PROJECT ROUND-UP: THE OAKLEY IN RESIDENCE WORKSHOP

As the shutters of The Workshop wound down one last time, I’m finding it hard to believe that our Oakley In Residence project’s residency on London’s Exmouth Market has finished it’s stint as the beating heart of London’s eclectic cycling community this summer.

In my remit as a project manager, the Workshop has been a huge part of my professional and personal life this year.  Yup, it’s been blood, sweat and tears, and straight up awesome. 

So what exactly was The Workshop?  Part mechanic's workshop, part creative space, we partnered with local crews, talent, charities and mechanics to bring to life our vision of a space that celebrated everything that is two wheels, in all its guises.  The uniqueness of the cycling landscape in London was initially a challenge: how do we cater for and create a space for the London rider – and all of them: fixies, roadies, commuters, couriers, BMXers, mountainbikers…(in the end we even had Penny Farthings in the space. No shit) that they would all want to spend time in, enjoy, and return to.  A captive (and huge: 610,000 daily cyclists in London) market yes, but a kaleidoscopic market with an abundance of considerations.

Ultimately what we did was create a space that in its reflection of the Oakley brand campaign ethos, One Obsession, in turn created a pop-up that was honestly obsessive about cycling, and multi-faceted.  Identifying and collaborating with partners that truly encapsulated what cycling is in the bustling metropolis including Seabass cycles, who provided our mechanics service.  Looking to ensure cycling was genuinely a legitimate happening of the space, we sought the talents of renowned crew East London Fixed to tailor both fixed and road rides over the 4 month period, building a unique programme that paid testament to their skills as riders and ride leaders, and bringing their incredible energy, friends and straight-up fun to the space.  Fearless leader Jack Lumins works tirelessly to give back to the cycling community, selfless in all his decisions, which really spoke to me about the camaraderie, stoke and genuine friendship in this awesome scene. 

I’m the first to admit I couldn’t fix a puncture before this summer.  Jenni and the gang at London Bike Kitchen who used the space for their maintenance and wheel building classes over the project put a stop to that, and we captured Jenni in her element in a series of informative and fun consumer-facing videos, chatting through how to care for your bike.   Check out an example below. 

Fusing grit and gears with art, the yang to the space's cranking ying, saw us collaborate with Spoke London, the dynamic duo of Rosemary and Chris who hold annual exhibitions celebrating cycling through illustration.  Curating a unique gallery following our brief, artists including Emma Shoard and Pol Sifter were showcased at The Workshop for the first arts project in the space.  Other collaborations included a photography exhibition with Team Sky snapper and all-round mod-man Scott Mitchell, and a one of a kind collaboration with renowned arts college, Central Saint Martins.  Championing fresh talent in the space, 4 students from Central Saint Martins drew inspiration from the Oakley One Obsession campaign and the cycling to community to produce 4 incredible and uniquely rad pieces for our final exhibition.

The clank of chains and the click of a film feel go together like the Tour De France and chammy cream, and looking to the global movement and counter-cultural phenomenon that is The Bicycle Film Festival, founder Brendt Barbour curated a hella awesome programme of some of the finest cycling motion pictures for a bi-weekly residency in the space. 

The moments the space really came alive for me was during events like the Red Hook Crit, a skin-tannin’, nail bitin’, balls-to-the-wall fixed gear track race.  Our sports marketing team’s sponsorship of the event brought 200 of the competitors to the space for a pre-event sign up party, shutting down Exmouth Market in a pulsating miasma of cut-off denims, neon track bikes, endless beers and more tattoos then a Hells Angels bike convention.  With competitors from as far as Mexico, the US, and Europe and Asia, these events perfectly encapsulated to me what is so special and so vibrant about this unique community: simply put, a genuine love and honest to god stoke for riding, and the ensuing friendships around it.  A by-product of something I love so much about surfing and snowboarding is namely that the people who tend to live and love these sports and lifestyles are a friendly, fervent bunch of life-lovers who I feel the most affinity with.  The same can be said for this unique community, which I feel fortunate to have spent a summer with working on this project.

It’s been a wild, riotous whirlwind, and we welcomed the likes of campaign face Chas Christiensen, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Liam Philips and Mark Cavendish through our doors over the summer, hosted events including The Cycle Hack, an incredible movement that seeks solutions to cyclings every-day problems, welcomed the next generation, Lee Valley Cycle Club kids through our doors to screen print jerseys and take part in London Bike Kitchen Workshops, and held Wagfest, a women’s festival with LBK.  This was all held together by the incessantly awesome and unbreakable Alec Briggs, the space manager who we recruited at the start of the summer.  What a dude, and what a talent. I don’t know if he should continue pursuing a career in marketing or be a pro-rider – that kid is insane! 

The project’s purpose wasn’t to garner ROI from the actual spaces functionings, it was to support the scene, to foster and cultivate a community and bring to life the lifestyle of our campaign.  With so much of the programme including the rides, the cinema events, the bike servicings, the beers and art all free, I did feel genuinely stoked that the project was in a truly authentic way supporting the community, and that it did.  So many people told me they were genuinely sad it was ending, that it had indeed become a hub for all that was 2 wheels this summer in London.  As the Cuban Brothers and a stream of near-neat cocktails named after our collaborators including the Seabass Sour and London Bike Cooler toasted the end of the project in its wild closing party, In Residence will now continue its metamorphosis to Sydney, and its London legacy will continue, so stay tuned!