Hey Reflect’o Hi Vis Vests
If you’re like us, you’ll know there’s almost nothing better than rolling along the streets on your bike. The wind is in your hair as you gently steer between cars stuck in traffic jams. All this peddling has given you a huge appetite as you pull up outside your local to meet friends for dinner. As you lock up your bike, however, you notice the clash between your carefully chosen outfit and your hi viz reflective vest. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a vest that was stylish as well as keeping you highly visible and safe on the roads? There is – and Hey Relect’o is about to become every cyclist’s best friend
What is Hey Reflect’o
Hey Reflect’o is the answer to those boring, unfashionable vests that spoil an otherwise perfect outfit for cyclists. Creator Lisa Penney has provided the solution in a range of eye-catching, colourful vests that can double as casual wear. Made with as little environmental impact as possible, these vests are everything cyclists are looking for!
Making an affordable biking vest in an environmentally friendly way isn’t easy. That hasn’t stopped Lisa who is committed to doing her bit for environmental sustainability.
Designing her first creations on her kitchen floor, Lisa planned to produce everything in her hometown of Adelaide. Her first designs were made on the floor of her kitchen from fluro fabric. Following exhaustive research, she realised that manufacturing in Australia would be too expensive. So Lisa opted for a more affordable option getting them made in Vietnam at a friend’s factory to make sure they’d be ethically made with no slave labour involved. When the first batch got ruined, Lisa realised she’d have to supervise production and since Bali was closer to visit, some of the manufacturing was moved there. That didn’t work either however.
“They could never get the colour right, so I had to print in Australia and send the fabric over. When I was in Bali supervising I could catch mistakes made but when I left, mistakes continued to be made. In the end, I realised that no one cares about my product as much as I do.”
Lisa sold off her dodgy stock and returned to her original idea of having the vests made in Australia. “Now I only focus on Australian made. They are expensive to make here so there is still no room to wholesale them. We sell the vests for $139 to $185, but they cost $80 to $120 to make.”
Committed to Sustainability
Determined to give her customers the best, Lisa has meanwhile pioneered a new printing technique with a local printer in Adelaide.
“I discovered that sublimation uses no water and though expensive is less costly than having to sew on all the individual shapes as I was doing originally” explains Lisa. “The local printers were very supportive. They loved my idea of sublimation and let me convert one of their printing machines to do my job. I think they just wanted to help because there really isn’t much money in it for them. But they are a larger business and since doing my job they can now do similar jobs on that machine.”
Not only has Lisa helped a much bigger business become more environmentally friendly, but she has also helped drive demand for companies to switch to recycled polyester. That in turn reduces their reliance on virgin polyester made from oil. “Education is key to creating demand for these new environmentally friendly products and my business would definitely be helping to create that change because I’m doing it and talking about it,” says Lisa proudly.
Hemp is also another superstar of the Hey Reflect’o lineup and Lisa is a big fan. “Hemp is the plant that can save our world from the climate crisis.” She explains. “It’s a great plant that takes out the most CO2 from the air, more than any land forest of equal size. But unfortunately, we do not grow it in Australia for fabric. But it could be grown here if there was more demand for it.” She encourages people to buy more sustainably-minded products to help get this wonder fabric on track to being grown here.
What People Want
Lisa has never been one to shy away from what the public wants. One of her most popular products has been face masks made from vest offcuts. “I was actually going to make scrunchies, but on March 23rd 2020, my friend suggested, “Fuck Scrunchies, make masks!” The demand has been overwhelming ever since”
Lisa tries hard to answer her customers call for more, but it’s not always so simple. “Many of my customers have asked for my vests to be made in all sizes. This is hard to do with my current slim profit margins, because manufacturing a size 30 costs a lot more than a size 12. But I’m planning to make my products work harder. If my vests retail for just a little bit more, I can have the goal of them being all sizes, ethically made and environmentally friendly.”
The Future Of Hey Reflect’o Lisa has some big plans for the future of Hey Reflect’o. “My goal is to eventually expand to having a product that is easier to wholesale and bring in better profits.” She laughs. “I’d hire someone else to do the reflective art part and I’ll live the dream and be the designer. I have ADHD so making the same design on repeat is challenging for me. I need to be doing different things to get my creativity flowing, it makes me happy. I bought a boat which has a beautiful view to make manufacturing more exciting and it’s worked! In the future, however, I hope to be just designing, marketing and customer liaising