Specialized has closed its inclusive women’s cycle clothing brand Machines for Freedom, which it bought in 2018.
News that the brand was being shut down was revealed on its Instagram page by Jenn Kriske, who founded Machines for Freedom in 2014 and continued to run it after it was bought by Specialized.
“It is with a heavy heart that I make this announcement,” she said. “After eight incredible years, the difficult decision was made to shutter the Machines For Freedom brand.”
Kriske set up the brand after she struggled to find suitable cycle clothing that fitted her, and spent two years looking for a partner to help it grow before striking a deal with Specialized.
The brand continued to operate under its own name and from the city it was founded in, Los Angeles, while Specialized’s head office is almost 300 miles north in Morgan Hill at the southern end of Silicon Valley.
Kriske’s announcement on Instagram that the company was folding was accompanied by a video showcasing its products and highlighting its inclusive approach.
“I am tremendously grateful for everything this brand and this community has accomplished in that time,” she wrote.
“Our influence in the industry is undeniable, and our industry-leading fit process changed the game for women riders in all shapes and sizes.
“While the brand will no longer exist, the community – and what we built together – will. What we built is bigger than any single brand or company, and I am eternally grateful to be a part of it.
“Machines For Freedom is bigger than cycling,” Kriske added. “Always has been. Always will be.”
In a statement published on cyclingnews.com, Specialized said that it would “always be grateful to Machines For Freedom and the way it inspired the brand to reimagine how to better serve women riders.
“While dissolving the brand was a tough decision on both parties, the lessons learned during this partnership will continue to influence and guide the way Specialized makes women’s product for the years to come,” the company added.
It did not disclose the specific reasons behind the closure of the brand, and we are seeking clarification from Specialized.
At the time of its acquisition of the brand in June 2018 Kwai Kong, Specialized’s then leader of equipment said: “Machines For Freedom has set an incredibly powerful example, not just for women in cycling, but for all of cycling.”
“It is a brand founded on listening to riders and delivering what they want and need, yet the industry was not providing,” he continued, quoted on Bike Retailer & Industry News.
“These same guiding principles were what brought about the genesis of the Specialized brand back in 1974.
“We are extremely excited to support Jenn and Machines as they continue to elevate women's cycling.”
At the time, Kriske said: “I bootstrapped Machines into existence four years ago with the objective of filling a big gap in the women's cycling apparel market.
“I desired to design a kit that I wanted to put on each morning; it needed to look and feel good, but as importantly, be able to stand up to my most intense training days.
“I'd always felt the women's community deserved more attention than it was getting. I had so many ideas on how to reach them, I just needed help to get there,” she added.
The announcement of the closure of Machines for Freedom comes a fortnight after Specialized revealed that it was laying off around 8 per cent of its workforce globally, in what CEO Scott Maguire – who replaced company founder Mike Sinyard in the role in March last year – after making what he described as an “incredibly difficult decision.”
> Specialized slashes jobs in latest sign of cycle industry downturn
And as our sister website off-road.cc reported last month, Specialized terminated without notice the contracts of a number of its global ambassadors, some with more than a year to run, as the business shifted its focus away from adventure racing and towards racing.
> Specialized ends contracts for paid ambassadors
Some of the riders affected, who under their contracts with the brand promoted it including through content on social media, said that Specialized was axing its entire global ambassadors programme.
One, the adventure cyclist Sarah Swallow, said: “While I am grateful for the many relationships and opportunities I gained through my partnership with Specialized, I am disappointed that there was little to no consideration of this decision's impact on the most loyal and influential promoters of the Specialized brand."
“There was no notice, contracts were ended early, and the timing of the termination occurred so late in the year that most brands have already established their budgets and contract agreements for the following year, leaving ambassadors little-to-no time to develop new relationships and replace lost income,” added Swallow, who revealed in a post on Instagram the Specialized’s termination of the contract would see her lose three quarters of her income.
Earlier this month, the UK-based women’s cycle clothing business VeloVixen announced that it had gone into liquidation due to the impact of what co-founders Liz and Phil Bingham described as “an unprecedented number of adverse forces” that “have ultimately made it impossible for a small family business like ours to continue.”
> Women’s cycling clothing brand VeloVixen enters liquidation
“Whilst there is no single reason for our situation, some of the factors include: the hugely increased cost of products; energy price hikes and their widespread damage; changes in customer behaviour, with ever-growing returns rates and appetite for discounts; far more expensive advertising rates; and the broader cost-of-living crisis,” they added.
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