy Cahill captured its sound, and the ensuing looks on several soprano faces.

A Classy Commute –with Photographer Cliona O’Flaherty

9 Jul

South Studio Dublin, situated on 27/28 New Row South, is a hub for bicycle aficionado’s. In a previous blog item, we interviewed Aisling Farinella – a fashion stylist who works in that Studio. It turns out Aisling shares her office with Cliona O’Flaherty – a talented photographer who can recall every bicycle she ever rode.

Cliona’s first bike was a chrome BMX. Cliona got it for her 8th birthday from her mother, who had bought it off Cliona’s older brother for 40 pounds. Cliona and her BMX were like an American outlaw and his horse. Cliona has been that close with each one of her bikes since; the purple mountain bike she bought with hard earned cash, or the vintage bronze Hercules bike her Dad bought for her at Cash Converters when that purple mountain bike was stolen.

Bikes and trees - photo by Cliona

Today, Cliona cycles a traditional black Falcon Westminster bike. In the weekdays, she uses it to get from her house in Drumcondra to South Studios. The trip gives her inspiration for work; on a bike, she can see people up close and that gives her ideas for portraits. Cliona also does a lot of food photography, but she can’t say whether she is inspired by the hamburger modeled bell on her steering wheel, or by the Otto Lenghi dishes she is so fond of. Her fondness of bikes has – in itself – also helped for some photo shoots with bikes in it.

In this shot: Cliona's own Falcon Westminster. With a wicker basket.

In the weekends, Cliona and her boyfriend Chris Judge (an illustrator who’s also into cycling) cycle down Drumcondra’s tree lined Griffith Avenue to the coast line. At the Bull Wall they park their bikes, go for a short swim, after which they lie flat on one of the large sun warmed stones that protect Dublin from the incoming waves. Sometimes, they continue their cycle to Sutton, or even Howth. It is the best way to escape from work.

Or actually; it was the best way to escape from work. Because on a recent cycle trip, Cliona and Chris came up with their first creative co-production. As a result, Cliona and Chis produced a short film called the ‘Lonely Beast’ (on show in the IFI on July 17th). Now, the couple is already working on their second co-production: Lisa Hannigan’s new music video.

Sometimes work is just too good to escape.

inspired by cycling - Cliona's work on rocks along Dublin's coast

Portrait by Cliona: inspired by cycling

Inspired by cycling: photo by Cliona.

Wooden bicycles by Jan Gunneweg

1 Jul

Jan Gunneweg was 3 years old when he started woodworking. Growing up on a typical Dutch house boat in the north of the Netherlands, Jan joined his father at repairing the boat in the summer. It was his first contact with wood; and it set the course for the rest of his life.

At the age of 10, Jan had built an armada of wooden model boats. Each time Jan finished a new boat, he would hold it up to his mother and say he wanted to go to the Woodwork Academy, to learn how to build a real boats. And indeed, years later, Jan did go to that same academy. But he did not end up building boats; he started building bikes instead.

At the Academy, Jan lost interest in boats. Jan – who had been a semi professional ice skater until an injury forced him to quit – had been gripped by road racing like a boa constrictor grips its victim, and he poured his passion into his profession. For his graduating masterpiece, Jan set out to build a wooden race bike. To demonstrate wood can rival steel and carbon, Jan participated in national races – where he easily kept up with competitors.

His hobby and passion evolved into his business. Jan creates wooden bikes, wooden sunglasses, wooden poker tables. Students work in his workshop, eager to learn from Jan’s mastery of the trade. Jan shows them what to look at: grains in the wood must be straight as an arrow, blurry grains deliver blurry products; cherry wood and walnut are best for stiff, rigid racing bikes; ash is better for flexible road bikes.

Currently, Jan and his team only make bikes to order, and consequently prices start at EUR 6000,–. But they are working on a line of bikes to be produced on a larger scale, and at a lower price. Jan expects those bikes will be a success: the bikes are easy to ship, and easy to assemble – ‘somewhat like IKEA’, says Jan.

Then he smiles, and turns back to his work bench. He brushes away wood shavings, picks up his scraper, and continues smoothing the surface of a cherry wood bike frame.

IKEA is still a long way to go – and we’re glad it is.

Cycle Chic Blogger Conference — send us your stuff

29 May

In two weeks, we will be attending the Cycle Chic Blogger Conference in Barcelona. ‘Cycle Chic‘ is a concept Mikael Colville-Andersen invented in Copenhagen. Its aim is to show the style in cycling. Colville-Andersen started in 2006, and has since then spread  Cycle Chic over the internet faster than a bowl of crisps is passed around at a house warming party. Cycle Chic now has worldwide coverage, with bloggers in all the major cities showing how bikes and beauty are a natural combination. The bloggers avoid anything with helmets and lycra, and seem to have a preference for ladies on traditional bikes (who wouldn’t?).

In Barcelona we will be meeting those bloggers to hear about cycling from Seville to Sydney to Sacramento — and then some.

We, in turn, will show what Dublin has to offer on stylish cycling. And that’s where you can help. If you have footage of our city’s Chic Cyclists, let us know.

I am posting some Cycle Chic material from Dublin below, to set you off in the right direction. But please feel free to contribute anything you have — films or foto’s; poetry or prose.

