Roark Women’s Team Reflects on One-Year Mark
The establishment of the label’s women’s division has led to a diversified wholesale roster and customer base shopping the label as the segment now laps about a year since launch.
“Along with the women’s collection hitting our revenue goals, it’s done even more for our culture as a company,” Roark CEO and founder Ryan Hitzel said. “It’s created a more inclusive and progressive environment internally, pushed the men’s team to improve processes and track trends, as well as given Roark a well-rounded appeal at stores. It’s a different consumer, so it’s shaken things up in a positive way.”
Finding a Voice
The women’s division set out to fill what the team saw as a white space in the market for what Roark calls its “adventure lifestyle” lens.
“We’ve seen good traction at wholesale and strong performance at our DTC channels,” Hitzel said. “We’re working hard to be differentiated, but accessible to women with wanderlust and the need for functional but fashionable clothing. It’s definitely a challenge, but we’re happy with our first year in the market.”
Wholesale is the largest driver of the women’s business, although direct-to-consumer is not far behind it, according to Kaylee Fisher, women’s sales manager.
The gap the label’s filled is demonstrated by the women’s brand’s stockist list that ranges from surf shops, such as Laguna Surf & Sport and Sun Diego, to outdoor and lifestyle boutiques, including Public Lands and Acme Fine Goods.
When the line first launched, many of the pieces were translations from some of the men’s assortment.
“Now, we’re seeing a lot more growth as our line develops and our division is finding its own voice,” Fisher said.
She noted more reorders and more consumers shopping the brand as the line’s matured.
Roark Women’s Diverse Customer Base
The assortment’s also appealed to a diverse consumer base, Women’s Brand Manager Dayna Cottee pointed out, which was something the team hadn’t initially expected at the time of launch.
“Women are multi-faceted. We don’t all identify as one thing, so it means that our customer base is way more diverse,” Cottee said. “She’s a surfer. She’s a pottery maker and she’s a mom. Just seeing that diversity and how that seeps out in different ways, whether it be event participation or Instagram engagement, it’s really cool to see how robust it is.”
While success among the core surf consumer would make sense given Roark’s roots, its reach into outdoor and lifestyle is easy to understand.
“It’s a new opportunity of growth for us,” Fisher said of the lifestyle channel more specifically. “We’ve leaned in heavily with Roark’s core customer base, that being endemic surf, and now we’re really starting to see the growth and opportunity within lifestyle and outdoor.”
Key to continuing that momentum will be the continuous evolution of the women’s designs.
While Roark women’s did well early on with what division designer Grace Marr described as foundational pieces, moving forward there will be further expansion of lifestyle categories to bolster the lineup.
Next year, the market can expect to see the design team build upon the bottoms business, flannels, wovens, and basics.
“It’s all about adding a functional twist to styles that could be part of your everyday,” Marr said. “That’s where my focus has been, especially for 2024, and just growing on the successes we’ve already established while introducing newness along the way.”
Plenty of Upside
Even with some of the headwinds weighing on other businesses, Marr said Roark’s women’s division has continued to see success given its newness in the market.
“Fortunately for us we have such established relationships with our partners and so it’s just about being willing to be flexible with one another,” Fisher added. “Looking forward into ’24 we’re just really relying on the pre-books so that we’re able to manage the inventory on our backend and truly partner with our retailers on that.”
Market trends may be in Roark’s favor from a fashion standpoint.
“There’s a lot of opportunity where adventure outdoors overlaps with lifestyle, especially in fashion,” Marr said. “There’s so much out there influencing high fashion. You see cargo pockets on silk pants and takedowns from that, but we’re telling it from a more authentic place where it’s purpose driven and purpose built, not just appropriation and sticking something on for a trend.
Ultimately Marr said the company will focus on the things it can control to push past any economic challenges.
“The way that we counteract that is by staying true and really earning the trust of our customer; building quality product; and not skimping on fabrics, trimming, details and style lines,” Marr said. “As long as we make the right product for our customer, she’s going to keep coming back to us. We’re still in a position where women are finding out about us and there is a returning customer.”