City People. Daniel Bovalino: Vegan Athletic, Adelaide, Melbourne.
Every now and then, a brand appears to question the status quo and change things for the better. Founded by Daniel Bovalino, Vegan Athletic is one of the most exciting newcomers in the world of cycling and athletics apparel. Based in Melbourne, this young brand is quickly making a name for itself among cyclists all over the world because of its high quality, beautiful and ethical clothes. We had the pleasure to catch up with Daniel to talk about Vegan Athletic’s commitment to a healthier and more sustainable society as well as cycling and living in Australia.
It’s safe to say I’ve been a creative since a very young age and was always fascinated by style and design. Throughout my career, I’ve mostly worked as a graphic and communication designer but realised I’d get bored quickly as I like to use new technology and push the scope of any job I’m working on.
I have always found myself at the pointy end of new creative endeavours purely out of having a short attention span, but mostly because I just enjoy creating unique and authentic work. Which, I guess, has led me to where I am now, working full time for my own brand, Vegan Athletic. So far it’s been something that I’m not getting bored with.
Vegan Athletic is a brand that produces athletic apparel with a deep consideration for ethics, sustainability and highly considered design. The idea came about around two years ago out of a slight frustration that I couldn’t find any brands in the cycling apparel industry that made well-designed apparel for a growing market of vegan cyclists that I myself was a part of.
There were a small bunch of cliche brands out there who were rocking the “GO VEGAN” message in bold, oversized text and using really cheap fabrics which didn’t appeal to my eye at all. I knew how to design and manufacture cycling apparel and I saw there was a big gap in the market for well-designed cycling apparel for the vegan cycling community. Before too long, the name Vegan Athletic came about and I designed my first logomark and logotype which is the exact same version to this day.
I designed an all-black prototype and posted it on Instagram. The photo received a lot of interest which gave me some confidence that this brand could actually take off. I started working on the brand and launched a pre-order run in May last year bringing enough capital to get VA up and running. Since then, I have been adding to the collection, changing the manufacturing model to a manufacture on demand structure and working hard at using the most sustainable technical fabrics that are currently available.
I am super passionate about the slow fashion movement and decided early this year that Vegan Athletic will always run as a manufacture on demand company. Meaning that you place your order, the order is then ethically made over a 3-4 week period and then shipped directly to your door. It is a completely different way of manufacturing sports apparel but I guess that all comes down to me wanting to change the way the apparel game is currently run.
I was born and raised in Shepparton which is a regional city two hours north of Melbourne. Shepparton is surrounded by a lot of agricultural farms and there are a lot of really long quiet roads out there where you can ride for an hour without going through a single traffic light or stop sign. I moved back there for work back in 2013 and that was when I really started getting into road racing.
I lived in Adelaide for around 4 years and to this day still think it is one of the most amazing cities to live if you are into cycling. Adelaide is a city where you always feel like you are connected to the community. You can walk around the city and always bump into someone you know. Everyone seems more relaxed and so much more welcoming no matter what scene you’re into. I can remember when I first moved there and would be introduced to a friend of a friend, I’d put my hand out to shake hands and I would always end up being hugged instead!
On the cycling side of things, you can seriously pick any road that is leading into the hills that surround the city and you are guaranteed to be blown away by how beautiful the landscapes and climbs are there. It literally takes 25 min to get from the middle of Adelaide city to smack bang in the middle of the hills surrounded by amazing views and lush forests. The roads that wind across, up and down the hills in the McLaren Vale wine region are spectacular. I really do miss that part of the world.
Melbourne! What can I say! The cycling culture is deep here. There are a lot of cool kids riding bikes here and a lot of really strong riders are racing here too. I’ve recently decided that riding in the city is so much more enjoyable if you use the bike paths. Traffic is getting heavy these days so whenever I need to get to the other side of the city in order to get to the hills I will use bike paths or even better, I’ve started to get a transfer on a train out to the hills, ride all day and then catch a train back before peak hour sets in.
