Two years after launching its Custom clothing division, British apparel brand Rapha has quietly shut it down.
A short announcement on the Rapha Custom landing page reads simply:
“We have now closed Rapha Custom permanently, we would like to thank all our customers for their Custom support and loyalty over the last two years and we hope you continue to shop across our main range.”
The Custom offering was unveiled in March 2019, offering low minimum order quantities of five pieces, a promised eight-week turnaround, and a class-leading custom design tool that allowed consumers to design and visualise their kit 360º around.
At the time of launch, that was Rapha Custom’s big advantage, promising an improved customer experience while reducing the workload on Rapha’s design team. “We believe there is massive potential to grow the Custom market by making the design process easier and more accessible,” a representative for Rapha said at the time.
After initially launching with the Pro Team, Midweight, and Flyweight lines, Rapha expanded out over the lifespan of the Custom program to include its entry-level Core range, as well as technical tees and other apparel. It also lowered its minimum order quantities to just one item.
However, with competition from longer-established custom manufacturers – such as Cuore and Champion System – Rapha was not the only kit brand jostling for consumer spend, and its pricepoint was typically higher than its competitors’.
In a press release announcing the closure, Rapha said that “despite our best efforts, we have struggled to deliver an experience, both digitally and physically, that our customers, local teams and communities expect from the Rapha brand.”
The company has historically had more hits than misses, so it’s nonetheless a little surprising to see it stepping away from an entire market segment – especially after what was presumably a significant investment to get it up in the first place.
In response to questions from CyclingTips, a representative from Rapha elaborated further:
“An announcement went up on our website yesterday, and we are in the process of communicating with our customers regarding the news.
“We are proud of what the Custom team and the wider business has achieved over the past two years but we are sorry to say that there will be some impact on the teams. We are going through a period of consultation as we discuss roles and reporting line changes. There are up to three roles facing redundancy.”
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