MATE.

The sleek start-up leading the electronic bike revolution

There is nothing finer than travelling by two wheels, pins pumping, wind kissing skin. Pre-pandemic, cycling levels had been static for decades, which is why the last few years of uptake has been promising – uptake that will require infrastructure investment, policy, and cultural attitudes changing to carry lasting momentum. Running alongside this has been the meteoric rise of electric bikes. First patented in 1895, in many regions they are now selling at a far faster rate than their traditional counterparts. Next year, it’s expected that total worldwide circulation will reach 300 million, a 50 percent increase compared to 2019 levels.

One brand sleekly leading this seemingly inevitable charge is MATE.. Founded in 2016 – in the cycling mecca of Copenhagen – the start-up was created following the most successful European crowdfunding campaign to date. Aiming to look slick whilst addressing traffic congestion, climate change and health issues, it’s gone from strength to strength through surprising design and capsule collaborations with the likes of Palm Angels, Moncler and evian. Technically too, its distinct low build and thick tire tread makes for a confident cruise on and off road via their MATE City and MATE X respectively. Laying claim to the fastest foldable eBike title, it also has one of the longest usable ranges due to an immense battery life – 120km. Although this writer prefers travelling under their own steam like a luddite, after a test ride his head was nearly turned.

To celebrate the recent opening of its two London stores in Spitalfields and Covent Garden, Port spoke to Michael Lillelund, head of brand, about Copenhagen’s sense of community, mobility innovation, and what our roads will look like a decade from now.

What motivated MATE to launch a crowdfunding campaign and what made it so successful?

MATE became a crowdfunding success because we saw a gap in the market: eBikes until we entered the industry were more less all the same, looked the same and weren’t very appealing. They had the battery mounted on the rear rack and looked unfinished. Our bikes offered something quite different, giving the bike a better look without losing the technical elements.

What sets the brand apart?

MATE created a unique positioning between fashion and tech with the goal to become the most desirable eBike. Our bikes are a lifestyle statement, where freedom of expression plays a vital role. This difference is visible in any way we are doing business, from the way we develop our MATEs, how we market them and even how we create our own stores. This way we do not have to follow the limiting rules and traditions of how regular bike companies work.

What makes Copenhagen such a welcoming and safe environment to cycle? How can other cities adopt its urban planning and policy to achieve similar results? Or, is it impossible to replicate its success? 

Copenhagen has its infrastructure to its advantage. We have a focus and continue rigorously to build space for bikes instead of cars and develop more green areas to encourage other ways of commuting over car rides. The sense of community in Copenhagen is also a critical contribution in making the city’s green initiatives thrive. From sorting trash to having recycling centres at close proximity.

Urban planning needs political support and will to happen, so it is very important that city biking is kept on the agenda and cultivated for the future. Keeping pressure on the legislative bodies of the city is paramount.

Where else in the world is leading in terms of cycling and environmental policy? Where do you look to for inspiration? 

The Dutch market undoubtedly is a leading example in this regard. Also, Scandinavia is ideal for such policies as well. It will also be interesting to see how other key cities such as Paris, London, New York and Milan shape up in the coming years. All of them are taking measures and making considerable changes to ensure the best outcome sustainability wise. A lot of countries are also encouraging biking in their markets with tax reliefs and subsidiaries, including benefits for manufacturers and producers. Essentially, improving local businesses.

We look at the world in general and study different trends across markets, especially those we are physically present in – Japan, Germany, Denmark, US. All metros and urban areas are taking a unique approach to its infrastructure. Similarly, different players within the mobility segment are focused on innovation. The fashion world is undoubtedly on our radar as well as it has a creative approach to create desire, which is what we believe in too: Desirability drives change.

Why partner with brands like evian, Palm Angels and Moncler?

Our partnerships with leaders in luxury and high street fashion as well as lifestyle and culture is the best confirmation of what we want to create with MATE – a brand in the intersection of fashion and smart tech.

Their followers are overlapping strongly with a big part of our community so it is a win-win for both! Working with such amazing partners also pushes the boundaries of what our MATE can be as they are interpreting it from a different perspective. So, it helps us not only to create buzz and brand equity but also expands our imagination of where our MATEs and the brand can go.

