Mike Giles talks about his spark of design inspiration in a dusty pair of crochet cycling gloves; keeping the romance of Veeka alive as a passion business; and shares his favourite city cycling ride in downtown Montreal.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Mike Giles and I do many things to satisfy my love of design and modernity. For the past few years I’ve run a product design company; which includes two side projects with other partners.
One is Veeka for cycling gloves and apparel, and the other is Neuvo for analog and digital watches. I know, right? The two are connected by a desire to bring modern twists on classic designs–from crochet cycling gloves to the Casio digital watch.
Both of them started as test ideas with family and friends. Now they’ve each reached a ‘secondary scale’ where I’m forced to think more about the business by dealing with the less fun realities like logistics and operations, but they’re still being managed alongside other projects that pays the bills.
What was your ah-ha moment for Veeka?
I was inspired by finding a pair of crochet cycling gloves that were forgotten at the bottom of a deep discount bin at a local bike store. You literally had to blow the dust off of them. I saw the value in their heritage and there was something about them that was a bit kitschy but practical. So I figured out a way to bring them back to life.
What is Veeka’s mission?
It’s hard to say. I started Veeka with a good friend who lives in Italy. Being Italian he was interested in vintage bikes. We started to play around with this idea of cycling gloves because they’re a product that’s globally attainable and could be managed with small inventory.
Eventually we got a friend in Singapore on board as well; who is now responsible for Asia and Australia. We’re at a point where any new product can be absorbed by three people with more geographic coverage. Three people to share costs with makes Veeka possible at its current size and structure.
What does the name mean?
The two triangle logo actually came first. I am also a woodworker and had been experimenting with off cuts. At home I had two triangular picture frames on the wall; I looked up at them one day and saw a ‘V’ and an ‘A’ in them. Somehow the word “Veeka” popped into my mind. I thought “perfect, off we go”. I wish there was more of a story, but that’s how it happened.
What problem does Veeka want to solve for city cyclists?
Veeka operates at the cusp of fashion and function for cyclists. We design products that match your desired look while still serving a purpose while riding a bicycle.
When you fall, the first thing you do to protect yourself is put out your hands. Cycling gloves are an essential safety product as well. However, the functional side of things is actually secondary for us. This isn’t how we feature Veeka but there’s a very real reason why all professional cyclists wear cycling gloves.
How does the Veeka brand try to stand out?
The individuality that our cycling gloves represent. We’re a small niche brand that has a pure and simple reason for being. We have fun. As a small team, we can adapt pretty quickly to what we see and hear in the market. At the core we want to design nice cycling gloves that give a nod to our childhood.
Initially the Veeka brand was adopted by people into the fixed gear scene. Now we’re seeing growth from people interested period-specific and heritage cycling–the tweed riders.
What was a business challenge you had to overcome? What did you learn from it?
It’s kind of funny. In the 1970’s every manufacturer made crochet gloves because they were the norm. But now they aren’t widely manufactured anymore. Nobody in North America is doing this. When we finally found a factory in Pakistan, which is the leader in glove making, trying to make even the simplest tweak to the design (such as more padding, inserting reflective thread) is a challenge.
Having the right machinery, our quality standards, working across cultures and time zones are all parts of the process that we learn from with each order we make. The benefit of smaller minimum orders means that making any design changes is a big deal for manufacturing.
What do you envision Veeka’s impact to be in 5 years?
Honestly, if it could stay as a few friends continuing to pursue our ideas by revamping heritage products, it would be a good thing. It’s hard to say what’s next because it’s a passion project and what limits us is time.
That said, Veeka is still very much romantic for us. Taking the next leap isn’t something we’re ready to do right now–especially with production. The best part of this is the stresses are minimized. We all enjoy the purity of the idea. If it was our ‘9-to-5’ then we wouldn’t necessarily like to deal with those issues every day.
At the core we want to design nice cycling gloves that give a nod to our childhood. – Mike Giles, Veeka
Time to pay it forward. Who else is doing exciting things for city cycling that you have your eye on?
Sahn Helmets is doing a cool, more minimal horseback riding-inspired bicycle helmet. It’s something simple, modern and more comfortable.
Tell us your favourite cycling city or city cycling experience (or craziest!)
What’s interesting here in Montreal is you can get anywhere by bicycle. There’s a pedestrian/cycle only bridge that goes parallel to island of Montreal that’s 300 feet wide but 20kms long. Gives good viewpoint of city but in nature and only 15 minutes from the downtown of Montreal. At the end there’s a beach you can swim at.
Finish this thought: “Cycling is…”
Cycling is freedom of mobility. (And not having to park a car in construction season.)
Finally, it’s time to nerd out a bit. What do you ride?
I just got a brand ‘new’ old 1980 Miele road bike that came from Toronto. Jim Miele imported some high end Italian bikes and rebranded them back then. He also manufactured some locally. That’s why you see so many Miele’s on the road in Toronto. There’s a real Toronto cycling story behind them.
Discover the full line of vintage-styled city cycling gloves from Veeka to keep your hands safe and stylish. And if you’re into Casio-inspired digital watches with a modern twist you can find them on the NEUVO website.
(Images courtesy of: Veeka)
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