Trend #2: Increased Emphasis on Building the Women’s Category & Creating New Women-Specific Segments
Additional Reporting: Rian Rhoe, Rhea Cortado, Kelsey Smith
While it’s been a recurring trend we’ve seen over the last few seasons, the ever-expanding women’s category still caught our attention as a common theme amongst many prominent and up-and-coming brands alike in our space.
To shine a spotlight on brands that seem to be taking the right calculated approach, and those building traction, we scoured our notes from the eight-trade-show circuit we recently completed, spanning the past 60 days.
Strength of the Women’s Market & Female Entrepreneurs
Perhaps the perfect embodiment of this trend, Axis Show unfolded in late February and opened us up to a whole new crop of women’s brands, while highlighting some of the staples that are making even deeper inroads into the women’s market. On the entrepreneur front, we met with several female founders that had a clear point of differentiation and a strategic plan to gain a consumer following for their young brands.
U&I out of Australia was one of those brands. An insightful takeaway we heard from Head of Design Jodie Hayes and Creative Director Emma Bäcklund was that the brand is honing its tight collection on the cornerstone of what it does best: minimalistic, timeless design with less of a nod to the “girlie” look and more focus on perfecting some of the performance-driven pieces that have put them on the map. U&I demonstrated an unusually clear vision for an emerging brand.
Hot As Hell Founder Sharleen Ernster was another entrepreneur that left us reeling with her break-down of the company’s sustainably sourced materials. Former EVP for Victoria's Secret and the Chief Design Executive for Guess, Inc., Ernster is a fashion game vet. The new brand has already been picked up by several major retailers, including Nasty Gal.
We would be amiss not to mention a couple of the other inspirational women business owners and founders we met.
Style maker and Friend of a Friend Editor-In-Chief Olivia Perez is the newest addition to the Axis Collective. She founded her fashion advice website while going to school full-time at NYU.
Rootfoot CEO Laura Huth hand-picks all the plants used in her essential oils and aromatherapy products. Her line of roll-on scents, inspired by Spirit Animals, was recently picked up by Free People, along with the brand’s hand-crafted “spirit pouches” and necklaces. Check back in April for those.
Another female founder who got her start with blogging, Jac Vanek has amassed quite the following with her sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek sayings, which have morphed into an apparel and accessories collection.
Perhaps one of the most powerful and inspirational women in the room at AXIS: Founder Vanessa Chiu.
See the entire wrap up and break down of all the brands we saw at AXIS.
Design Driven by Women Riders & Designers And the Expansion into Backcountry
In the last decade there has been a significant shift away from the token girl team rider or employee and the number one trend at the SIA Snow Show for women's products was the evidence of authentic products built for women who ride. This played out in two ways. The first is the traditional way our industry has always stayed authentic: with rider-driven products.
This was evident throughout all categories of products, from Jess Kimura's Danger Pony Pro Model at Capita, to The Kimmy Fasani backcountry pant at Burton, to Desiree Melancon's Smith Goggles.
These are not "shrink it and pink it" products. They're not men's products with flowers on them. They are the legitimate manifestation of brands listening to their female riders.
In addition to female team rider-driven product, the rise in brands employing and empowering female leadership across product, design, and marketing departments has given rise to an increase in products that accurately address the needs of female riders. "We know the female consumer, so we pay extra attention to the details," says Dakine Outerwear Product Line Manager, Amy Eichner.
Core female riders are forging into the backcountry and looking for high performance products that fit their needs.
Women's splitboards were noticeable everywhere, from Jones and Burton to Nitro, K2, Never Summer and elsewhere.
Arbor introduced a new women's split board. Rome introduced the Winterland, with powder-specific camber.
In Colorado, K2 Rep John Pinnick has noticed an increase in snowboarding moms and board sales for experienced riders. He attributes this to snowboarders who started during the big boom in the 90's getting back out on the snow after having kids. At Salty Peaks Snowboard Shop, Andy Schummer is seeing "More women interested in splitboarding and getting into the backcountry."
Last but not least, Niche's 16/17 women’s boards were a big winner at SIA’s On-Snow Demo. The brand made updates to the Minx, going from a flat, to an early rise camber profile for next season according to Ana Van Pelt, co-founder and chief creative officer for Niche. Additional features give the Minx 16/17 that extra pop, dampening the vibration, and giving it more traction on the sidewall for a solid bite on turns. "The ladies loved the value-adds we were able to pack into the 16/17 Minx, but the excitement over that graphic was absolutely insane. It received more attention than any model in our lineup - men's or women's!" Van Pelt added that "finding a unique and cool shape in the women's market is hard to come by," but Niche's Sonnet has a cool nose and tail update that make it a super fun board.
For more details on Women’s trends in snowboarding, including many more photos, check out contributor Rian Rhoe’s report.
New & Refined Segments Emerge Within Women’s
In terms of price point, women consumers are searching for a high quality product, and are usually willing to dish out more for something they feel is going to endure the test of time--both aesthetically, and in its construction. This was a trend many companies were honing in on.
A prominent theme across new and old brands was an elevation in its basics offering. RVCA's "Selects" introduced elevated tees in a drapey, soft cotton/poly fabric with finer details and higher price point of $35-$45 retail, compared to printables price point of $25 tees.
Volcom also had basic T-shirt silhouettes in novelty washes. Tavik's "Dirt Shirts" also fall into this elevated basics category.
Weather-resistant outerwear pieces were also a focal point with Element Eden, Poler, Volcom, and Vans. While these jackets aren't aiming to compete against The North Face, Patagonia, or Arc'teryx in technical features, brands are adding DWR water-resistant coatings, tougher exterior fabrics, and heavier linings.
Element Eden added heavier weight quilted linings, full faux Sherpa linings, and 1000MM P/U coatings.
They also introduced a weather resistant Rain Collection, including a raincoat and accessories.
Poler's apparel collection has been unisex, but they’ve begun introducing women-specific cuts. For Fall, the brand reinforced its outerwear collection, including a down jacket, down vest, and waterproof jackets for women.
Otis was also making an even stronger push into the women’s eyewear market with its Spring ’16 collection, incorporating even more polarized lens options for next season.
Its new Seaglass Collection, in collaboration with industry veteran and artist Russ Pope, is constructed of recycled seaglass frames and its signature mineral glass lenses. The new offering lends Otis a colorful pop lacking from collections past, and a lighter option compared to traditional acetate frames, says VP of Sales Charlie Anderson.
Expansion into women’s continued with brands like Herschel and Dakine, who have created bags that are anatomically correct for a woman.