Beyond practical measures, how can cultural attitudes be shifted to encourage cycling? Many perceive it as a dangerous endeavour in cities like London

Road safety is one of the biggest issues in bike adoption. It has to be a collaborative effort in ensuring that the infrastructure is there to support biking initiatives. It also means that we need to change the behaviour of preferring a car ride for simple tasks like running errands, commuting to work and short distance commute. This change is a bigger challenge than supporting infrastructure.

Behavioural change comes with change in culture and that is where MATE plays a big role because we created a segment for cool bikes, ones that add to the lifestyle and personality for the rider without compromising on performance. 

What will our roads and cities look like 10 years from now if the trend of electric bikes continues to grow and what benefits will this bring?

We think 10 years from now we will be greener, in the way we commute, the way we live and the way we plan our cities. Having said that, 10 years from now is a challenge no matter what given the current environment situation and lifestyle choices people make. For any change to happen many aspects need to match and work together like a well oiled machine. Changing behaviour is not easy since it doesn’t happen instantly. Similarly, infrastructure will not change overnight because it needs time. But, we are very optimistic about the future.

mate.bike

Palm Angels

Introducing the new limited edition zine and lockdown collection from creative director Francesco Ragazzi, Isabella Burley dreams of cultural fantasies

I’ve spent the last year fantasising. These days, I get my fix from strange Japanese websites buying obscure magazines from the 1970s, blasting the soundtrack of Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock (set at a house party in the 1980s) pretending I’m there, and attempting to recreate meals from Dimes, my favourite NY restaurant on the Lower East Side from their perfectly titled cookbook, Emotional Eating. As the year has progressed with unexpected new turns, I’ve sought out these fantasies more and more. So much so, that I’ve come to accept – I’m a hardcore cultural fantasist.

Francesco Ragazzi is a cultural fantasist too. This season, reacting to the surreal times we find ourselves in, the Palm Angels SS21 collection doesn’t come to you as a fashion show, but as printed matter. No spectacle, no spotlights. Instead, the anarchic spirit of a zine is reinterpreted – its pages reverberating with cultural curiosities and elevated through the lens of some of today’s most experimental visual artists, published by Rizzoli.

Curating a truly electric juxtaposition of creatives from many different disciplines – and different generations – David Sims, Rosie Marks, Lea Colombo, Enzo Ragazzini, Friedrich Kunath, Javier Jaén, Javier Calleja and Thrush Holmes all unite for this special project. A wild mash-up that could only be conjured in the mind of Ragazzi, it’s a free creative approach that captures what Palm Angels has been about since its incarnation – breaking all the rules. And it’s full of fantasy.

“This collection was made during lockdown, so there was a constant longing for escapism,” explains Ragazzi. “I was interested, of course, in exploring different fantasy elements – my own fantasies and cultural fantasies. What would I do if I could do anything? Would I go to Jamaica? Would I go to Tokyo? Would I be outdoors? It was inspired by me being somewhere else. I wanted pure escape from reality.” These feelings of escapism manifested themselves into three very different chapters: Exodus, Fishing Club and Military.

Exploring his love of Jamaican reggae culture – the furthest thing from Milan – you can see the colours and attitude throughout the collection in wild graphics, relaxed tailoring and of course, in the vibrant Jamaican flag which appears as accessories. Elsewhere, military codes are disrupted – classic bombers cropped, old workwear jackets tye-dyed and military berets subverted.

One of the most exciting collaborations you’ll find in these pages is with new generation photographer Rosie Marks, who was invited to Milan to shoot a low-fi reportage story of the Palm Angels team. “My team is my family and it hasn’t been easy for them this year, so it was important for me to really document them as part of the book,” adds Ragazzi.

London-based photographer and director Lea Colombo, who was raised in Cape town, has interpreted the vibrant tropical hues and colours of the collection, shooting at her home studio. Ragazzi calls it, “Kingston meets London with all of the vivid energy and spirit of the Caribbean.”

Then there’s 86 year old Enzo Ragazzini, whose work is a mixture of psychedelic graphic design rooted in the now. Experimenting with different image-making techniques in his darkroom, his contribution is a mind-bending trip into another dimension.

