By Kaia Wallis
“Hey Reflect’o!” a man yells as Lisa Penney cycles past the Grace Emily Hotel in Adelaide’s CBD wearing a high visibility workman’s vest.
Months later, as she sits on her kitchen floor surrounded by fabric, the words come back to her.
Lisa’s own design of fluorescent, high-visibility bike vests now have a name – Hey Reflect’o.
Not long after, the colourful creations found their feet at The Mill, a co-working hub aimed at creative traders on Adelaide’s Angas Street.
The growing apparel business is still there four years later and has recently celebrated a small expansion.
“The room has grown since we started; there just wasn’t enough space,” Lisa says, surrounded by piles of fluorescent coloured vests, bag covers and badges.
“There still isn’t.”
Lisa says The Mill has been vital in connecting her with local artists who have helped create designs for the eye-catching safety gear.
“It’s a good community, it’s how I’ve met every single artist I’ve collaborated with,” she says.
These artist collaborations have all culminated in the creation of Hey Reflect’o vests and so far, the label has worked with several local artists, including a tattooist, sculpture artist and a graphic designer.
One of the artists, Agata Rybicka, sits in the Hey Reflect’o workspace fastening buttons onto vests.
“The hardest thing for Lisa was trusting other people and finding the right people to work with,” Agata says.
“She is a total perfectionist, so she doesn’t give up on that.”
Lisa doesn’t deny the statement and says she found it difficult to let go of control when starting the business.
“You think no one will care as much as you,” she says.
“But you can’t do anything just by yourself, you need other people to grow.”
While Lisa says the brand was born out of her desperation to wear something more fashionable while on her bike, she hopes the bold designs encourage new cyclists to learn about road safety.
“Adelaide is great for cycling and I just want to get more people out there,” she says.
“I want to keep people bright, keep people seen, and keep people safe – because what you wear is your only defence on a bike.”
Lisa has recently hired a new permanent staff member to help liaise with stockists and expand the label further internationally.
At the moment, Hey Reflect’o is stocked in selected bike stores throughout Australia and is available online worldwide at the Hey Reflect’o website.
“We’ve got plans of taking on the world,” she says.
“I’ve always wanted to expand internationally but I just haven’t had the time.”
Lisa says there are plans to bring high-visibility leggings to the label in late 2018, which she hopes will allow Hey Reflect’o to reach a larger demographic.
“I think a lot of people have been encouraged by having something fun to wear and leggings are really versatile,” she says.
“They are going to create even more fun and reflective outfits for everyone.”
A frequent face at the Bowerbird Design Markets in Adelaide, Lisa says the local biking and market communities have been instrumental to the label’s success.
“People like that it’s a local brand, I have customers that still have their vests from when I first started four years ago,” she adds.
Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.