Celebrating 25 Years of Covering Your Ass

Hi Everyone, and welcome to the 25th Anniversary of ZOIC Clothing! 25 years is quite an accomplishment for brand longevity these days, especially in cycling apparel, and I’ve been a witness to the bulk of that history. 25 years. Take a moment to ponder what you were doing, riding, wearing, and maybe even your hairstyle 25 years ago and think of the progress we’ve all made, then go ahead and share the before and after photo on Instagram.

To commemorate our Silver Celebration I’m pulling back the proverbial curtain on what’s transpired over the years from both a business and personal perspective, giving some insight to the inspiration of the brand, recounting my entry into the ZOIC universe, and sharing how today, 25 years later, our passionate team continuously strives to make the best quality product and live our best lives on and off the bike.

Back in ‘94 two design-inspired San Francisco bike shop employees were immersed in the mountain bike and messenger scene stirring on the streets and trails of the Golden Gate City. But they lamented cycling apparel - how at that time your look consisted of Spandex shorts in every color of black you could think of, jeans in both sizes: long or short, and white cotton tees. These two had a higher concept of style; they had thoughts of creating something different, outfitting an emerging bike culture, transforming something fashion-less to a lifestyle look they and others like them could embrace.

(Photos Courtesy of Fat Tire Flyer Magazine)

They started by sewing the black spandex shorts so despised by their mountain bike and messenger brethren into the waistband of Gap cargo shorts. Feedback was outrageously positive. Most of their friends were already pulling baggy shorts over their spandex shorts, but now the two were a package deal. By creating the first shorts shell + liner system in the sport of cycling, the two apparel innovators had struck gold, setting the wheels in motion for a new brand - ZOIC Clothing… In designing baggy shorts specifically for cycling, their second innovation was just as revolutionary: the Fusion Gusset. This swath of stretch fabric inserted between rigid cotton panels amplified the rider’s range of motion. The gusset placement also shifted the inseam away from the crotch and inner thighs, eliminating stitching and bulk where the rider contacts the bike seat. The Fusion Gusset proved less restrictive and enhanced comfort, ensuring a chafe free ride. The Fusion Gusset remains an essential element of every pair of shorts and pants ZOIC sells today.

Live Fast. Ride Hard. Dress Well.

In 1996 the brand hit the world wide web selling “The hardest working shorts in the bike business. Can even withstand a James Brown Split - Yow! Hit it and Quit it!”. By 1997, ZOIC had its first catalog and hit the retail shelves of dealers across the country. Demand was plentiful; finally something new and fresh to wear on the bike and around town. Messengers routinely stopped at World HQ in the old Cannery Building to stock up on product, hydrate, and talk about the best new bike or bar. Around this time a famous bike messenger decked in ZOIC shorts (bike superfan and early ZOIC investor Robin Williams) even delivered the Top Ten List on the Late Show with David Letterman when they were taping in San Francisco. Watch Video of Robin Williams in ZOIC Shorts

“It’s Where You Find It”. This phrase, from the opening pages of that catalog, embraced a progressive approach to performance apparel. You could find IT, whatever IT meant to you, on the streets or on the trails, in your back yard or across the country. And for any IT, ZOIC made WHAT you should wear. This is where the ZOIC story becomes my story, or vice versa. March 1998, the NORBA World Cup race came to Napa Valley and I was working a demo booth for Powerbar. On break I stumbled upon a company selling what I wore for mountain biking, baggy shorts over black spandex shorts. But this was different. They had a vibe, a presence; it was a happening. People were gathering, my people. All walks of life, all shapes and sizes. It was a breath of fresh air and a look of fresh shorts. I was intrigued. I got back to the Powerbar booth and started talking to my boss about “that brand over there”. I didn’t know how to say the name. He told me that “Zo-Wick” had just hired a Powerbar rep as their new sales manager. He gave me the number and told me to call on Monday, he was sure they were looking for help.

By May I was hired and was walking through the doors of The Cannery Building myself. I was a pretty good fit, I had 3 years of apparel experience working at a skiwear brand with exposure to sales, customer service, design, production, and warehousing. But most importantly, I liked to ride my bike. After my very first day, riding home down the Embarcadero with my boss, he turned to me between labored breaths and said, “Welcome aboard, it’s going to be a wild ride”. Fortuitous to say the least.

Yours truly being a model citizen.

The next 5 years period saw dramatic changes. The original owners sold the brand and with new leadership came a shift in priorities. ZOIC signature style became an often imitated, never duplicated look; we felt both validated and infuriated by the imitators. Without the original crew the brand lost touch with its roots, the band broke up, and I hit the slopes of Lake Tahoe. UNTIL…… A new chapter began in 2003, as ZOIC transitioned to San Diego, and new management coaxed me from my skiing adventures to move down and help run the ZOIC business. I sensed an amazing opportunity in a new city with a new group looking to do new things. As I think back to “It’s going to be a wild ride”, my second chance was wild from the start. I met my current business partner and co-owner of ZOIC, Paul Wyandt on that first trip south. More importantly, on that same day in the office I also met the woman who would one day become my wife, Laura Fairchild, the amazing mother of my two kids Rion and Reed. I guess the old adage “don’t make honey where you make your money” wasn’t for me.

The Fam

But that’s jumping ahead. Somewhere between 2003 and 2004, ZOIC lost the attention and investment of its owners; no new products were being developed. Sensing an opportunity, Paul and I secured control in late 2004. With a full head of steam, and a year to get cracking, we relaunched ZOIC with a brand-new line for 2006.

