SheMoto Seeks Smooth Run

April 13, 2007
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HOLLAND — Nearing its first-year anniversary, women's motorcycle apparel and accessory maker she-moto is hoping to soon distribute its product through motorcycle dealers across the nation.

The Holland-based company has been selling its female-friendly line of motorcycle leathers for seven months exclusively through trade shows and its Web site, Founder and principal designer Tiina Perttu (the spelling representative of her native Finland) is currently preparing a marketing campaign to introduce her offerings to motorcycle dealerships.

"The problem with the Internet is that, even though people do shop for clothes online, they still want to try it on," she said. "I offer an ironclad return policy, but I've done much better at trade shows where I have samples they can try on."

A motorcycle rider since the mid-1990s, Perttu developed the she-moto concept from her increasing frustration with the design of motorcycle leathers for women. The thick, armor-lined jackets provided no opportunity for female motorcyclists to dress for fashion as well as safety. Traditional offerings were bland, miniaturized versions of men's jackets or gaudy pieces seemingly designed for the stereotypical biker-gang girlfriend.

"There is a huge number of women riders taking up the hobby every year that are in the baby boomer range, professionally educated, and (who) don't want to look like men or the hardcore biker chick," said Perttu. "They need something nicer and more feminine to wear."

At more than 2.3 million, the number of women motorcycle riders is seeing record growth. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, female motorcycle ownership today is nearly 10 percent of total motorcycle ownership, up from 6.4 percent in 1990. Harley-Davidson Motor Co. has seen women as a percentage of U.S. sales grow by a factor of five since 1985.

The typical female rider is in her mid-30s, married, educated and upwardly mobile. She-moto became one of a handful of companies in the industry to recognize the value of this growing demographic segment with its launch last June at the AMA/FIM International Women & Motorcycling Conference in Athens, Ga.

The company's debut line features five jackets designed with the safety (thick leather; elbow and shoulder armor) and comfort (pre-curved sleeves, venting systems) of men's jackets, but with a flattering cut designed to accentuate the female rider's figure. The "girly" factor varies from high (the corset-inspired moto-femme) to moderate (the sporty moto-sleek). All she-moto jackets feature a tiny pocket purse built into the sleeve for lipstick, cash and credit cards. Jacket prices range from $500 to $800.

The jackets are manufactured in Italy by Vircos Services, a company specializing in sport leathers for the motorcycle market. The jackets — all made to order, as she-moto currently carries no inventory — were originally slated for domestic production, but Perttu could not find a U.S. manufacturer capable of producing the complicated designs in a cost-effective manner.

She-moto has provided Perttu — a 20-year veteran of the office furniture market who has spent the last decade at Herman Miller — more than a new entrepreneurial career.

"I've been in corporate America for years, and always thought, 'When I grow up, what do I really want to do?' Everyone said, 'Do what you love.' And I found a way to turn motorcycling into a job."

Grand Rapids Magazine Staff Writer Curt Wozniak contributed to this report.

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