Written by Jerry Thurston
I have often banged on about how paddock presence and a professional look need not come at a premium cost. About how things like smart overalls and team shirts cost very little and make a heck of a difference to the way even a dad’s ‘n’ lads operation looks.
I also acknowledge that for those who are able or willing to spend some extra there will also be opportunity to go the extra distance to stand further apart from the herd. Custom helmet designs are probably the most visible, you only need to flick through the pages of Karting magazine to realise that they are probably top of every driver’s list of must-have items.
A plain helmet and one that features an outstanding design are, as a safety item, exactly the same, but as a get-you-noticed tool they are miles apart. However, I lose count of how many times I’ve seen very expensive custom painted helmets teamed with ‘works’ driving suits. I’m not going to re-visit my tirade about paying through the nose to advertise somebody else’s product. Suffice to say, if you are going to pay top-dollar for a helmet and team it with a similarly top-of-the-range race suit, it had better suit your advertising purposes not somebody else’s.
I have always tried to practice what I preach, always using suits that were embroidered with little more than the driver’s name. I could also see that there was massive opportunity to utilise the advertising potential of the driver’s suit. But where you might get a bespoke suit appeared to be one of the best kept secrets in the business. I had a couple of half-hearted attempts to find somebody and then pretty much gave up, that was until I spotted a banner at Whilton Mill – “BRB GP Racing… “UK’s No. 1 custom suit designers, dare to be different”. This piqued my interest.
We initially met up with with the BRB team when they were exhibiting at the 2012 KartMania show. The principal is Benjamin Bailey who is a graduate of St Martin’s University of the Arts in London. He founded the company in July 2011 after he turned up at the Le Mans 24 hour race in a £300 suit thinking that this would make him stand out, only to find, as he puts it… “Half a dozen guys wearing the same thing!” Keeping on top of BRB GP plus his photographic and multi-media design businesses proved to be a herculean task so now he’s now more than ably assisted by business graduate Jack Stanley who showed a keen interest in the business and after several meetings was brought on-board and very shortly appointed as ‘managing director’. As Benjamin himself says “As CEO/Founder I could then leave him in charge and report back to me on a day to day basis, focusing all my attentions on the design, fabrication and manufacturing”.
If the combination of design meets sound business sense is not enough, they can wheel out their additional unique selling point. Both guys are keen karters, Benjamin was brought up in the motorsport industry and started karting at 6. They feel that actually competing in the sport that they manufacture for has led to a proper understanding of what does and what doesn’t work in suit construction. They know that you need to be comfortable so their suits feature thing like stretch panels and floating sleeves. Comfort is also about how the suit fits which has further led them to develop a suit specifically tailored to the female form.
Benjamin certainly knows where his company is going. “My goal and ambitions for BRB GP Racing are to produce more products and create new products that don’t exist in the market, to release a full range of female karting suits. We are the first company in the entire world to produce a full bespoke female karting suit which was unveiled on November 17th 2012 at the KartMania show in the Silverstone Wing. It was a very proud moment viewing my work being modelled on the expo stage being announced by KartMania organiser Martin Capenhurst. This is a breakthrough in the karting industry, for all female kart drivers not having to make do wearing men’s suits.” He goes on to say “BRB GP is further offering bespoke gloves, boots, along with the CIK approved suits and accessories including neck supports, rib protectors, knee and elbow protectors plus bespoke team wear. We have also designed and fabricated many Superkart suits including suits for Paul Platt, the British 2011 & 2012 MSA Superkart champion”. What better way to get to see what this up and coming company can do than to throw a design brief at them and see what happens?
Although Benjamin can come up with a design without any input from the customer, he would always prefer to design using the customer’s ideas and influence, this after all will be their suit not his. Our suit which is to be used in this year’s RetroRacer historic series needed to be retro-themed with a modern twist. For inspiration we emailed half a dozen colour pictures of racing in the mid 1970s, a picture of the kart being driven during last year and a couple of images of original Deavinsons chassis stickers. This package gave him a good idea of the range of colours both used in the day and being used on the kart at present.
On the appointed day we showed up at his impressively technically-equipped studio with the driver’s crash helmet for additional inspiration. Already on the wall was a mood-board filled with the images we had provided.
The design process starts with an electronically created blank image, the outline of a suit which is filled with the desired base colours followed by trim tweaks and logos. It is gradually built up layer upon layer. “You could have this… or what about this?” If you like it the tweak stays in, if not it’s got rid of and something else is tried. It takes a minimum of a couple of hours to come up with even a relatively uncomplicated design, the really involved ones take a huge amount of time to get right. You’d be surprised how combinations of colours that an amateur think might work just don’t look right when laid on the template. To illustrate, we first suggested an orange base colour with blue trim – not a happy combination as they looked like American prison overalls. However, when Benjamin suggested that the colours were reversed, it all came together.
BRB have a policy of charging a standard price for all their custom designed suits. All are £286 no matter how complicated they are. This figure would sit them very comfortably within the ready to wear bracket, it seems to be a snip for a bespoke suit. Uniquely designed boots and gloves complete the picture, these too took a surprising amount of input to get a clean cohesive design.
BRB quote 4 to 6 weeks from completion of design to delivery. However, ours took a while longer. Perhaps so far as a quick turnaround goes, showing up for the design session only a few days before the Christmas holidays might not have been the brightest thing we’ve ever done. Our suit was ready a little into March, but boy, we think that it was worth the wait.
It was decided to take the final pictures at a Pro-Kart meeting at Whilton Mill in order to get a race-background for the some of the shots. Although we thought the suit looked great we’ll freely admit that as it’s our own design there has to be some bias. It was the reaction from drivers at the meeting that was most gratifying, several commented on how good the retro-themed design looked, surely this must be conclusive proof if it were needed.
I’ll leave the last words to Benjamin. “We strive for perfection in everything we do. We take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, we design it! Design is limited by your imagination, we at BRB GP Racing dare to be different…” Enough said really.