When I first met Rich Hincapie, Hincapie Sportswear was still in its infancy. Rich had just hired Roby Di Giovine – his first employee. Back then, the only place I had ever seen or heard of Hincapie Sportswear was at local races, where the Les Amis cycling team wore Hincapie’s first generation custom cycling bibs and jerseys. They swore by the quality of the fabrics and chamois, and I have to admit that the design looked pretty darn good. I had just gotten into triathlon a year before and was in the process of putting together a triathlon club in Greenville. We needed custom uniforms to help get sponsors and increase visibility for the club. I got Rich’s contact info from some cycling buddies and looked him up. Back then, Rich rented a tiny little office just two blocks from Main Street Greenville. Even in the early days, I remember Rich’s sense of taste: He had a flat screen TV in that small office. And a fully stocked Red Bull display fridge. 😀 Rich’s desk occupied one wall, and Roby’s the other. The rest was a mix of fabric samples, prototypes and boxes of uniforms in transit to Rich’s first clients. Hincapie Sportswear was as grassroots as a company gets. A lot of us (teams, clubs, etc.) could have opted to go with larger, more established custom uniform vendors, but we opted to give Rich our business. This is a decision that I have never regretted, and as much as I can, I continue to support Hincapie Sportswear in any way that I can to this day… although I have to admit that it’s been a good few years since my help became pretty irrelevant to Rich’s success.

Fast forward to today’s Hincapie Sportswear: International design, manufacturing and quality control. Teams equipped on at least three continents. A trendy HQ in a renovated mill just a few blocks from downtown Greenville – the US East Coast’s booming new cycling Mecca. Print ads in every major cycling mag in the US. It took a few years, but Rich is a patient guy and he wisely decided to take his time and do things right. Patience paid off.

Many of us cyclists and triathletes have enjoyed Hincapie’s performance apparel for years now. Shorts, jerseys, socks, gloves, jackets, tights, summer wear, winter wear, underwear, headwear… But I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures has been to wear the few odd non-performance pieces that Hincapie has put out over the last couple of years. (They have killer Merino wool T-shirts and vintage zip sweaters that look pretty sweet with jeans, khakis, etc.) In other words, one of the cool things about the Hincapie brand is that it started to bridge the gap between cycling/performance apparel and… well, what happens between bike rides. In doing so, it started to truly embody a particular lifestyle as opposed to just… being quality gear. I, for one, started asking Rich, Steve and Roby for more casual off-the-bike clothes and accessories, buying up every new design they came up with. I even got my parents hooked on Hincapie Sportswear’s Merino wool T-shirts a year ago, and I think they’re planning on buying a box of them to give away to their friends as Christmas gifts this year.

Well, Hincapie Sportswear just took a giant leap forward this summer by finally announcing that it will be adding denim to the list of branded off-the bike apparel this fall. (Booyah!) Sunday night, just a few hours after Tyler Hamilton won the US National Road title just half a mile away, the Hincapies put on a pretty kickass fashion show at their galactic HQ (superbly managed by Courtney Lewis) during which Rich’s vision for the cycling lifestyle’s crossover fashions was made crystal clear to a very full house. Roby and I were there to snap a few shots of the new designs.

It isn’t every day that you get to enjoy front row seats to this kind of brand evolution.

Looking forward to sporting some Hincapie jeans in the next couple of months… and discovering what Rich and his growing apparel juggernaut have in store for us next. ;D

Here are a few shots from the Hincapie fashion show:

More shots from the fashion show here. (Or go to the quick slideshow here.)