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Ashley Watson - Pushing the limits of motorcycle apparel

16.06.2017

After years of working for some of the UK’s top brands, London-based clothing designer Ashley Watson set up his own label for highly functional motorcycle apparel. He not only designs his clothes, he also tests them. For his new Dyneema®-infused Eversholt motorcycle jacket, he took it on a month-long expedition across Europe – a trip that climaxed with a crash.

Please introduce yourself, and tell us why you do what you do.
I cut my teeth working three years in-house as a designer at Ted Baker and then for another four, freelancing for a number of UK labels; learning the ropes and honing my skills. Two years ago, I set out to combine my passion for design with my love of bikes, and build a collection of highly functional motorcycle clothing that performs while still looking good.

What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from working your way toward owning your own brand?
It’s easy to fill a sketchbook with new ideas but what I’ve come to realize is that it’s better to do fewer things, but really well. I now work on each product in isolation, fine-tuning the design in the studio and then heading out on my bike to test the prototypes and make sure every detail is doing its job. 

Can you please tell us a bit about the heritage of your brand? 
In 1910, my great grandfather raced non-stop from London to Edinburgh on a motorcycle. He then did it again in 1911. He was riding the third Triumph ever made – simply called ‘Model’ – of which there were only 3,000 constructed. It would be an impressive run even today, but think back to what it would have been like then – the road dotted with potholes, the constant risk of punctures from scattered horseshoe nails, limited night visibility, and a top speed of 40mph. He wasn’t afraid of a challenge and that’s been an inspiration to me. 

What bike do you ride yourself?
I have a custom Kawasaki W650 that was built by some friends at Maven Industries in Wales. The tank is from a 1964 Bonneville, the speedometer from a 1930s Morgan, the pannier racks are ex-military, and the kick-start was hand-turned out of brass. I was interested in combining parts that had their own story to tell and build a bike with character.

What led you to seek out Dyneema® fabrics to use in your product?
I was searching for the best abrasive resistant fabric to use in my latest development – the Eversholt Motorcycle Jacket. I wanted a fiber that was really strong but also breathable. Dyneema® was the obvious choice.

"Travelling alone and living off the back of the bike, I rode through some of the toughest climates and terrains Europe has to offer"

How did you incorporate it in the Eversholt Jacket?
The Eversholt Jacket’s outer shell is constructed from an 8oz Waxed Canvas. Behind this sits a seam sealed drop liner that's both waterproof & breathable. Coupled with storm guards at the neck and cuff, this makes the Eversholt Jacket fully waterproof.

Then I chose a 160 gram/meter woven Dyneema® fabric. I sandwiched it between the waterproof waxed canvas and a quilted layer which has allowed me to create a product that has some of the best abrasive resistant qualities of any textile motorcycle jacket on the market without having to compromise on style or comfort. 

What’s the process when working with a material as strong as Dyneema® Woven?
On the whole, it has been very simple actually. It can be cut and sewn like a normal fabric. The specialist outerwear factory that I’ve partnered with to make the Eversholt Jacket, has had no problems.

How did you test the jacket?
I drew lines on a map for a month-long 4,000-mile motorcycle expedition around Europe with the aim of pushing the Eversholt Jacket to its limits.

Travelling alone and living off the back of the bike, I rode through some of the toughest climates and terrains Europe has to offer. I crossed the unwavering heat of central Spain, pushed through hours of pounding rain, followed tracks to secluded lakes and felt the sharp cold air as I rode high in the Alps before dawn. All the while, I searched for beautiful, untouched landscapes and documented those that I found.

The trip was cut short when I came off my bike while riding off-road in the Alps near Mont Blanc. The front wheel tucked in as I was going downhill over some loose gravel. It was an abrupt ending to an eye-opening month on the road but I came away from the accident without a bruise and, in doing so, I knew the test was complete – the Eversholt Jacket worked.

Finally, would you share with us which innovations outside of your immediate profession you're most excited about at the moment?
Recently I met Jorge Penades, a furniture maker from Madrid who has invented a way to take off-cuts from the leather industry and form them into a material with similar properties as wood. It would be interesting to see if there were ways that I could adopt similar techniques into the products I design.

Visit ashleywatson.co.uk