Interbike Tradeshow 2005 with the rebranding of ZOIC under new ownership

Having personally been part of 21 of ZOIC’s 25 years, there are a lot of amazing memories, stories, products and more importantly PEOPLE that have help shaped me and this brand. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity, support, and commitment from my business partner, Paul, who shares a similar passion for this brand as I do. You can’t have a solid team without these traits from the ownership group, and it’s been a pleasure to work side by side for as long as we have. We’ve had some great rides, laughs, inspirations, and missteps that combine to guide and shape the direction of this brand for now and the future. Thank you, Paul.

Eric and Paul at the beginning of one wild heli-drop ride – Whistler BC, Canada

When you order something, it’s imperative that the right product goes in the right box. Luckily we’ve had Darren Mitchell, our logistics manager, covering those needs for 15 years. It’s a ton of work managing a warehouse, with enough heavy lifting to throw out the best of backs. But the importance of a highly functioning, error free, and now with direct to consumer shipments a much heavier volume of orders, reliable, personable coordinator, we are fortunate to have him take so much pride in his craft. Thanks D. For our design team, we have had an amazingly dedicated and committed staff, primarily lead by Laney Aberle. Fifteen years ago, when we began resurrecting this brand, and when Craigslist was cool, Laney and I met in hopes of bringing fashion and function back to the bike market. Laney has spearheaded so many designs, innovations, updates, and colors, that I’m sure whatever you are wearing now rolled off her screen. You’ve designed some really cool things Laney. Nothing runs smoothly without your customers being happy. Lauren Webb has been handling our inside sales and customer service for the last three years, and our dealers and consumers are so lucky to have her. If you want to get on her good side or find out if there is a current deal or promotion being offered, just ask about her French Bulldogs. You’ll quickly get all her best sales discounts, after she fills you in on her puppies’ latest antics. Thank you for handling the hardest job in the office Lauren. What started as some tradeshow help, turned into one of the most dynamic roles on the staff. From overseeing the redesign of our website and managing a huge surge in consumer demand, to staffing photo shoots and still finding time to make it to all the best rides, Pete Campbell is a jack of all trades and then some. If you need something, turn to Pete, he’ll get you what you need. Thanks for everything Pete. Our newest team player, community coordinator Chris Schieffer, just might be the spirit animal we’ve been looking for. She started in 2019 with great success at the Sedona MTB Festival and Sea Otter Classic, while driving a surge in our social media following. I anticipate Chris powering us through many more milestones in the future. To find her at an event just look for the trail of glitter flowing off her helmet. And if you have some cool photos in ZOIC gear over the last 25 years, please send to Chris so we can get them tagged in the ‘gram and finally make a star out of you! Welcome aboard Chris. As for me, it’s been a few thousand words and I’m still at a loss. How can you sum up 20+ years of your life in one blog? Jud was right, it *has* been a wild ride. I’ve had more fun with this than I often take time to remember. I’ve told the story before that I’m extremely lucky, not many people get to see their passions come to life.

One day we had an idea, so we drew up this idea, put some measurements as to how long and wide we wanted the idea to be, we put some color on the idea and it started to come to life on the computer screen. We looked far and wide for just the right fabric for this idea, had the fabric dyed to match the color we saw on the computer, and sent that fabric along with the measurements to a factory to get the idea sewn. And a few weeks later, we got back a prototype. We put it on, fit tested it, made our comments to what need to change and rode in it for more feedback. We made our notes and sent them back to the factory for v2. With the new and improved v2 we took that idea around the country and tried to talk dealers into supporting this brand, this product, and ultimately US, by spending their hard-earned dollars on this product and carrying this product in their stores. And some did. So we produced this idea at the factory, had it put on an ocean vessel and shipped to our warehouse, where we put it in a box, sent said box to the beautifully supportive dealer, and the dealer hung it up for his customers to see, hopeful that he was right in thinking this brand, this product, and US, knew what we were doing. And his customer saw it, loved it so much because it was exactly what he was looking for (and exactly what I was looking for 20 years ago) and purchased it. And the new owner of this new product got on his bike and our product was interface. He didn’t sit directly on his bike seat, he sat on our pad, in our liner, inside our short, and had a connection like he never had before. And he went for a ride, up this mountain, peddling away, grinding, sweating, dreaming, enjoying, smiling, thinking, and when he got to the top, I was there. Just think of how many things had to go right for this meeting. So, I engaged him, and when he caught his breath, I asked him, “How do you like your shorts?” and his response “Ah man, ZOIC is the BEST!!!” And he is right.

There are WAY too many other product ideas, designs, inspirations and highlights over the last 25 year to mention them all here, this blog is already too long. But like children, each product we make is near and dear to our heart. Our passion to make the best gear possible, that meets and exceeds all your expectations, is the drive that allows us to continue what we do. Keeping you on your bike or running with your dog or gardening the most beautiful sun flowers or whatever you choose to do in our clothes, is all we need. The smiles as wide as canyons don’t hurt either.

Our most popular short ever, the Men’s Ether Short in action

Happy ladies sporting the many shades of our women’s Navaeh Short

We were the first company to bring flannel to the fall riding season

We were the first to offer a dedicated men’s and women’s bike commuter/casual line

We were one of the first (and currently one of the only) to make apparel for kids

We even tried our hand at shoes

Cheers, to 25 Years, and the wild ride continuing. We hope to see you all somewhere on this journey and I look forward to asking you how you like your shorts. Let’s celebrate together! Thank you Eric Swenson ZOIC Clothing