Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Visit To The Oiselle Headquarters

Back in July when Woody and I were in Seattle, which seems ages ago now, I had the incredible opportunity to meet Sally Bergesen, founder and CEO (plus designer) of Oiselle, and her marketing guru, Sarah MacKay. As you might remember, just prior to this trip I held a giveaway for an Oiselle Bird Tee. After a few e-mail exchanges with Sarah, I mentioned our vacation to Seattle was fast approaching and asked if I could stop by while we were in town. She quickly and graciously agreed. To say I was thrilled would be an understatement. I was turning our vacation into a runners dream! A blogger meet-up dinner, a race, running along the waterfront, a run with the Greenlake Running Group and the chance to meet the women behind a great running apparel company!

I showed up at their office, which is in a low-slung building that is also home to a country music bar, just blocks from the uber-popular Green Lake, Wednesday afternoon. The area is somewhat of an outdoor sports mecca, at least for non-Seattleites like me. Not only are the trails around the lake perfect for running, countless sports fields, and water sports, but there are numerous running shops in the area including Super Jock & Jill, Road Runners Sports, Title Nine, and I know I’m missing another one.

I buzzed up and moments later Sarah was greeting me. I followed her upstairs and to their open plan office where she introduced me to Sally. I have to admit, I was a little surprised by how small their office is at first but I was also slightly relieved because there is not one ounce of intimidation floating around in there. These women are nothing if not low-key and fun. They showed me around by standing in the middle of the room and pointing around. Everyone works in one room (and by ‘everyone’ I mean the small staff of four). Their desks are close to one another along one wall, there’s a conference table butting up against another wall, a fridge, plenty of runners snacks, a foam roller, exercise ball and clothes racks. Sally’s inspiration board also doubles as a room divider. This is where the genius happens and the happiness comes from! All from this one room!

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Sally began running in high school and after a stint in France during college she found running again. After moving to Seattle, she joined Club Northwest and made their cross country nationals team seven times. Fast forward a few years and two kids later, she got back into racing in 2003 and went shopping for new running shorts and her life changed.

She started Oiselle so women (including herself) would have an alternative to the running apparel made by big-name running shoe companies that typically think of apparel as an afterthought. No more poufy, bagging shorts that are less than flattering. No more ugly colors and ineffective fabrics. She wanted to design running apparel that any woman would love to wear, whether racing to win or running to stay (or get) in shape. With a background in branding and marketing, Sally has an eye for color and design. This, coupled with her passion for running made her the perfect person to start a running apparel company.

When it comes to color and fabric, Sally has strong opinions. In her own words:

“I’m a huge believer in only choosing beautiful fabrics. But finding “the right fabric” and a manufacturer that can still make it affordable is the hardest part of what we do. I choose our fabrics based on how well they perform and the “seduction factor.” When you touch it, does it draw you in and make you want to wear it?”

“Color is very emotional and powerful. Nowhere do we experience that more than here in Seattle! With months of gray days, we often need bright, fun color just to lift us up. But I also think sports are just a natural fit for bright. Having said that, I take issue with too many stereotypically girlish colors. While we’re not afraid to play around with pink, it’s not what drives our brand. We’re making apparel for women who are past the pink, tutu phase of life, nor do they want to regress there.”

Today, Oiselle can be found in over 200 running shops nationwide. Sally was quite clear that they are very selective about where they will sell Oiselle apparel. The stores must be well merchandised, understand running and runners, and offer quality products and customer service. In other words, you won’t find Oiselle stocked on the racks at your local Sports Authority or Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Their shipping ‘warehouse’ is down the hall from their office. It’s a large room with boxes neatly stacked on shelving around the room, each with a sheet of paper taped to the front to keep track of inventory and tables for packing. This is where all the shipping is done, whether it is to you at home after ordering from their online store, or to a running shop in Texas. (Remember how I mentioned there is no elevator in this building?)

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While in the warehouse, they picked a few things out of the boxes for me, including a pair of Lori Shorts, which are the shortest running shorts I’ve ever worn, and a Ravenna tank (there is a street by the same name near the office), which has become my favorite running top and I’ve worn more than once in a week. Don’t worry, I wash it! The top incredibly lightweight, I’ve never had an issue with it riding up and most importantly during these hot days, it doesn’t show sweat!! It’s a miracle fabric. This is me sporting it last Saturday for Summer Streets!

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I had an absolutely great time meeting Sally (below right) and Sarah; it was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Their passion for running, Oiselle and the runners who love Oiselle, is immediately apparent. If you follow them on Twitter or Facebook, you know they love talking with runners and supporting running addictions everywhere! (You’re also likely to often see some whacky pictures along the way, too!) And if you order from their online store, don’t expect to just get a pair of shorts in a mailer, they take the time to include a handwritten note!

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When I left their office, I knew I found a company I wanted to support. Not only is Oiselle running apparel beautiful and functional, but the company is run by passionate, intelligent, and dedicated women who are having fun doing what they love and supporting women runners along the way.

Just a quick note, Oiselle started to roll out the Fall line, so hurry to their online store to check it out. They fly out quickly! (use code RUNTODAY to get 10% off your first order!)

  • What do you love most about running clothes?
  • Do you see running/workout gear as just a necessity or more than that?
  • Would you rather spend your day in formal business attire or running gear?

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Today’s workout - Not what I was going for today, but I’ll move on.

  • 30min elliptical
  • 125 ab exercises
  • 1x45sec plank
  • 2x20 squats
  • 15min stretching/yoga

11 comments:

B.o.B. said...

their stuff is really pretty. i am gonna head over now and look at the new fall line. thanks for sharing and how cool that you got to see inside!

Teamarcia said...

What a fun 'field trip'! I love their stuff!

Penny said...

You are so lucky. I think that would be so awesome to visit Oiselle and see how it all works.

I love the tee I won.

Barbara said...

What a great story of Women being successful ! Their clothes look comfortable , too.
Just love the closed streets for recreation in NY.

Sally Bergesen said...

Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for coming to our "house" in the Green Lake hood. We love having visitors in the studio, and as was probably apparent, we're more than a little jealous that you live in NYC...THE epicenter of great apparel design. Please know that you're welcome anytime, and hope to see you back here soon!!!

Kate said...

LOVE your blog! Just found it through Oiselle's facebook page. What an awesome company. I love them even more now. I would LOVE to work in that environment doing something I'm so passionate about.

Elle said...

How neat to meet the folks behind the 'brand' and see how it's all done.

I like their stuff too.

Barbara said...

Keep forgetting to see if Playmakers here in Okemos,Mi is one of their customers. Playmakers is one of the best running stores in the Country.

Susan said...

What an awesome tour! I love their merchandise, but would like to try on first because I'm hard to fit..... but no one near me sells their merch. :(

Julie D. said...

what a cool opportunity. Love the oiselle fabrics. very soft!

thethinksicanthink said...

I love my Lori shorts!!! I have some Oiselle tees, but I'll have to try the tanks if they don't show sweat - that's awesome!