FK talks to Susan about her Sydney label Rocket Fuel. Rocket Fuel was at the recent Sydney Finders Keepers Markets in December.
What products do you create under your label Rocket Fuel?
Rocket Fuel started with cycling caps made from vintage fabrics and then as they grew in popularity extra products such as coin purses, ladies cycling capes, babies caps, recycled bike jewellery, badges, brooches and basket covers have all been added.
Because everything is made from vintage fabrics every piece is cut and made by hand and no two pieces are ever the same so no one can have the same cap or cape as you. Now we even offer custom cap design so we can screenprint and logo caps to whatever design you’d like, this level of customisation is proving very popular.
What inspired you to create custom made caps and accessories for the bike riding market?
Apart from my lifelong passion for cycling and a love of all things fashion and design there was a significant moment that led to the creation of the labels direction.
I had been at the Bicycle Film Festival and had been seeing everyone in fashionable clothes but with the caps from the pro tour teams and it just looked wrong. The festival finished on the Sunday so on the Monday I started working on the pattern and within a fortnight had the pattern and construction all figured out as well as some caps made. Built the website and then added up the caps and made sales in the first hour and have been making caps ever since.
What do you love most about what you do, and what inspires you most?
The joy of riding. That feeling you get in the first few pedal strokes it never goes away and I find it so invigorating. I want everything I make for Rocket Fuel to not only look great and be fashionable but also to be practical. If it doesn’t work on the bike it doesn’t get to go into the range.
If things get overwhelming or I’m making a new product and I get stuck on the pattern or the construction the answer often comes while I’m out cycling. I’ve heard about scientific studies that say cycling increases creativity as your brain is being used in a very basic way to keep the bike going forward and to stop you from falling over and that this ‘basic activity’ allows the creative part of your brain to then function more efficiently. Am never sure if that is a proven fact or not but the fresh air certainly does help stimulate the ideas and I always come back refreshed and ready to design and make.
One of the other aspects that I really enjoy is the community spirit within the cycling community. So much support from all over the world has been given to Rocket Fuel and it truly is such a humbling thing when someone writes about your product on their blog just because they like it and they like to support small business it really is very touching.
Rocket Fuel also tries to give back to the community as well. In the past year we have helped sponsor bike polo, courier races (here and overseas), sprints, alley cats and possibly 2 of the best achievements the ‘we brake for cake’ scavenger hunt by bicycle and the Sydney Tweed Ride. The ‘we brake for cake’ was encouraging girls (boys were allowed as well) to get out and join in a bicycle scavenger hunt and have fun using their bikes where it wasn’t a race but just to enjoy seeing the city in a new light. It was such fun we’ll be making it an annual event. Another annual event that Rocket Fuel was proud to be part of the the Sydney Tweed ride where riders indulge in some sartorial style donning plus fours, waist coats and large amounts of tweed for a stately ride through the city, plans are already going into place for this years ride to take place in June. It is sure to be a fantastic stylish day out on the bikes.
What is your background and what lead you to a specialist area like vintage cycling style?
I studied fashion for 3 years and then went straight into working within the industry. This industry experience gave me such a depth of knowledge that it was invaluable in helping me run my own business.
I come from a family of cyclists and have been riding for as long as I can remember. Most of friends either ride casually or are serious sporting cyclists. Not only is it the joy and freedom of moving by bike it has a long history of epic battles and struggles in which the fastest and flashiest are not always the ones that win but the ones who work really hard and craft themselves in riders are the ones to triumph in the end. This rich tapestry of cycling being of the people really inspires me as we move into a time where cycling is having a resurgence in popularity and people all over are discovering this wonder in bikes all over again.
What has been the most valuable lesson in running your own label?
Being passionate about what I am working on and targeting a specific group. By specialising in on products that will serve a cyclists needs be it a racer or a stylish rider who likes to take it slow, allows me to indulge in my passions of blending old with new and create stylish practical pieces that really speak to the customer.
Where would you like to see Rocket Fuel in the future?
Would love to see it grow and expand into more products and have more retail outlets so that more people are encouraged to get onto their bike and just go for a ride. It truly does make you see things in a different light and Rocket Fuel can keep you stylish while you explore the world.