Jennifer Hannon is the woman behind Machines For Freedom, a new company providing thoughtfully designed, stylish and comfortable cycling apparel for women. A passionate cyclist who spent nearly one decade designing hotels and restaurants, Jenn turned her focus to cycling apparel when she saw a hole in the market that the industry was struggling to fill. She went on to launch Machines For Freedom in 2014 and hasn't looked back since.
In her session ‘Tapping into an Ignored Market’, Jenn will discuss some of the issues she encountered when starting Machines For Freedom along with her approach to identifying and finding value in niche markets.
What is your most prized possession?
That’s easy, my road bike! I’ve covered almost 20,000 miles on that bike. It has taken me through every mountain pass in Southern California, down the Oregon coastline, through the bustling streets of Manhattan. And in addition to the adventures, there’s the personal journeys it enables. I’ve probably experienced every emotion imaginable on that bike. (The bike cry is a real thing.) It provides mediation, is a medium for conquering fears, and I’ve formed some of my most cherished friendships on that bike.
Who is your favorite artist or designer?
Most of my favorites come from my past architectural world. Richard Sierra comes to mind. I’m inspired by opposites coming together in a harmonic way. Steel becoming fluid. Strength appearing soft. Order within chaos. If anyone has tried to cross the street in Ho Chi Minh City they know what I mean by this!
What is the most surprising/innovative design you’ve seen in the past year?
The Apple Tile. I’d be lost without it.
What’s more important - Form, Fit or Function?
In my world, function is paramount. If the clothes don’t function properly they are worthless, or worse, can actually cause harm! Fit and form are a means to superb function.
Describe the defining moment when you knew style was your passion:
I think I’m living in that moment now. Style is a way to express your internal world on the outside, and starting this business has given me the freedom to design based on my own feeling and intuition. Before this, I’ve always designed for other people. Sifting through client’s and employer’s needs and wishes in order to achieve their vision. Starting MACHINES FOR FREEDOM has given me the freedom of self-expression.
Any predictions for the state of the [fashion] industry in 2015?
I hope the fashion industry continues to make space for small, start-up brands. The more varying tastes and ideas that are in the marketplace, the more room people have to play with their own, unique, self-expression. And I might be getting a little lofty and esoteric here, but I think allowing for individuality also helps us to become more tolerant and accepting of each other’s differences. To find your voice.
If you could run into anyone at SXSW, it would be…
Emily Weiss. I’m kind of obsessed…
What can people expect from your session at SXSW 2015?
People can expect to learn about a segment of the fashion world that is so out of touch with the mainstream it’s baffling. And to hear some pretty funny anecdotes about trying to start a brand in that environment.
Finally, what is your mantra?
As for my mantra, when making life decisions I always ask myself if the future me will regret not doing it. If the answer is yes, I do it. Even if it’s terrifying. Regret is a far worse feeling than failure.
Photos Courtesy of Jennifer Hannon