Why did Rapha x Palace Skateboards cycling jersey sell out in only a few minutes?
In Soho, London, Rapha and Palace’s flagship stores are separated by just a few hundred metres. Yet brandwise, they’re poles apart. Rapha, founded by Simon Mottram in 2004, make premium cycling clothing that’s traditionally found on wealthy investment bankers, professional cyclists, and middle-aged men across the world.
Palace, on the other hand, are a skateboard brand appealing to an altogether younger demographic. They’ve had previous success with big brand collaborations in the sporting world, too. Players at Wimbledon 2018 wore Adidas x Palace, and there was also a Palace designed Juventus kit in 2019, also with Adidas. But their move into cycling was surprising, to say the least.
So, with pieces already listed on eBay for £600, how did their collection sell out in just minutes?
Why have Rapha and Palace collaborated?
Since 2019, Rapha have made and sponsored the team kit for professional world tour team EF Pro Cycling. The jersey is a bold pink/blue tye-dye combination – already the most striking in the peloton – but a problem for the upcoming Giro d’Italia.
One of cycling’s three major grand tours alongside the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, the Giro’s race leader wears the Maglia Rosa – a bright pink jersey. So to circumnavigate that colour clash, they turned to Palace to design a new jersey.
And they certainly didn’t hold back. Part disco ball, part psychedelic screensaver, the jersey features Palace’s signature triangle logo on the back, and the cartoon Palace duck on the front. If that wasn’t enough going on, there are two unidentified faces on the sleeves. Holding the reveal, bar a last minute teaser video, right up to the team presentation at the Giro, the teams at both Rapha and Palace deserve credit for keeping such a loud project so quiet.
Social media channels immediately lit up, and before you knew it, from the BBC to GQ, through to Complex and Highsnobiety, media outlets were quick to report the story. The collection split popular opinion like marmite, with some lauding the creativity, others disgusted.
One notably offended party was cycling’s governing body, the UCI, who were quick to hand out a $4000 fine to EF Pro Cycling. According to the UCI, it was due to the kits being registered late, but team boss Jonathan Vaughters insisted this wasn’t the case, suggesting it was indeed down to those ‘crazy ducks’.
But no matter where you stand on the garish, or genius, design, there’s one thing for certain – everyone is talking about it. And for young Palace fans over the world, they were soon discovering who Rapha are, what the Giro d’Italia is, and maybe heading to eBay to buy a new racing bike. In fact, eBay is probably the only place they’d be able to get their hands on the new kit. Selling out in minutes on Rapha and Palace’s site, many items have been re-listed for more than five times the original retail value.
What does it mean for the cycling industry?
The Rapha x Palace jersey isn’t the first outlandish cycling jersey – just ask Mario Cipollini – but it is the first to involve a skateboard company, a company distinctly outside of the exclusive bubble of professional cycling. Alongside recent instances of Kardashians in cycling shorts, it further adds to lycra’s current weight in the world of fashion, too. No longer just for middle aged men, cycling apparel could now be considered ‘cool’.
And while the marketing exposure is no doubt good news for Rapha, it is also a reflection of cycling’s wider, and still rapidly growing, appeal. For many years distinctly European, in recent years the sport has become more mainstream in countries like the US, Australia, and particularly the UK.
Here’s hoping that with more fans of cycling, and more cyclists on the roads, cycling infrastructure will benefit, too. Perhaps Rapha and Palace aren’t so far apart after all.