Design plays an inextricable role in all of our everyday lives, whether you ride or not. Form and function come together to tell a story, to enhance or detract from our everyday experiences of moving through the world.
If you’re a person who feels like things haven’t been made for you in an area that you love, it’s tough. For those who are resourceful, you might find a way to make what is available work for you, even if it’s not perfect. Not everyone can make it work, though, for a variety of reasons.
Every once in a while, someone rises to meet the occasion and create the things that were missing. Women’s motorcycle gear and apparel brand Atwyld is one of those instances. Founded by three badass women riders who knew from experience what was missing, the company is making gear that fits both the wants and the needs of many women who ride.
Atwyld has collaborated with Bell Helmets more than once, and their most recent offering is the Atwyld x Bell Helmets Moto-10 Spherical helmet. It’s an understated graphic design, letting the helmet shape and the details placed on a gloss white background do the talking.
We recently had the chance to sit down with Atwyld co-founder and designer Anya Violet, who was kind enough to take the time to answer our questions. Here’s our conversation, which has been lightly edited for clarity.
Yeah. Well, when it came to a helmet, it was such a different canvas than we’ve ever worked on before, so the three-dimensional aspect of it was really interesting. And just thinking about when you see someone riding by, what is really graphically interesting. So we wanted the whole series to be very bold and to stand out, even if someone was riding really fast by you, it was like this really bold design.
So graphically, we kept really kind of bold contrasting shapes. And we always want it to feel modern, but with a little bit of a nod to retro style graphics from the ’70s and ’80s. That’s kind of our whole thing. Even our apparel is very kind of nostalgic in feel, but it also has this modern look to it.
Yeah, So carrying that through into the helmet, and also what would look good with Atwyld’s gear. So that was at the forefront of when we were approaching the design, just making sure that it was really bold and had some nostalgia to it, even though it felt really modern.
Yeah, when I’m designing apparel, I usually start with a quick hand sketch, and then I have all my fabrics and pieces scattered around and I sort of piece it together. It’s all really tactile. But then when it comes to really working out the engineering of the piece, it does happen in Illustrator, and I do use a Wacom pen. Because it just is a good way to kind of go between more rigid lines and more organic pen strokes. So for me, that’s a process.
But when it came to the helmet, kind of same, we were able to sort of block it out in paper, cut out the pieces, and kind lay it on just to kind of mock things up.
What’s so cool about helmet design that we had never really done before, is that you can kind of mask the design onto the helmet, and it shows up as three-dimensional, whereas we’re so used to sketching in 2D. So to see it actually mask in in a three-dimensional shape was so cool. So that was something, as apparel designers, was new for us, and really interesting.
I would love to. We would love to if Bell wanted to. I feel like there is definitely, I think, that vibe. That kind of modern retro bold graphic is really timeless. And you could easily do many iterations of it. It wasn’t ultra feminine or ultra masculine. It was very neutral.
So that felt really fun to explore. We, as a company, are very inspired by sci-fi, so we also sprinkle a little bit of that into all of our designs. So you can see it kind of looks like a spaceship helmet, too, like a space helmet.
A hundred percent. I mean, the cool thing is that the helmet’s shell, like the actual design of the helmet, already has that look to it. So to apply graphics was really natural.
Sure. I started riding when I was seven years old, so I was just a little kid on like an old Honda Z50, just putting around, cracking the trails. And then I rode off-road dirt bikes until I was like late teens. And then when I went off to college and stuff like that, I was in the city, so I didn’t really have a motorcycle or the means to have a motorcycle, but got back into in my mid-twenties, and have been riding nonstop ever since. Off-Road and on the street.
And when I went away to college, I went to fashion design school. So I learned apparel design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. And then as I started my career, I also got back into riding motorcycles. And through that started an event series called Babes Ride Out, which is women’s motorcycle camp out events.
