Most people will never have to go through the process of having a custom kit made. In a way, I envy these folks. I have found myself in charge of clothing for a couple of teams on more than one occasion. Whether designing the annual kit for a shop, cycling team, or group of friends, the process involves more moving parts than just putting artwork on a jersey. Here are a few tips I’ve come up with to minimize stress should you find yourself in charge of a custom kit order.
I recommend always starting with an idea. This idea can be as specific as a completely realized kit to as vague as a simple three or four color pallet. The art department at any halfway decent custom cycling clothing company can provide three unique designs with something as simple as a color pallet. It may take a few rounds of the design process before you stumble upon a design you like, but this is a natural part of the process.
Even the most specific idea might take a couple of drafts before it’s effectively realized. I’ve come up with a few kits with incredibly specific designs in mind. Regardless of how well thought out though, there always seems to be a minor detail that needs ironing out before the design is finalized. This is where a good art department is crucial to the process.
Nobody wants to end up with a camel. A Camel is a horse designed by a committee. Either way, the fewer people involved the better. When you involve more than a couple of people, consensus becomes difficult. Feelings may even be hurt. Realize that not everyone is going to like even the best design. Trying to make everyone happy ensures nobody ends up happy in the end.
My best kits have come from just me working with the art department with an idea. The process has been the quickest in terms of turn around. It’s also much easier to finalize a kit when I’m the only person who has to like the design. These have also proved to be my most successful designs.
The opposite has also proved true in my experience as well. I am currently in the process of helping a large team design their kit for next year. The four people on the design side are all like minded and have come up with some solid designs. Unfortunately, the leadership committee is still trying to figure out which of the kits will go to production.
know your timeline
When it comes to kit production, a fast turnaround from final art approval to delivery is six weeks. Factor in the design process and eight weeks is still cutting it close. If you have an event coming up, or a tight deadline of any sort, keep this in mind. I would advise ten to twelve weeks if you’ve never gone through the process. If you don’t have a vendor, tack on two weeks for that search as well.
It’s important to know how long each part of the process takes. Some vendors have an efficient art department who can get designs to a client in a couple of days. Others may take a week or more. Production times depend on the time of year and where in the production queue your order lands. Also, order quantity is another factor to consider. Larger orders will obviously take longer to produce.
In the end, you want to be sure you’re the one who is going to be happy with the kit. I always advise to go with the most expensive option you can afford. There are few things worse than cheap cycling kit, so treat yourself and those who will order the kits.
The complaint of a cheap kit is more frequent and loud than the complaint about an expensive kit. Cheap kit doesn’t breath, it fits horribly, and wears out quickly. Expensive custom kits, depending on vendor, is usually considerably less expensive many high-end off the rack clothing. Team members may complain at the cost when ordering, but will praise the decision when they actually wear the stuff. Top kit performs properly, fits well, and lasts longer than half a season.
When it comes down to it, no matter how much you try, if you are dealing with a large number of people, some aren’t going to be happy. Maybe they won’t like the design you went with. Perhaps they won’t like the colors you chose. They may complain that the kit is too expensive. But ask them if they want to do the kit order next year, and chances are the answer will be no. Thanks for reading, and as always, keep the rubber side down!