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Chpt. III x Castelli is a unique collaboration between recently retired British pro David Millar and Italian cycling apparel brand Castelli. It’s a bid to create the ultimate cycling gear for discerning cyclists who aren’t seeking high-intensity performance, but desire sartorial elegance while on the bike and to be the best dressed rider at any espresso stop.
The name, Chpt. III, represents the third era of Millar’s cycling career and is a project that’s come to fruition after 18 months of hard work between Millar, designer Richard Pearce – who worked on Millar’s Fizik shoe project in 2014 – and Castelli’s Steven Smith.
Millar’s relationship with Castelli goes much further back though. The rider has been giving direct feedback and informing the design of the brand’s pro-level gear since 2007, no doubt contributing to the place Castelli now holds in the uppermost echelons of cycling apparel.
"By coincidence or destiny, we started our own comeback Chapter with David at Saunier Duval in 2007 and then joined up again for his last four years," says Smith. "At some unremarkable race hotel the seeds were sown for a new creative collaboration."
So when it came time for Millar to face life after a career “dressed as a human billboard,” the rider didn’t want to have to wear kit designed by someone else. “I wanted to create cycling clothing that was constructed for my new life as a non-racer, only designed for riding, not racing, but still with the latest tech and with a collaboration that I’d always known.”
Millar’s own creativity has been combined with Castelli’s materials and manufacturing expertise and Pearce’s flair for design.
“I started to think about David’s career as a narrative,” says Pearce. “Like a play with the classic three act structure – and then I started thinking about it more like a book.”
In that narrative, chapter one is Millar’s professional beginnings and doping, which ended in destruction; chapter two, rebirth, redemption and closure; and chapter three – beyond retirement.
The motif that runs around the legs of the bibs and sleeves of the jersey features one forward slash per year. Among the white, three grey lines represent Millar’s years as a doper and a black pair his ban from the sport. The final fiery red (Rosso Fuoco) line brings us up to date; collection one of chapter three – a new beginning without forgetting what’s gone before.
“I didn’t want my name on it, because I’m a bit like Marmite,” says Millar. However, Pearce adds that using the rider’s name would have immediately aligned the brand with that of other professionals. “Straight away it puts you in that cycling group along with Cav and Chris Boardman and Vicky Pendleton. Everyone’s got their own brand with their name on it and we didn’t want to be in that area.”
Instead, Chpt. III concentrates on male cyclists with an appreciation of fashion; those who want to be comfortable and impeccably attired – a group, in short, that represents a relatively new breed in cycling.
“I think it’s very much thanks to Rapha and what Simon Mottram’s done in creating a new demographic and Anglo-Saxon interest in the sport,” says Millar. “I think there’s a new niche area within that to move into. So that’s in many ways what this is all about creating: a brand that works for men. Not just in a cycling way, but hopefully in other areas as well, moving into all sorts of things with that same ethos.”
With Millar’s reputation for being eternally well turned out, it’s little surprise that the Chpt. III designs take their greatest inspiration from tailoring. Described by Millar as “the cutting edge of fashion,” the Chpt. III team even consulted with renowned tailor Timothy Everest to perfect the lines and cut. The muted hues reflect the Savile Row sensibility with brighter shades featuring as accents and lining.
Pearce points to the satisfying symmetry of the project with Castelli’s earliest history. “When you trace Castelli right back to the beginning – 1876 – and the fine tailor Vittore Gianni set up in Milan…all the kits back then were absolutely handmade. Fausto Coppi always wore Vittore Gianni. There’s a beautiful connection with what we’re doing now, it’s authentic because Castelli come from tailoring roots.”
Castelli’s focus with Chpt. III has been in developing the latest production techniques to take those elements of bespoke suit design – such as darts and pleats – and create garments in the latest technical fabrics. “The construction is amazing,” says Pearce. “It’s all darted, all the seams are taped. It’s almost as beautiful on the inside as the outside.”
Attention to detail is present throughout the first range, from that autobiographical slash motif to the washing instructions penned by Millar himself: “Contrary to my Father’s belief system, this isn’t ‘the manufacturer’s opinion’; these are the facts.” Nowhere is this eye for detail clearer than the buttons, which feature six holes surrounded by a large ‘C’ to represent the brand’s name.
The considered design will please even the most demanding Rapha fan while Millar’s obvious sincerity and enthusiasm for the project (and those washing instructions) may well validate the range’s stylish excess and unashamed indulgence in the eyes of less pretentious roadies.
“We want everything to be more upper end rather than featuring mountains in black and white and people crying. We’re a bit more poncey, in a nutshell,” says Millar with a grin.