So through that, with my business partner Ashmore, we started seeing the whole women’s moto community all in one place. It was thousands of them all in one place, and it was really easy to see where the white space in the market was, in terms of women’s focused riding gear.
Understandably, it was always an afterthought, obviously a much smaller piece of the market. But our theory in forming Atwyld was, if you build it, they will come. And same with Babes Ride Out. And we’ve actually seen, I mean you’ve seen the numbers. I think the Motorcycle Industry Council report was like 20% of motorcyclists in the US are female, and that’s just growing. Visually, you can see it out in the market. But yeah, so I was able to kind of marry my two passions, which is fashion design and riding motorcycles into a brand called Atwyld.
It’s been fun.
Yeah, it’s wild. I knew I always wanted to start a brand, but I didn’t want to just… The world doesn’t need another clothing company. I felt like I wanted it to mean something and have an impact.
Yeah. And it has. It’s been so amazing to see how many women who maybe didn’t wear gear before, whether it be because it was ill-fitting or uncomfortable or whatever, now making sure to incorporate that protection into their everyday riding, because they feel good in the product. So yeah, it’s been very rewarding.
Yeah, it’s something, it’s funny, just having worked in the apparel business for so long, it’s something that’s so common. They have this really robust men’s business, and women’s is always an afterthought. Typically, it’s not women designing it. So they do their best, and it ends up being just off the mark for so long. So that was why three of us founders, Jaime Dempsey, Corinne Mayer, and myself, we were like, “Okay, we’re qualified. We can do this.” Because Jamie has development and production background. Corinne’s a creative. I’m a designer.
The three of us have been riding motorcycles our whole lives. And we realized there weren’t apparel businesses that made what we were looking for. Why don’t we do this? And so we did.
Thank you. It’s like the Power Rangers of women’s motorcycle gear. We do that a lot, like with our powers combined. Yeah, it’s a thing. It feels good.
Yeah, it’s a made up word. It’s meant to represent that single moment between fear and thrill, when you’re on the edge of your comfort zone, and your adrenaline’s banging, it’s that wild feeling. So arriving at that feeling is what I think draws a lot of people to riding motorcycles, or whatever you’re doing. Rock climbing, or whatever adventure you’re doing. That feeling that you get when you’re just like adrenaline is pumping. It’s a wild feeling. So Atwyld.
I mean, I think in general, I think that the only other thing I’d say is that we are super stoked that Bell wanted to collaborate with us. I think it’s really exciting to see big brands like Bell wanting to represent women riders and partner with women brands.
And yeah, it’s all moving the needle. So yeah, it was an honor to be a part of it.
Yeah, I think we know some people that work there, which is cool. So I think the brand showed up on their radar for that reason. But I think that a lot of the industry is trying to make more of an effort to market to women, and have a female story that they can tell through motorcycling.
And Atwyld is a women’s motorcycle brand. It’s the first women’s motorcycle apparel brand. So yeah, I think it just made sense for that reason. It’s cool, because Bell has such a history. I grew up riding dirt bikes, and my first helmet was a Bell Moto-3. So to then be able to design, I have the helmet right here next to me, to then be able to design onto a Bell Moto-3 with my brand was super cool. So I have photos of myself as a little kid on my 50, I think it was on my 50, with my old Bell Moto-3 helmet. I thought I was the coolest.
That’s so commendable, though. I think that’s so amazing. I think about, I’m so grateful I have my off-road background, and dirt bike riding background, that I had all of those tools going into taking the MSF course, and riding on the street.
But for people like yourself to just like, hey, cool, I never rode a motorcycle before. I’m an adult. I’m going to learn. That is so cool. I have a lot of friends that that’s their path too, and I’m just like, that takes so much courage and just that’s different. It’s just so different. Yeah. I don’t know. I think I would’ve been nervous, maybe.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So yeah.
Yeah, it’s true. It becomes part of you. You kind of crave it, that feeling again and again.
Not that we can tell you about.