I personally prefer the city layout of Adelaide to Melbourne. The roads are wider, the city grid is very easy to navigate and probably my most favourite thing about the Adelaide CBD is that it is completely surrounded by beautiful parklands thanks to the influence of the garden city movement when Adelaide was originally being planned. There is just something very calming about having to pass through the parklands in order to enter the CBD, and you always feel like you can easily escape and be among nature so easily. The only other thing that I have noticed about Adelaide is how much more creative experimentation there is. So many cafe’s, restaurants, clothing stores and artists seem to be continuously popping up in Adelaide especially during the festival season.
Melbourne life on the other hand is, for me, always inspirational especially from a design point of view. If I’m ever feeling a creative block, I’ll usually head into the city and just get lost for a few hours where I’ll return home with a phone full of photos of design elements from around the city, be it fashion, architecture, or food culture that sparks my eye for more ideas. I feel like Melburnians really have a confident grip on design and style.
I guess I need to mention the coffee here too. We really do have a great understanding and appreciation for really good coffee. I’ve had people from around the world stop me and ask if I’ve been to this cafe or that roastery when I’ve mentioned I’m from Melbourne.
Finally, I think Melbourne folk are really opening up these days. We were once a city known for having very tight cliches, but more and more I’m seeing how social media is helping to create far more inclusive and larger communities of like minded people together. With that comes a lot more room for finding closer friendships and relationships within a particular collective and that ultimately extends to creating happier cities. And I think it’s fair to say, Melbourne is a pretty happy city these days.
I used to compare the two cities a lot and gave Adelaide the upper hand, but since using trains and bike paths to get out of the city I’ve fallen in love with riding here in Melbourne.
Cycling means freedom to me. When I get on my bike, I’m completely free from everything. It has become a big part of my life and it’s just something that never gets old for me.
One way to really explore Melbourne by bike is to ride along the Capital City trail. It’s also connected to the Yarra Trail, which is such a beautiful ride on a sunny day. I will often use the Capital City Trail to commute to the city even though I can take a much more direct and quicker route from my house. You just arrive in the city far more relaxed I find as opposed to riding through heavy traffic.
If you want to ride in the hills, then I highly recommend heading out into the Dandenong Hills, just go get lost up there cause it’s all beautiful. Also head out to Mt Donna Buang for a long and dense climb. King Lake is also another go to and probably the closest major climb to the city. The local easy coffee ride is a few laps of the Kew Boulevard.
Good food spots that I recommend are all vegan joints, of course. The go-to spots are Yong Green, The Vegie Bar, Trippy Taco, Shop Ramen (Tofu Ramen Bowl), GoJé ice-cream in Yarravile, Shop 225 Pizza in Pascoe Vale and Admiral Cheng Ho for the best coffee and vegan breakfast.
I’m looking at possible moving to the Gold Coast this year because I’m just not into the cold. I’ve got a bunch of friends who live in Northern New South Wales, just near Byron Bay and on the Gold Coast whom I have been visiting a lot recently. The cycling is amazing up there in the Hinterlands and I really do enjoy the chilled beach lifestyle. I think I will always come back to Melbourne as I have a lot of family, friends and networks here but lifestyle-wise, I’m looking forward to giving the sub-tropics a go for a while.
In five years from now, I’d love to see Vegan Athletic continuing to produce under the slow fashion model but having a much greater ownership over the manufacturing process so that we can become even more efficient and use less waste.
I’d also love to start a fully vegan pro cycling team as there are so many professional cyclists out there who are 100% plant based these days. But more than that, I really just want to see Vegan Athletic bringing together vegan athletes from around the world because community is such an important part of being a happy and healthy human. The ability to connect with other athletes around the world makes travel more fun, helps you to network in other like-minded projects and, overall, the feeling of belonging to a larger collective just comes with so many health benefits both physically and mentally.
Most of us are urban citizens and, over time, we’ll probably call a few cities home. Cities are the place where we choose to live and are shaped by the people who live in them. With increasing population numbers, urban planning that considers cycling will make life in these places more inclusive and humanistic.
City People is a new section where we talk about life and cycling in cities with the people who live in them. From London and Amsterdam to Buenos Aires and LA, we’ll be exploring the state and impact of cycling on urban areas all over the world and their citizens’ relationship with cycling.