Meet the Women’s Forum Exhibitors: Iva Jean
When she started biking to work in Seattle, Ann DeOtte Kaufman knew she needed gear to stay dry— but there was no way she was going to pay top dollar for attire that didn’t fit her style.
After a trip to Europe (and getting caught in the rain more than once), the design professional got busy fashioning her own solution to less-than-glamorous high-tech cycling gear, developing a fashionable rain cape that was as sexy as she felt riding her vintage bike.
That one product led Ann to launch Iva Jean, a fashion company that inspires women “to get on a bike and ride with the style, personality and confidence they bring to every other aspect of their lives, whether they are commuting to work or cruising around town.”
You gave up your car in 2007 — what inspired you to start biking?
My interest in biking really came about as a result of a perfect storm. I had moved to Seattle from Michigan a couple years before and was working at a design firm in the city. Many of my co-workers commuted by bike and a lot of their work focused on sustainable urban design and bike infrastructure. My work offered bus passes, showers and bike parking as an incentive not to drive — and it got me thinking. Along the same vein, I decided to move closer to the city, the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. This meant that rent would almost double and there would be limited parking. My car sat parked for over a month while I bussed and walked everywhere – proving that the extra $500 per month cost of having a car wasn’t worth it. At the same time, blogs like Copenhagen Cycle Chic and European cities were making bikes sexy again and reminding the world how smart and beautiful a city on bikes can be. I was determined to become a lady on two wheels.
You have a wealth of professional experience in the design industry; how did that come to intersect with cycling?
There are many aspects of my professional experience that intersect with cycling — from an appreciation and understanding of design to knowing the importance of our actions on the way cities develop and grow.
It was a trip to Europe that ultimately led to the creation of Iva Jean; what did you see there that inspired you?
Everything. Many of the cities had such incredible pedestrian and bike infrastructure, thoughtfully designed. It really seemed to facilitate an active and energetic public space. It was also the people. Their approach to biking was no different than their approach to life. People were dressed so beautifully and their effortless style was (and still is) something that really caught my attention.
What’s been the biggest challenge in starting Iva Jean?
There hasn’t been a single biggest challenge since starting Iva Jean. At certain times I’d say that production and sourcing are the most difficult — it takes a lot of time and consists of constant juggling and multi-tasking. Other times I’d say it’s spreading the word and developing a meaningful relationship with your customers. People are overloaded with products and inspiration; it can be difficult to break through and find the women who will really connect with what we are doing.
Living in Seattle, it makes sense that a rain cape was your first offering. What’s been the guiding principle as you’ve grown your line?
We are inspired by the intersection of people, nature and the built environment. Iva Jean is blessed to be headquartered in and influenced by the Pacific Northwest — a place where this intersection is easily observed in our day-to-day lives. Our garments are, and will continue to be, designed to participate in that realm. Our team knows that every woman has a unique perspective and our designs strive to serve as the foundation for a street-to-bike wardrobe. The designs focus on flexibility and durability, as well as timeless and sophisticated aesthetics.
What’s been the biggest surprise or success launching Iva Jean thus far?
The biggest surprise since I started Iva Jean was definitely winning the DailyCandy Start Small, Go Big. When I got the call letting me know that I was one of three finalists, I was absolutely stunned, and winning was by far one of our biggest successes.
What are you most excited about in attending the National Women’s Bicycling Forum?
I am thrilled to meet the people that I’ve chatted with online or met briefly in the past, as well as to meet new friends. I can only imagine that the forum will bring together a diverse group of women who are very interested in bicycling and bring fresh perspectives — from retail and design to advocacy and social equity.