My name is Hannah, I'm 35 and I live in Tasmania. I’m the founder and owner of Black Arrow Moto Gear.
After a very long time of saying how much I wanted to get my motorcycle licence, I finally bit the bullet 6 years ago and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. My mum got her licence before me and I thought it’s crazy that she can do it and I haven’t yet! It really became a family affair because my brother and I went and did the test together. Motorcycles have always been a part of our family. My Dad rides, aunts and uncles, cousins and my grandfather used to race motorcycles and has quite an amazing collection of vintage bikes. It used to be one of my favourite things as a kid to visit my grandparents and spend time in the garage with Papa tinkering on cars and bikes, handing over a particular tool for the job. I can still smell all the oil and grease from that garage when I think about it. Good times.
I still like working on my own bikes. Currently, I have a Kawasaki Zephyr ZR550 that has been customised and still has a little way to go. It needed a lot of work when I got it, but it’s now a great ride and very reliable.
Riding has opened up a whole world of new experiences and friends for me. I’ve made fast friends, people I might never have come into contact with, people that I'll probably be friends with for the rest of my life because motorcycling creates that bond between like-minded riders. It changed my career path from a commercial fashion designer to a fashion designer with purpose, creating styles I can be proud of in an industry that was tough as nails for women. I think in the last four years that I’ve been working on Black Arrow there has been a noticeable shift in the motorcycle industry towards female riders and their needs in a male-dominated space.
A lot of people are really surprised when they ask me what I do for a living when I tell them I design women’s motorcycle gear. After they pick their jaw up off the floor I'm always asked if I ride as well and when I say yes they just think it must be the coolest job in the world! Stresses aside I tend to agree!
I started Black Arrow because I couldn’t find fashionable gear. I used to rock up to my fashion job with a backpack of clothes to change into and heels to slip on because I couldn’t spend the day wearing the safety gear I rode to work in. Not only was the gear I had unflattering but it also didn’t fit right. My 20-minute ride to work was very uncomfortable. So, after 12 years of designing for other brands, I quit my job to start my own label and 10 months later my product was in stores.
I think Black Arrow has become a popular choice for female riders because of its fashion roots. They’re getting the style they crave because as women, we want to look great and feel confident in the clothes we choose to wear. But it also comes down to the fine details that make a garment great, that little extra care when designing to think about what I want to get out of a jacket and how I ride and how I would need to use that garment. Extra hidden pockets, small profile armour so we don’t look like muscle men off the bike, comfortable materials. It is the little things that make a great design. I often get emails from customers attesting to all these things. How much they love the fit, the style, the soft leather. I also (unfortunately) get emails from women who have been involved in accidents and are so thankful for their gear because it’s saved their skin and prevented broken bones. It’s these emails that keep me going!
Running a (very) small business on a global stage is tough and right now the biggest hurdle is keeping up with demand. Nothing is ever easy when it comes to manufacturing and more often than not something goes wrong, timelines get blown out, the product arrives not how it should be. It’s a constant battle but I persevere because I believe in the brand and the difference it’s making to the motorcycle industry for women providing a fashionable safety option over a non-armoured jacket. It sounds trivial, but the number of women I came into contact with when I was first starting the label that were not wearing protective gear on their bikes because they didn’t like the look of it was astounding. I’ve been in a motorcycle accident, I know the damage that can potentially be done and it’s just not worth the risk.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have shown the brand overseas in Europe and the UK where it has been received extremely well. It’s like nothing they’ve ever seen before and being an Australian label seems to be the cherry on top. People just get very excited about it! Black Arrow has expanded rapidly through the UK and Europe this year which has been stressful and amazing at the same time. I’ve met some amazing people on these trips not only in a business sense but other creatives in the motorcycle industry driving innovation not just in (freakin’ awesome) custom bike builds but apparel and tech too.
The moto industry is so fun to be a part of and I hope to continue being part of it for a very long time!
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