By Teresa Madeline
Don’t let the glittery glasses or the Christmas themed cycle shirt fool you – Russ Jones means business. This DJ-come-cyclewear-designer is on a mission to style up every breed of cyclist on the East side of London. Hackney GT (Hackney Globe Trotters) was dreamed up by lifetime cycling enthusiast Russ not too many months ago, “I started looking around and couldn’t find a brand anywhere mixing fashion and cycling, I just wanted to make bright and fun designs… When I looked into making the jersey, I thought, actually maybe there’s a business in this.”
Off his bike, Russ is well known to the music world, his regular DJ sets in clubs around East London and on SOAS (School for Oriental and Asian Studies) Radio focus on world music and ‘Cumbia’, a hybrid style of music that blends dance, Latino, hip hop and gypsy beats, “It’s the most amazing music.”
The name and logo for Hackney GT was originally designed to launch as Russ’s new world music brand, “the logo came out really well, and I thought, this would look great on a jersey. I had always thought if the music took off, wouldn’t it be great to start a cycling team?” And that he did, the Hackney GT cycling team now get together every week to train and enter cyclo-cross competitions regularly. “Cyclo-cross is like a cross between mountain biking and cross country running. We use bikes that are like hybrid racing bikes with drop handlebars. You might have to stop and run at some points and carry your bike, you race for an hour – it’s very harsh and a lot of fun!” The Hackney GT team is growing quickly and has over 20 members so far and plus a number of impressive sponsors to boot. “It was always a dream and I didn’t quite imagine it to come about so quickly.”
I met with Russ at one of his favourite café haunts, London Fields Radio Café, he isn’t quite what I had expected when DJ/Fashion Designer came to mind. Like many creative types, his extrovert style masks a modest, slightly shy but quirky character with not a hint of arrogance. Russ fondly speaks of his three true passions in life – music, cycling and Hackney. He has big plans to eventually combine these three in a holy trinity of Eastend festivals next year, “I’m trying to mix music and cycling, my website has both. I think in time it’ll work and people will get used to it. I love music and DJ-ing, I’m not giving it up… I want to bring the two worlds together, that’s the plan. Then I think people will really get it when they see the two together like that.”
Russ’s allegiances plainly lie in the borough of Hackney, as a resident for over ten years he can’t get enough of the area he calls home, “Hackney’s such a village you don’t need to go outside of it…There’s a real community feel, there is a lot of creative people and people I work with in music, fashion, cycling – they all live nearby. Everywhere I go I know people, I feel at home here, it’s very friendly.” Which is obvious in the way he familiarly chats over the counter to the staff in the café, as does everybody else who pops in – it’s sometimes difficult to remember that we’re actually in a café in London and not a small country village.
Russ’s timing for his new brand is impeccable, with cycling in East London at a peak and the area being a hub for fashionistas, it has a growing demand for trend-setting cyclewear, “The cycle scene in east London is great. There are many different spheres to it – you get the fixi guys and girls, loads of commuters and then the people into racing. It’s brilliant. It’s very flat so cycling is great especially as we don’t have a tube, plus a lot of people are creative and poor so cycling is ideal. It’s probably the number one borough in London for cycling.”
Looking at the jerseys, Russ is clearly on to something good. They are vibrant and bold with a retro edge that truly encompasses the vintage Shoreditch style. Russ designs each of the jerseys himself, with the help of graphic designer Geoffrey Arias . Prices aren’t exactly on the cheap side starting from £65, but the high quality and attention to design – in comparison to the limited, less fashionable options in cycle shops – makes them a worthy investment for any style conscious cyclist, plus where else can you get a Christmas, or ahem…‘Alpine style’ (as Russ insists) cycling jersey?
I ask what ride the face of the Hackney Globe Trotters is sporting, blushing he shows me his ‘old banger’. “I’ve had so many bikes stolen that I just needed something basic that get’s me from A to B really.” He also goes on to explain to me the practical joys he’s discovered in sporting a basket on his bike, but fully assures me it is, in fact, a man bicycle basket.
You can purchase Hackney GT gear online at http://shop.hackneygt.com/
Listen to Russ Jones on SOAS radio http://soasradio.org/hackney-globe-trotter