David Sims and Karl Templer have also collaborated with Palm Angels on a campaign for the first time. “I always like that the most special talents, who are often the most established, are always so humble. David was definitely humble. I still see Palm Angels as a newborn, so to have someone like him shoot the campaign and have a genuine creative conversation is very unique. Someone who listens. It’s a fresh approach,” says Ragazzi.

Javier Jaén, a graphic designer who was responsible for one of Palm Angels’ strongest graphic designs, the headless bear, is also included in the book. “I really fell in love with his work and I think the guy is a true genius. He goes from working with us to designing covers of magazines like Newsweek,” describes Ragazzi.

Spanish visual artist Javier Calleja features too, showcasing unseen archive material for the book. Ragazzi discovered Calleja’s work whilst in Tokyo, intrigued by the Japanese spirit of his approach.

The surrealist vibe behind the book’s inspiration is also enriched by the dreamlike, poetic compositions of abstract painters Friedrich Kunath and Thrush Holmes.

Palm Angels started with a photography book and Ragazzi began his career as an image maker, so in a sense, this is part of their own DNA. And Palm Angels is a brand that stays true to its roots. The pandemic was an opportunity for us, and brands to slow down, but it’s done the opposite. We’ve moved into a cultural space that has completely changed, and ignited a culture that’s more disposable than ever before. This zine is a reaction to that; it’s a small form of protest.

It also crafts a multiverse like no other, and these pages are also a celebration of the tactile, something you can treasure and keep forever. It’s also disruptive in spirit and layered in fantasy – the curation of names and approaches echoing the anarchic and dynamic Palm Angels universe. “I think I’ve always been drawn to creative chaos,” explains Ragazzi. “Every season when I work on a new collection, I approach it like I’m making a movie, where many different stories and narratives come together. So for this book, I love this idea of passing through David Sims to many other crazy artists that people are less familiar with, or are more emerging names. Palm Angels has always been about discovering new talent whilst also working with established names. It’s that contrast that generates an interesting dialogue – it creates creative tension and sparks things that are unexpected.”

palmangels.com

Art Breaking

Moncler art director Francesco Ragazzi discusses the 3rd Genius Project presented in Milan, vandalistic art and his Palm Angels Fall/ Winter 2019 collection 

Inclusive yet reactionary. Skater culture itself is laced with a resistance to the nanny state – a prolific and historic appellation – fronted by Hunter S. Thompson and C.S. Lewis – but perhaps more symptomatic of the present political moment than ever before. This may be one reason, at least, for popular culture’s revisiting of skate culture; Minding the Gap from Bing Liu, Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen and Jonah Hill’s Mid 90s are but a few of many that probe America’s youth and community through the lens of this subculture.

Palm Angels, Moncler art director Francesco Ragazzi’s global clothing brand, positions skate culture at the forefront of luxury clothing, presciently forcing the industry to re-code its notions of high-end fashion when it launched its first collection in 2015. Evolving from Ragazzi’s photographic account of downtown Los Angeles skate life, Palm Angels published by Rizzoli in 2014, the brand encapsulates the sensation and beauty of a sport, lifestyle and culture. 

The Fall/Winter 2019 collection, a capsule collection of the Moncler Genius project, is a nod to its roots, founded in subculture and reactionary art. Collaborating with Willi Dorner, a dancer and choreographer concerned with the human body and urban spaces, the showcase allowed audience members to spray paint onto the collection, itself echoing vandalistic art; incorporating jewel tones, graphic patterns and graffiti lettering into its line of metallic puffer jackets and boiler suits layered with t-shirts and fingerless gloves.

The futuristic vision formed one of the 9 capsule collections presented this year as part of the Moncler Genius Project in Milan, curated by Francesco Ragazzi . In a series of performance installations, Pierpaolo Piccioli, 2 Moncler 1952, 3 Moncler Grenoble, Simone Rocha, Craig Green, Fragment Design’s Hiroshi Fujiwara, and Poldo Dog Couture responded to the Moncler ethos and philosophy “one house, different voices”, Remo Ruffini’s answer to the new consumer in the digital era.

