Style in the Saddle

Segrasegra's Eliška and Dagmar Mertová aim to bring fun and fashion to Prague's cycle lanes

Both studied abroad and both returned with the same desire -- to make the Czech capital's public spaces a more fun and friendly place.

Fashion designers and sisters Eliška and Dagmar Mertová make clothes for cyclists using original and unusual materials, including bicycle-tire inner tubes. Their aim is to "liberate" bikers from multicolored sportswear: the Mertovás' designs, produced under the name Segrasegra ("Sistersister"), are so versatile that their wearers can go straight to the office or the café without having to change. Sandwich-makers Crocodille and Boulevard are impressed enough to have begun dressing their employees in the sisters' designs.

Flashing sleeve
"Even ordinary work clothes or a cycling T-shirt can look original and you shouldn't be ashamed of wearing them," says 26-year-old Eliška. In their designs, the sisters follow the golden rule -- be practical. Along with reflective elements, their bike jacket features a rubber stripe that protects the cyclist's back from dirt. The pockets are positioned on the back, while their T-shirt has a rubber tube around the waist to prevent it riding up while the wearer is cycling.

The sisters also make less sporty-looking clothing, such as trendy jackets and suits, but even these have stripes of reflective material or black rubber tubing. "The bicycle tire has become our trademark," says Eliška.

Cycling and sewing have been part of the girls' lives since they were little kids. Their mother used to made clothes for them herself and their father used to take them for bike trips.

"Our mom taught us to view wearing clothes as something of an adventure and our dad has taught us to love biking," says Dagmar, 29. Both women studied at Prague's Václav Hollar art college (Vyšší odborná škola a Střední umělecká škola Václava Hollara), and Eliška also studied in Berlin, where she was fascinated by the city's street fashions. Dagmar got similar inspiration in Finland. In 2006, they decided to use their foreign experience back home.

They started out with T-shirts, which soon became popular with their friends, so they added pants, jackets, sweatshirts and more formal clothing. They own only two sewing machines (the old suitcase-like type) and make a few dozen items per month. They regularly supply small original clothing stores such as Pour Pour, Hard-de-Core and Parazite. "We had to learn how to sew," says Eliška. "We aren't professional seamstresses."

In the past few years, their more creative pieces have been shown as part of Prague's Designblok exhibition and more and more people are discovering their work, including Zdeněk Tůma, Prague leader of the political party TOP O9, who owns a Segrasegra T-shirt. "Personally I wouldn't wear it in the office but they make very interesting things," says the former mayoral candidate.

In the future, the Mertová sisters are planning to buy professional sewing machines and hire professional seamstresses. "Our plan is to start making bicycle accessories, such as bags, purses and electronic clothes," says Eliška of her future dreams. "Bikers could just tap on the sleeve and it would start flashing."

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