Born out of a friendship and shared love of impractical vehicles and the clean aesthetic of 60’s and 70’s road racing, this project represents the culmination of seeds planted a few years ago. When Sacha started in on a design for the new Vanilla kit, he was reminded of how garish modern team gear has become. It’s true that sponsor’s names have long been part of the deal, but it’s not hard to wish for a little more attention to aesthetics when it comes to how they’re displayed (hat tip, La Vie Claire). Thinking about what the design could be, he wanted to evoke the beauty and simplicity of past designs, while keeping the forward-looking feel the Workshop believes in.
Crucially, he had just picked up a new hotrod: a 1971 Volvo 142. This was the first of Volvo’s boxy designs, combining lines and angles in ways that make it look somewhat nerdy, while still being Euro and sporty. Think college professor meets James Bond. The car. The kit. The connection. It all felt right.
The kit’s design didn’t just align with our new direction—it was a physical version of it—a fitting aesthetic that reflected where Sacha was going with the bikes in the Workshop. And the way that kit connected with our new team car got us thinking more and more about the Vanilla team. How is it that a bunch of individuals, spread around the globe, remain connected? What is the fabric that holds our group together? It’s both a rhetorical question and a very real one.
Right around this time, Sacha reconnected with Chris McNally for a road trip to ride Mt. Baldy outside of LA. Though they went to high school together, they hadn’t seen each other since.
“Even back then, everything Chris was working on was incredible. He was obviously a natural, just beginning to explore his own talent and approach.” –Sacha
Now, Chris has his own illustration and print studio in San Francisco, and a global reputation both in and out of the bike industry. Chris’ process is all about bringing a distinctive point of view into a project, and then moving towards a place where his subtle water colors and rich lines collide in a complex balancing act between analog and digital. All these ideas connected powerfully with Sacha’s thinking about the team identity. Seeing how Chris’ illustration had evolved, the aesthetic he’d developed, and the passion for racing and riding threaded through his work, Sacha knew he wanted to work with Chris. Tapping into Chris’ talent and point of view, the goal was to capture the flavor of the team and spirit of the team, showing how we see our group coming to life out in the world.
The pieces in the McNally collection range beyond traditional cycling clothes and into a family of items that bring to life the different vantage points and elements of being a team—in spirit and practice. Each piece is designed by Chris, and features his distinctive use of illustration line and brushstroke. In keeping with the Vanilla approach, the visuals shift as you get closer, revealing subtle details and nods to the experience of the race, from the charge of spectating to the grace of the peloton to the beauty of the caravan vehicles—in particular our ’71 Volvo 142.
Vanilla started around one person’s vision for what bikes could be and do. But the best ideas have a tendency to transform and morph into something beyond just one person. Ideas and teams are a lot alike: they thrive when exposed to the right mix of challenge and support. What was once confined to a notebook and late night dreaming has become something fueled by a group of people who share some of the same goals, but who definitely don’t always see things the same way. Who would want that?