Port spoke to Francesco Ragazzi on his Fall/Winter 2019 collection, the photographic gaze and his distaste for the term streetwear.

Palm Angels, Courtesy Rizzoli

Palm Angels was born out of a fascination and love for Los Angeles skater culture and subcultures. What is it about skater culture that first resonated with you?

It really started with this photography project and book I established, Palm Angels. At the beginning, it was really my love for Los Angeles, the feeling and the vibe, that then translated into this photo series about skaters, that then translated into a photography book and then into a collection. It was really a personal process for me, from my love for Los Angeles to the collection. I think the starting point for me is that – the love for the city.

You are not only a creative director and designer, but also a photographer. Do you apply this same photographic gaze to your clothing line?

Yes, definitely. The book helped me at the beginning to shape the brand. But then drawing the brand and designing a new collection every season brought me to a process that I now have; taking something that exists and trying to tell my own story on it, from a different perspective. For me, it was really starting from a part of American culture and telling my own story through it. It is really about creating a vision about something existing with a different perspective.

8 Moncler Palm Angels

In this most recent collection you incorporate these themes of resistance that exist within skater culture, incorporating  patterns that evoke street art and graffiti. Do you think these ideas of subcultures, particularly within skater culture, still carry weight today?

I think there is a little less subculture than before, because internet and social media brought almost everything to the spotlight. It is difficult to have a subculture now, that nobody really knows about. It is really under the eye for everybody, which I think could be a good thing, but on the other side, it could also be a bad thing. I personally think it’s interesting to be able to discover the things we were not able to discover before, and this is for sure part of the change that comes with social media and the internet.

You have talked about the departing point for this show as a Jeff Koons exhibit that was vandalised. What is it about Jeff Koons, as an artist, that resonated with you?

So, the whole idea of the collection started with the idea of the event. I was inspired by this picture of an exhibition of Jeff Koon’s being vandalised. So, starting from that picture, I wanted to think about how I could bring that same experience to the audience at the event and design the collection around that idea. The idea for the collection was to break the purity of Moncler and to vandalise it. At the same time, I wanted  to do the same exact thing for the event – create artwork that then could be vandalised by the viewer. 

Sounds great. And, you collaborated with the artist Willi Dorner for the 8 Moncler Palm Angels collection?

Yes, so Willi created for me some artwork that I could then vandalise. These pictures were then displayed in the gallery space where I presented my collection that could then be vandalised.

8 Moncler Palm Angels

How did this collaboration come about?

I discovered him on Instagram and I contacted him to work on this project. His vision, his graphics, the way you can feel the artwork – because he is a choreographer not a photographer. I needed a simplicity because the work and the collection was already complex, so I needed somebody to bring a purity to what I was doing. And I think the pictures are exactly what I was looking for.

I’m interested in the ways in which streetwear has evolved, in the same way that graffiti has, within public opinion – both initially associated with lowbrow forms of art. Do you still encounter these same ideas today? What is your personal relationship to, so-called, “high-fashion”?

I think the world moves so fast now and most importantly, culture changes, so streetwear has become so big because of this overall growing culture in music and art, where everything, everyday changes. This is why we are in the moment where streetwear has gained such momentum. I do kind of hate the term streetwear, because I think it is a label that people who were not understanding of it would have given years ago. Right now, it is really part of the current culture, of art, music; it is an overall movement. So, yes, fashion has to change because of it, as fashion is a mirror of culture. I’m not mad at it. We created a brand based on this, so any critique of this movement is from someone who is not connected to reality.

You have talked about finding a new source of inspiration within Asia, what can you divulge about the future of the Moncler Palm Angels as a brand?

My idea of the brand now is a brand that needs to be global and talk many languages at the same time. Be present in every country as if it were from that country. So, the world is really my inspiration right now. But, that being said, the DNA needs to be there and I will always be an American brand with a different sensibility. So, that will always be my inspiration but I will try to be as global as possible with the message.

And finally, do you have any particular favourite piece?

I love the big metallic puffer jacket.

8 Moncler Palm Angels Fall/Winter collection is now available at store.palmangels.com

Palm Angels is available here (Rizzoli, $55.00)