Jeff Curran has long been miffed by the social acceptability of Lycra in the cycling culture. “I get the comfort and need of spandex, but cycling was the one sport where people are required to wear racing gear when not racing,” he said, likening the trend to people donning their ski racing tights when out for a casual day with friends at the resort. “We wanted to give another option to wearing racing gear, to give [people] something that’s high performance, but comfortable after riding.”
Aside from the performance/comfort factor, he also points to less-than-ideal visibility conditions: Anatomical nooks and crannies tend to be on full display during après outings. So as an avid cyclist and triathlete with a soft spot for post-ride café drop-ins, Curran admits that he was part of the problem. He decided to do something about it, and ElevenPine was born.
The Boulder-based company specializes in merging performance and casual apparel. Its patent-pending NST adjustable-fit system allows athletes to wear form-fitting shorts during an activity like climbing, yoga or cycling, and then by simply releasing a Velcro strap, transform the bottoms into casual, comfortable après sportswear.
“It’s really a public service,” joked Curran, an investment banker turned entrepreneur. “Now you don't have to be that guy. There’s no need to be parading around in a little leotard suit. There’s just never been another option for people before.”
Like so many others, ElevenPine hopes to ride the wave of the flourishing athleisure market, an industry that Curran notes is expected to rise to $20 billion by 2020. Crediting Lululemon for the trend’s beginning, he points out that many other companies are working to follow Lulu’s lead, but they aren’t differentiating.
“Everyone is doing the same thing as everybody else,” he said. “We’re stepping back and starting fresh and making a true difference.”
ElevenPine fills the most immediate need of “no more ‘toe” for cyclists (We’ll let you figure that one out on your own.), but Curran is quick to point out that yoga, climbing, hiking and running can all benefit from the brand’s innovation. Climbers will love the pants’ close fit when hugging the rock and selecting quickdraws, while yogis can confidently rock their headstands without worrying about gravity’s negative affect on their shorts—a change their classmates are sure to appreciate. And like bikers, both camps are sure to welcome the looser-fitting option for post-workout social endeavors.
ElevenPine’s beginnings were largely serendipitous. Curran had spent a few years mulling around the idea for his versatile short system before he happened to sit next to Hillary Glenn, a contract apparel designer, in a coffee shop. Glenn’s background with Spyder and Pearl Izumi, among other high-profile activewear brands, impressed Curran enough to mention his concept.
After that meeting, the pair began working together and devised a few sketches. Gradually others started helping out—mainly ex-Pearl Izumi employees—providing advice on patterns, fabric selection and sourcing, and manufacturing options. Two years in the making, the fledgling brand will launch this summer with men’s and women’s shorts, a women’s skirt and gender-specific liners with a built-in chamois.
As with any new business, barriers indeed cropped up. Curran initially hoped to manufacture the shorts in the U.S, but due to their technical nature, an “American made” logo would have jacked the bottoms up to $200-300 a pair. Deciding instead to pursue an international manufacturer, he found out firsthand the difficulty of being a little guy vying for time on the factory’s schedule.
“I’ve been fortunate that I have a great group of people who are with me and have a lot of credibility and have done this before,” he said.
Another struggle: Navigating the fine line between meeting a need and changing a culture. He readily acknowledges that in cycling towns especially it’s cool to walk around in spandex, but he wonders how many people would opt not to do so if there was an alternative. “We really just want to give people a choice,” Curran said. “If they want to have something high performance but also comfortable on and off the bike, they have a choice.”
With prototypes ready to go, Curran is set to take a tour de Colorado, stopping by cycling and outdoor retailers to show off ElevenPine’s innovation. Although he will also sell direct to consumers through BetaBrand, he believes that “for us, people need to touch and feel and see what it is.”