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Taking Flight

Style

Written by
Laruen Hunsberger

Photography Provided by
Oiselle

In the past few years, local running apparel company Oiselle has flown to new heights. Its products, exclusively made for women, have been featured in the pages of nearly every major running, outdoor and fitness magazine. The company’s sponsored runners are some of the most recognizable faces in the sport. And Sally Bergesen, CEO and founder, has been heralded a visionary and role model for all women interested in her beloved pastime.

We talked to Megan Murray, director of marketing for Oiselle (pronounced wa-zell and meaning “bird” in French), about how being headquartered in the Pacific Northwest has shaped their story and what it’s like to work within the “for women, by women” atmosphere. She also gives recommendations for the best running gear in 2017!

In the past few years, local running apparel company Oiselle has flown to new heights. Its products, exclusively made for women, have been featured in the pages of nearly every major running, outdoor and fitness magazine. The company’s sponsored runners are some of the most recognizable faces in the sport. And Sally Bergesen, CEO and founder, has been heralded a visionary and role model for all women interested in her beloved pastime.

We talked to Megan Murray, director of marketing for Oiselle (pronounced wa-zell and meaning “bird” in French), about how being headquartered in the Pacific Northwest has shaped their story and what it’s like to work within the “for women, by women” atmosphere. She also gives recommendations for the best running gear in 2017! 

 

Reflections magazine: What’s the primary focus for Oiselle right now?

Megan Murray: One of the things we’ve focused on over the past few years as a design team is making sure we design apparel that is first and foremost for running. There is a lot of generalist running apparel out there. Our styles work in other environments, but the needs of a runner—outerwear, layering, body temperature regulation—are unique. They also vary for body types and climates. Our technical outerwear this season is almost the first of its kind. 

 

RM: Can you talk a little about the design process behind your technical pieces?

MM: Our design team comprises of women only, and we’re all athletes, most being runners first and foremost, but a lot of us are multi-sport athletes. Our design process starts with a feeling. For example, when we run, women want to feel powerful, light and free. So we then build around a functional story—what does it take to feel light and free? What does it take to feel unencumbered by running clothes in the dead of winter? What does that mean for where seams live and pockets? We get into all the functional details you must have to make a run comfortable. We design around the feeling piece. 

 

RM: How do you test for a feeling?

MM: Because we have a professional running team and a broader community of people who choose to race in our singlet, we wear-test all of our clothes into the ground. We give the first prototypes to runners of all body types, and they wear them, wash them and test them in many ways. The professionals are super users of sorts. They wear them for so many more miles, and their training conditions are more extreme. For example, Devon Yanko, she’s an ultramarathoner and one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever met. She runs 100-mile races, so what ends up happening is a seam that might be uncomfortable for somebody in a five-mile run becomes a wound on her body. So we make sure all our styles can stand up to that level of run testing. Devon is one of our most amazing athletes and testers.

 

RM: What other interesting feedback have you received from your athletes?

MM: We have Olympians such as Kate Grace, who runs the 1,500-meter, and the way Kate uses clothing is different from Devon. Kate uses clothing as a conversation with herself to get amped and turn it on for a short distance, so everything from how warm the layers are to what it feels like to de-layer to the colors—those are all part of how she coaches and primes herself for the race moment. In that sense, some things other runners see as details, like maybe color—color is really important to Kate—are critical to us.

 

RM: Interesting. I’ve never thought of layering as a conversation.

MM: Kate’s been fundamental in talking about how powerful the stripping of layers can be in turning up a workout to the next level. So when Kate races, she’s in a racing kit (a singlet and racing brief), a tank top, a long-sleeve shirt, vest, gloves and a track pant, and every time she takes off a layer, she’s building momentum until the final ungloving moment where she’s ready to run fast. I’m not an Olympian and don’t need to layer quite like that, but we’ve all been on a run on a day you don’t want to be out there. Clothes can become an important part of remaining motivated. 

 

RM: The relationships you have with those athletes are amazing. How do you approach creating them?

MM: The company was founded on the belief of the transformative power of sport for women. Most of us have lived it in some capacity. We know when women see themselves as athletes that really good stuff happens. It’s empowering and becomes a platform for broader issues. We see running as a sacred place where women can find themselves and learn about the human experience. So it all started there, and we look for professional runners who share those beliefs, runners who have something to say, wisdom and stories to tell.