Lady on bicycle, Dublin 8 (by Rich Gilligan)

Ladies cycling on o' Connel Street, Dublin

Lady Cyclist on Dublin bike, near Beckett Bridge (by Cian Ginty)

A Classy Commute – the Fashion Stylist

23 Dec
Aisling on her Red Bike

Aisling on her Red Bike

Fashion stylist Aisling Farinella rides a ladies’ bike with a red frame and a whicker basket. She has a special relationship with her bike. However, that relationship did not develop overnight.

Her previous bike was a yellow bmx, and it was Aisling’s perfect fit (Aisling isn’t very tall, and neither are bmx bikes). So when the bmx was stolen, Aisling was heart-broken and she decided to quit biking. For a year, she walked instead.

In the end, it was with help of her friend, Fiona Mullen, that Aisling got back to biking. A friend of Fiona’s had moved back to Australia, but had left her red bike in a Temple Bar repair shop. For a year it sat there – until Aisling was talking about getting another bike and Fiona remembered the red bike. After having described the bike to the shop owner, it took him two days to drag it out, but when he did, it was love at first sight. And with that, Aisling was back on a bike; a red one instead of a yellow one.

Aisling's Stylish Cyclists (Irish Times)

Aisling's Stylish Cyclists (Irish Times)

Now, she can hardly imagine having lived without it. Aisling lives three minutes from her studio on New Row South, but even for that short distance she’ll ride her bike. The photographers, architects and graphic designers she shares the studio with will know Aisling is at work when her red bike is parked in the studio’s bike room. In recent days, while Aisling was preparing the launch of Eilis Boyles 10th collection fashion showcase, the red bike would be waiting when others started arriving at the studio. Aisling likes to start work early.

Eilis Boyle Installation at Aisling's Studio

Eilis Boyle Installation at Aisling's Studio

Apart from starting early, Aisling’s days are unpredictable. Her whole career has been unpredictable. She holds a Masters in Cinema, but while working as a production assistant, she met photographer Gordon Goodwin and was sparked by his distinctive approach to fashion. It inspired her to become a fashion stylist. The recent Eilis Boyle installation at her studio, with its delicate lace against dark backgrounds, shows Aisling has incorporated a distinctive approach into her own unconventional style as well.

Aisling and Fashion

Aisling and Fashion

It’s that unconventional style that gives Aisling a diverse group of clients; she works for small fashion boutiques, but also for Dunnes Stores – where she styles the Savida brand. Her love for cycling has also surfaced in her professional work. When the Dublin bikes scheme launched in September 2009, Aisling styled an Irish Times special cycle edition. She sought out all sorts of Dubliners, all sorts of bikes, and all sorts of styles to show how universal cycling is.

Lady on fixed gear bicycle (Irish Times)

Lady on fixed gear bicycle (Irish Times)

The Irish Times special edition is well worth a read. But in the end, Aisling herself is the best tribute to cycling in Dublin. Even though her job makes it unavoidable to occasionally travel by car (to transport railings and clothes), she’ll do anything to rather ride her red bike.

Of course, the fact that she drives a drab, silver gray Opel Astra has something to do with it as well.

Bicycles, Fashion, Rain.

15 Dec
Christmas Party at the Pod

Christmas Party at the Pod

Tomorrow, the Dublin Cycling Campaign hosts its annual Christmas Party (8:30 pm, The Pod, Harcourt Street). Like previous year, bicycle lovers will have plenty to look at: bicycle Christmas trees, bicycles films, and bicycle battles (next week, this blog will bring you a report of the party itself). This year, however, the Dublin Cycling Campaign also introduces a new element: fashion. In a Bicycle Fashion Show, Dublin designers will be sending out models to show their costumes and bicycles.

bicycle and fashion

Sleek, meaningful - bikes on billboards

Fashion and cycling go hand in hand these days. Bicycles are found in shop windows and glossy magazines. Models with tilted heads and meaningful stares, leaning against sleek bike frames, decorate the city’s billboards. So a fashion show dedicated solely to cycling is the natural next step to educate people cycling should be done in style.

We’re glad it has come this far. However – coming from the Netherlands – we are also surprised it has. To us, cycling is as much a fashion statement as taking out your garbage. We had not expected bicycles could be a centerpiece on the catwalk. To clarify that, have a look at these lovely ladies in Amsterdam:

Dutch bicycle with lady

Lady walking with Dutch Bicycle, Amsterdam


Dutch bicycle lady

Lady on Dutch Bicycle, Amsterdam

This is the Netherlands: where cycling is purely functional and style isn’t on a cyclist’s mind.

At least, until now.

Because more and more, the non-Dutch focus on cycling in style is also surfacing in the Netherlands. For example: three Amsterdam ladies recently set out on a mission to bring style to Dutch cycling. Inspired by 18th century Victorian couture, their company Madame De Pé produces stylish raincoats that make flapping poncho’s belong to the past. And there’s more: fancy fixies and bmx bikes are other examples of foreign influences on Dutch cycling.

So tomorrow, at the Dublin Cycling Campaign’s Fashion Show, we’ll be extra alert. Maybe we’ll find some Dublin fashion that suits the Dutch.

Madame de Pé Victorian Coat

Madame de Pé Victorian Poncho