UK-based cycle clothing firm Milltag, known for its striking use of graphics and collaborations with figures from the world of music, the arts and beyond, has entered voluntary liquidation, documents filed at Companies House reveal.
The company appointed insolvency practitioner David Wilson of Leeds-based DFW Associates earlier this month to handle the voluntary winding-up of the business, agreed by its shareholders on 9 January. No specific reason was given for the company being liquidated.
Milltag was set up in west London in 2010 by graphic designers Pete Kelsey and Ed Cowburn, who in a blog post on the company’s website in December 2021 said it had started “as a side hustle … just two artistic cyclists who wanted some interesting kit for ourselves and likeminded folk.”
Unsurprisingly, given its co-founders’ background, from its very first offering in 2010, a limited edition jersey inspired by Bradley Wiggins’ fourth-place finish at the previous year’s Tour de France and emphasizing his love of all things Mod, Milltag’s products typically carried a strong visual design element.
As well as devising its own ranges, the company also engaged in a whole host of collaborations to produce cycling kit based on the graphics used by bands including The Pixies, Madness and Motörhead, and beyond music with partners as diverse as Transport for London and the artist Sir Peter Blake, and designed custom kits for a wide range of clubs, organizations and events.
Milltag also provided the leaders’ jerseys for the Tour of Yorkshire, something the founders were especially proud of, given that despite operating from London, their origins lie in the region, and it would subsequently work again with ASO on the classification jerseys for the Tour of Oman.
In 2013, it designed an eye-catching kit for Friends of Herne Hill Velodrome, which was at the time raising funds to try and save the historic south London venue, which had hosted bike racing since before the Tour de France was dreamt up – the campaign proving successful, with the track subsequently resurfaced and a new clubhouse opened.
In December 2021, Kelsey revealed in a blog post that he was stepping down from its day to day management but said he was confident over Milltag’s future prospects.
“It’s been eleven amazing years growing the Milltag cycling brand but now it’s time for me to concentrate on my design business which I’ve also been managing since 1998,” he wrote.
“The pandemic has given us all a little time to pause and reflect on where we are in our working lives and this feels like the right time to hand over the day to day running of the operation.
He wrote that “in common with many small operations, the past 18 months have proved challenging – the combined pressures of Brexit-related disruption and Covid restrictions have had a significant impact.
“Fortunately, the business has proved to be more than resilient and the order book is looking healthy,” he added. “I’m leaving safe in the knowledge Milltag will continue to thrive and prosper.”
As recently as last September, in a tweet accompanied by pictures of cycling jerseys it had designed for the Joy Division, Ride and Carter USM, Milltag said it was “Planning 2023 collaborations and looking for more bands to create cyclewear with.”
Planning 2023 collaborations and looking for more bands to create cyclewear with. Having done @rideox4 @PIXIES @carter_usm who’s next? We a thinking @Tim_Burgess , @wearejames, @Happy_Mondays, @berenyi_miki, @MassiveAttackUK should get in touch…. Who else? pic.twitter.com/lG7DBRKsc1
— Milltag (@Milltag) September 26, 2022
Sadly, there will be no more collaborations – but here’s a look back at some of the more striking ones Milltag delivered in recent years, starting with kit inspired by the carpets used on trains running on Transport for London’s Victoria and District tube lines.
Thanks to @TfL we used real carpet swatches from old seats to recreate the original patterns.
Just be careful if you take the Victoria or District line wearing them as you may get sat on. We don’t want that in this time of social distancing.#TfL #milltag pic.twitter.com/4bEYWQfSfm
— Milltag (@Milltag) October 10, 2020
Emphasising the brand’s roots in graphic design, there was also a partnership with Monotype for a jersey paying tribute to the iconic Helvetica typeface.
“Helvetica is a typeface built for both form and function, similar to the way Milltag designs great cycling apparel.
James Fooks-Bale @Monotype Senior Director of Creative
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀#milltag #helvetica #monotype #design #typeface #collab pic.twitter.com/4DT0WpbsIh
— Milltag (@Milltag) October 14, 2020
Milltag also teamed up with Simon Warren, author of the 100 Climbs series of books, for a jersey showcasing the road sign that adorns the covers of the series – and which can also regularly be spotted on TV being waved by the writer himself at bike races in the UK and abroad.
— Simon Warren (@100Climbs) October 9, 2020
One high-profile collaboration was with the artist Sir Peter Blake – perhaps best known for his artwork for the 1967 Beatles LP, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
“I’m delighted with my Milltag cycle wear range. I have used some of my Dazzle imagery on these pieces and think they have worked well. My racing cycling days are long gone but I still keep up with Cycling but now watching it from the side lines.”
Peter Blake (March 2021) pic.twitter.com/Cw8tvQjnF3
— Milltag (@Milltag) April 6, 2021
And finally, here’s a jersey based on West Ham United’s striking mid-1970s away kit.
Milltag x West Ham United Football Club ⚒ The Club collection pre-order launches today. Inspired by the classic away kit (after all, you’ll be this on the road rather than at home) and the fact that those bands that are so synonymous with cycling. Available for a limited period. pic.twitter.com/D7g76iRTHZ
— Milltag (@Milltag) April 30, 2021