 

RM: What kind of stories?

MM:  Some are more focused and can offer a library of wisdom about when to run, how to train, what to eat, when to start the next training block. Then we have some professional runners, for example, Lauren Fleshman, who is sage and multifaceted. She talks a lot about the values of consistency and commitment to self. Lauren’s done an amazing job within the cultures of art and writing, advocating for women’s issues through running. We’re interested in being deeply real about running—especially about real bodies and how diverse bodies look. Devon is six feet tall. And many people have said, “Oh wow, you don’t look like a runner.” That’s a toxic and fictitious version of the sport. We want to go out there and spread a positive message. 

 

RM: All of this comes from the vision of founder and CEO Sally Bergesen. What is it like working for her?

MM: Sally is so great. She is a different kind of leader—patient and inclusive, passionate, unapologetic. She is amazing at staying focused on the deeper purpose, using everything from marketing and design to the way we engage with our runners. It’s also hard to outwork her. She’s one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met. And just for me, I’m 30 years old, I look up to her as a role model and leader. It’s great to have someone like her in our lives and especially to work for her. I think we’re at a place culturally where women are trying to build each other up, and we’re more interested in supporting each other and rallying in unity. There are different places and arenas wherein that takes place, but running is a really cool one.

 

RM: What does it mean to the brand to be headquartered in Seattle?

MM: We’re Seattleites at heart. One of our core lines is “born and raced in Seattle.” We believe in the idea of running local and racing local and making Seattle one of the best cities in the world for running.

 

Oiselle Wears

Murray shares the must-have pieces for 2017. They were handpicked by Murray and others at “the nest,” the nickname for Oiselle’s Seattle headquarters.

  • New Verrazano Bra ($34–$48)
    We make our bras in two styles: regular and gifted, with the second of the two giving more compression and coverage. The Verrazano is great at distributing the weight more efficiently across the body for more comfortable wear. I like it because it’s playful with those revealing straps without being really lacy. It has an element of play, but is still really powerful, not too revealing and doesn’t diminish the technicality.
  • Window Tight ($106) and Window Knicker ($82)

    Window knickers have softer compression fabric. They are a little thinner, so they are better for a summer or indoor workout. But to me, these are all about the little details. There’s a Tribeca print detail and mesh panel window. There are fun elements of style, but most are also functional, like the reflective detail. These tights also have an even broader waistband, but still without being high-waisted.

  • Vigor Vest ($90) and Vim Jacket ($120)

    They are made with a fabric called Pertex. It’s a technical fabric designed to be water repellent and wind resistant but breathable. One of the challenges of fully waterproof jackets for a runner, especially in Seattle, is if you’re sweating, it stays trapped inside. This technical treatment repels as much water as it can without being fully water resistant. It also packs into a pocket with a strap that fits on your hand or arm.

  • Quill Vest ($158) and Quill Jacket ($208)

    These are two standout technical pieces. They are very warm, and the silhouette has been tailored for the movement and longevity of a run. They aren’t too baggy or too heavy. They don’t ride up, and the zippers don’t cut around the collar area. The down inside is a special down blend called Primaloft. It’s sustainably sourced down that breathes, so as you sweat it’s expelled back out into the air, keeping you warmer and dry.

  • Cat Lady Bra ($44)

    This bra is fun and a little weird, because running is a little weird. It’s a full fleece bra that we think makes a perfect quirky gift for the runner who has everything. We thought, How can we have fun and celebrate the sport that isn’t serious?

  • Lux Tech Hoodie ($88)

    This is an amazing layer that works great under a bigger jacket or over a tank top. It’s also a great piece around the house when you want to wear your comfortable running clothes, but you’re not necessarily putting in mileage.

  • Moto Tights ($92)

    They are fantastic. The fabric is super soft, almost cashmere buttery, but works really hard. It’s also a little compressive so you get a nice hug. And one of things we spent a lot of time on is a better waistband. We were sick of waistbands that pinch your stomach, giving you a pooch—we’d like to rebel against the pinched waistband! Your clothes should never make you feel fat, why would you do that? Our tights are winged and move with the natural contour of the body. Lastly it’s a warmer tight, lined with microfleece.

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