Riyoko Urban Bikewear pop up shop Toronto May 25 – 27

Riyoko pop up shop

Calgary-based bike clothing designer in Toronto May 25 – 27

Photos by Cheryl Dore

Story by Heather Reid

Fashion should be about comfort. Comfort in your own skin, comfort expressing yourself, and comfort cruising city streets on your bike.

Or at least that’s what Calgary-based fashion designer Kristi Woo thinks. It’s that philosophy that is the inspiration for her unique line of stylish made-for-cycling fashions. Riyoko Urban Bikewear makes fashion-conscious clothes for the female cyclist and urban traveller. She’s inspired to make her pieces by tackling issues found cycling in certain clothes, for herself and other fashionable cyclists. She even asked me to tell her about my favourite outfit that isn’t bike-friendly – or just not yet.

Heather is wearing a red Riyoko top with a breathable back.

She was in Toronto this weekend scouting out spots for her Toronto pop-up shop coming to town later this spring, and dandyhorse had a chance to talk with her about city cycling and personal style.

dandyhorse: How did you first get into cycling?

Kristi Woo: I was going to Ryerson University, and my roommate’s boyfriend had a vintage bike. We were all really into vintage, and I was also getting interested in the history of Toronto. This city is so great about being accessible to learn about that. I ended up getting an old bike and connecting those two worlds together. I could read about somewhere in something like Margaret Atwood or Michael Ondaatje, and then I’d be able to go explore it by bike. And the streetcar was so expensive too!

dandyhorse: Toronto and Calgary are pretty different towns to bike in. Could you comment on the different benefits and challenges to biking in either city?

Kristi Woo: What I find about Calgary is that as younger town, it’s been built around cars as it came together in the late 1800s during an oil boom. With Toronto its history goes back to horse and carriages where there were lots of bikes. Although it’s more crowded and congested here, the cars are still more used to cyclists. In Calgary it’s kind of a new thing, and cars are more apprehensive of bikes although at times more courteous. The cycling movement in Calgary has been a lot more condensed, and numbers have really gone up in the last few years. Cycling enthusiasts there have had to purposefully make a coming together happen. Last year we had a festival called Cyclepalooza. Things like that have made our community really positive.

Riding Blazer: breathable, stain resistant, lining wicks away moisture, back vents and pit zippers, water resistant, convertible wind collar, longer length to cover midriff.

dandyhorse: How did you get started with your fashion line? Did you always know you wanted to integrate bikes and fashion?

Kristi Woo: I graduated fashion from Ryerson University in Toronto where I had taken up cycling, and I didn’t have anything functional and stylish to wear on my bike. My pants would get caught in the chain. I love this blazer I’m wearing – but I’ve had to fix it a couple times because while biking it’ll tear every now and then. I’ll wear things not meant for biking at times, but when I did want bike-wear there wasn’t anything stylish. It got me thinking about making clothing for cycling and style.


dandyhorse: Why do you think that there aren’t that many bike-related fashion lines?

Kristi Woo: I think that because bikes kind of declined as mode of transportation in the 50s with the age of the car, by the time they made a resurgence years later it was all about the Tour de France and related to sport and performance. The market for women and cycling kind of died. Now bike stores are completely separate from other active wear lines that mix with fashion. Women’s fashion and bike performance gear has become two separate worlds.

dandyhorse: Why do you think that style is important for cycling?

Kristi Woo: We all have our own ways of expressing ourselves. It’s important to be stylish in your own way, but it’s also important for people to be comfortable, and to be safe but still comfortable wearing the things you like to wear. You don’t need to own everything bike performance – but it’s about taking those pieces that reflect you, and making your ride as comfortable as your bike is. When I started biking I would wear heels, dresses, and pants that would get caught in chains and other problems – When you’re in the middle of a busy street that’s not good. I think if you want to be stylish and there’s a certain trend you love, there should be a way to wear it safely on your bike. It’s really a marriage of comfort, function, and style.

dandyhorse: How would you describe your personal style?

Kristi Woo: I love vintage pieces. What I try to incorporate into my style is that I like to have all the basics so I can mix and match with everything – and then add a splash of colour and texture. I think I do that in my line too.

dandyhorse: What is your favourite piece to wear while biking that you’ve designed?

Kristi Woo: I think my favourite pieces I’ve designed are the ones I would wear the most. The riding blazer – that was the first piece I designed – the tights, and the arm warmers.

dandyhorse: Can you describe your bike?

Kristi Woo: Totally! My summer bike is a 1979 Supercycle men’s touring bicycle. It’s army green with white tires. It looks like a cruiser and it’s super lightweight. Not all original parts anymore, but it’s been an awesome learning tool to learn how to fix. My winter bike is a 1986 Bianci Communter bike and it’s turquoise blue!

dandyhorse: Can you tell us why you became an Entrepreneur/fashion designer and also why you think youth should be hopeful for the future (for their own job prospects)?

I became a fashion designer at first because I thought design was the one way a textile artist could get a paying job. The truth is, no matter what road you take, you have to pay your dues and go through the process. This being said, as an entrepreneur, paying your dues/ going through the process is the time where you learn the most and gain the skills that make you a successful entrepeneur.

I began riyoko because I wanted to use my skill set to contribute to positive change, and the only way I knew how to do that is by what I do. I also come from a family of entrepeneurs, so without realizing it, I was doing (am doing) what I was taught to do.
I think youth should be hopeful for the future of job prospects because those job prospects are what you make of them. The jobs are made by what you contribute to them through your effort, experience and involvement.
‘Saying is different than doing’ – Wayne Woo, my father. So, if you just go out there and do it, whatever it is, the process and path will lead you to something, it may not be what you think it will be and it may be difficult, but life is that way. If you put your energy, your time and your heart into it, you will end up somewhere doing something you love in someway. I also think the world is opening up in a lot of new avenues, and new ideas and directions are being taken in old avenues – more than what existed when I was going through school. You can see it in urban planning and infrastructure, technology and in social innovation and entrepreneurial ventures. It’s all around, so with energy, dedication and heart, young people can gain a lot of experience in a tonne of avenues to build and create the job prospects that they imagine. Isn’t this how the young change the future?
The “Pop a Wheelie” pop up shop is happening from May 25 to May 27, 2012 at 189 Walnut St, in Toronto. It will be open on Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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