The Hey Reflect'o Story
My inspiration for Hey Reflect’o came out of my desire to be easily seen on my bike without having to resort to boring old tradie’s workwear. In the past, I would roll up to trendy bars in an awesome outfit with a yellow hi-vis vest slung unflatteringly over the top. Not a good look! So I set out to design high visibility reflective wear that would not only keep me and other cyclists safe, but also compliment our everyday clothes and make us feel great. Hey Reflect’o cycling gear is fashionable, breathable, durable and eye-catching. Adorned with funky and fluoro geometric patterns, our vests and other products make you stand out day and night. It’s high visibility meets high fashion.
Meet the Maker
Lisa Penney is Adelaide-born and bred, and the creator of Hey Reflect’o.
It all began with Lisa on the kitchen floor, messing about with paper patterns and fluoro material. It took one month to create all of the initial designs and to sew up the vests, but a little longer to refine the process and make them even more perfect’o. At first, the fluoro and reflective shapes were stitched onto the vests, which looked amazing but there was a problem: an inadvertent extra layer of warmth. The solution? A new printing technique Lisa discovered and fell in love with. Besides being fade resistant, the new printing allowed the vests to be lighter and more breathable while maintaining a similar appearance to the originals. Another advantage was that this new printing process did not involve water and was a more environmentally sustainable method of dying fabrics. Lisa then took the idea to the local Adelaide printers where she introduced them to the fabulous fluorescent printing. They hadn’t known it existed but were willing to give it a go. The new technique proved to be complicated, taking over six months to set up and a further six to perfect it. Now vests are able be produced in no time at all. Lisa frequently travels to the factory on her retro single-speed bicycle, which has a bike trailer attached and transports all the material back to her studio where she applies the reflective artwork by hand. Increasingly, Lisa is collaborating with leading local artists from diverse backgrounds, including Agata Rybicka, Tom Borgas, and Sarie Tardif, to create new and exciting designs. Featuring everything from gum nuts to gelato, confetti to clouds – even a tribute to Mondrian! – there is something for everyone at Hey Reflect’o.
Five years on from Hey Reflect’o’s humble beginnings, we have a wide range of designs and products to choose from to ensure that you are seen. With safety still a paramount issue for cyclists, customers continue to testify that they notice that people driving cars, motorbikes, trucks, and buses acknowledge them more in our products and give larger distances when passing them, and particularly before turning right at night. Hey Reflect’o’s vests, leggings, bag covers, and caps are ideal for the everyday commute and cycle touring alike, and we cater to children as well as adults. This year, a whole family is cycling around Australia on tandem bicycles and they are all standing out in Hey Reflect’o. Be seen and be safe!
From our customers:
I adore Hey Reflect’o’s vests for their colour, comfort, and unique styling. They’ve become an Adelaide institution and it’s great to see them appearing interstate and overseas too. The fact that they are sustainably and ethically manufactured only makes them more appealing. As the climate crisis worsens, we need to empower individuals to use their cars less often and their bicycles as much as possible so anything that makes the roads safer for cyclists is an excellent thing. Lisa’s care, craft, and zest for life – all qualities reflected in the products she continues to lovingly make by hand – are an inspiration to us all – Ben, writer, 34
How Our Vests Are Made – A Personal Note
After three years of putting the reflective art on the vests myself, I decided to outsource. I could only make 25 vests per week as Reflect’o art is a time-consuming process. The fabric is shaped first by a digital cutting machine and then weeded by hand. After that it is cut with scissors and the artwork is placed by hand on top of the vest pieces, which I also prepare. All shapes are ironed in place by hand and then a heat press is used for the final fusing, which takes four presses per vest. Like many small business owners who strive to embody values of sustainability, high quality design and workmanship, and ethical workplace practices, I’m sometimes questioned about the prices I charge. The reality is that to make vests in Australia is not cheap. It costs between $70 and $75 to make a vest, depending on the complexity of the artwork and the amount used. Every part of the manufacturing process is labour intensive (it takes five people to print a vest) and time-consuming, and, as everybody knows, time is money. My products are quality garments. Each and every one is made with care and attention to detail, from the reflective shapes to the zippers, to every last stitch. If the prices I charged reflected the true costs of making my vests, they would retail for $280. I doubt I would have too many takers at that price! The bottom line is that it is extremely difficult to make clothing in Australia that is affordable while at the same time remaining high quality, environmentally sustainable, and reflective of non-exploitative working conditions. Today, Hey Reflect’o vests are still printed in Adelaide but some of the sewing and application of reflective art takes place in Bali. I still put reflective on many vests in Australia and these vests are sewn in Australia but the vests I don’t have time to make are sewn in Bali. The tailors there work from 8:30am to 5:30pm with a one hour break for lunch. They determine the amount they are paid. The head tailor receives more than double the minimum wage and the other staff are paid close to that too. I have not only visited the Bali factory, but also worked in it for several months and can report that the workers there are happy, well paid, and love their jobs. I have even become friends with many of them! Having secured an ethical supply chain, my focus this year is on sourcing recycled materials to make my products (my leggings are already printed on recycled lycra). While I am always striving to improve our products’ functionality, making them as environmentally responsibly as possible is critical. My passion for cycling, and keeping cyclists safe on our roads, is grounded in my environmentalism, and it is important to me that my brand is underpinned by these same values. If we are to confront climate change, we have to begin to transition to a zero-carbon society and if I can play any part, no matter how small, in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, then it makes all the hard work worth it.