indesignlive’s Hong Kong editor, Ben McCarthy, met designer Karta Healy, who set up his office in South China in 2005, following a motorcycle accident which forced him to re-evaluate his career path.
July 11th, 2008
Ben McCarthy is indesignlive’s Hong Kong editor. An Aussie expat living in Asia, working for design legend, Michael Young, who better to send us a fortnightly report on ever dynamic design scene over the sea.
Karta Healy started the brand Two n Fro armed with a new brief: Design everything one needs for inner city cycling. The intelligently constructed range, covers clothing and accessories, from shoes and shirts to head lamps and helmets, and offers “flexible gear for all situations within your day, on and off the bike”.
The aesthetic is influenced by Healy’s experience in the fashion industry more than the sports industry. For instance, he uses reflective materials in sophisticated and minimal areas. Such as brogue shoes with reflective material showing though the leather perforations. Or clothing with reflective piping over seams, so a shirt is reflective in some stylised areas. While I would never wear a high-viz glow-in-the-dark vest, these intelligently integrated safety materials give the clothes a functional element, but are still wearable around town.
Driven by sustainability, their pool of materials includes soy fabrics, silk, bamboo fabrics and a recycled sails. From the yacht club where Karta lives in Hong Kong, he collects used sails and turns them into cycling accessories which exploit the material’s weather resistance and durability. One such garment is a cycling cape which wraps over the shoulders, covering your top half, and joins down the front via magnets hidden in the seams.
The eco-minded company is aiming for total transparency in its business model. As well as using earth friendly materials, everything they need can be sourced within a few kilometres of the factory. So the carbon that goes into each product can be assessed and even advertised.
The factory/studio space in Shenzhen, South China, is shared with fashion designer Alhaiya Yung which employs some 25 people, working on both Karta and Alhaiya’s brands. The studio is literally bursting with developing ideas, fabric samples, sketches, prototypes and of course bicycles. This allows Karta to get things done very quickly. “I can sketch some crazy idea up at 4 am in the morning, and by the time I get in later the next day there’s a prototype ready”
Healy’s ultimate goal is to one day sell the “idea of cycling in an aspirational urban way” back to Chinese; the biggest cycling country in the world, and the country that makes it possible for Two n Fro.
Things are early days for Two n Fro, the collection has been shown in Hong Kong, Tokyo, London and Paris and is currently devising innovative forms of distribution. At the moment the brand is boutique. Small runs and conceptual products make it a premium brand for avent-guard cyclists. As the eco-brand starts to make its way off the catwalk, into the cycle lane, via China, its making cycling safer, and trendier.
Ben’s ’Design Opinion’ pieces are uploaded once a month. Look out for his next piece in August.
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