Shop the entire Machines for Freedom collection here.
Meet Jenn Hannon: Machines for Freedom Founder
Where did the inspiration for the MFF name come from?
The name harkens back to women's history and relationship to the bike, and is inspired by the famous Susan B. Anthony quote, "The bicycle has done more to emancipate the woman than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance." I think all cyclists, male and female, can relate to the feeling of freedom that the bike brings. But for women, that feeling and relationship is much deeper. The bike can literally change our lives.
You left a career in hotel and restaurant design to start up a cycling clothing brand. How did that come about?
It was a confluence of several events. On the one hand, I was feeling pretty burnt out on restaurant design. The work was becoming more and more monotonous and less challenging. I had started to channel that restlessness into cycling and was training for a 6-day Randonnee through the Pyrennes when I started to experience, first-hand, how much women's cycling apparel was lacking. The final straw was when I crashed my bike descending the "Rock Store" which left me with a pretty serious concussion. Having prolonged time away from my career in restaurant design, and watching myself struggle to reintegrate into that working life after the concussion, made me realize I was ready for a change.
What's one thing that's translated over from your former career, and what's something you've had to learn how to do?
Lots of things have translated from my old career, but perhaps the biggest is the ability to problem solve under pressure and the ability to juggle several moving parts and funnel them towards one clear vision. When I was opening new restaurants, a colleague of mine used to say we were "conductors of the orchestra", with the "orchestra" being all of the contractors, artists, and tradespeople that went into building out the final space. I find myself in a very similar role with Machines.
What was your vision when you started Machines, and how has that evolved along with the brand?
My original vision had to do with creating a kit that made women feel confident: apparel that was more in line with modern everyday apparel. It also had to provide absolute comfort and top performance, so that women's athletic goals weren't hindered by the performance of their clothes. There was also a storytelling component that I was interested in, and that was portraying cycling in a way that was authentic to my own experience of riding bikes and the community. Prior to Machines, I didn't consider myself a "cyclist", which seems crazy considering I rode my bike 5-6 days a week! But I didn't relate to the stories put out into the community, and as a result, felt a little like an outsider. So with Machines, I wanted to introduce a different point of view into the culture.
What will we see from this line in the future?
We have so many ideas! Recently I've been thinking a lot about outerwear. Maybe because we've had some exceptionally cold winters here in LA these past couple years!
What are some of your favorite rides?
Locally, I can't get enough of the Angeles Crest these days. A small group of people ride to the top of Mt. Wilson at dawn every Wednesday, and while it's not easy getting out of bed at 4 am to join them, it's always worth it. When you have the hectic LA roads to yourself, even for a moment, it feels like time is standing still.
Join Jenn and Western Bikeworks for a special women's road ride on June 28th, and come party with us at the Portland launch of Machines for Freedom on June 29th at our Pearl store! View details and links to RSVP here.