POSTED ON AUGUST 5, 2009:
Action Clothing Heroines
Entrepreneurs chart course for sportswear line
When I hear the term "action sports wear," I know I am at the hands of the Google gods. Anything featuring the word "sports" generally confounds me. Even Google knows I'm a novice: "Did you mean action sportswear?" as though two words versus a compound word makes all the difference.
To my relief, diving into the search results provided brand names I'm familiar with and not sports jerseys or t-shirts touting one's favorite sports team. The looks, which are associated with action sports like skate boarding, biking, skiing and snowboarding, are t-shirts featuring cool colorful graphics.
They are looks you could sport (no pun intended) whether you loved snowboarding or if you just like the designs splashed across the back. One Tulsa company has recognized this niche; finding a market in Tulsa for these looks. It has jumped on board, creating their own action sportswear line and providing the popular established brand names in action sportswear.
Cloth Rock is the brainchild of three friends: Erin Green, Jennifer Howard and Sarah Pate. It began last April. Howard, who is a competitive motorcycle racer (another action sport), was making shirts for her sponsors and decided that she wanted to make shirts for herself, as well. Green said that so much of the action sportswear didn't seem aimed at the women's demographic. Looks were either made for tweens or for men's t-shirts, which featured the cooler designs but didn't have the right fit.
With that in mind, all three women were interested in creating action sportswear they liked and would wear. More than just creating their own brand, Green said they wanted to be lucrative in their marketing while also making more action sportswear brands accessible in Tulsa. And so at the beginning of July, these ideas were combined when www.clothrock.com went live.
Cloth Rock's online store features the two brands created by Green, Howard and Pate. Green said that all three women have different styles and different backgrounds to bring into the mix, but that the brands are a collaboration of the three.
Howard, with her involvement in action sports, is the artist. Green said everything, even Howard's head, is put on paper or in their illustrator program.
Already, Cloth Rock has amassed more than 100 ideas for future t-shirt designs. Once Howard has the initial design idea, Green and Pate provide their input for the finished design. The designs, printed on American Apparel t-shirts, are sent to a Tulsa-based screen printer and then placed on the Web site. From there, the three women handle every aspect of the company. When orders come in, the product is pulled from the stock room (currently an extra bedroom) and shipped out. Online shoppers' orders are met within two days.
Green said that some of the designs are girly, some are masculine, but they are always looking for unisex designs. They focus on t-shirts, she said, because they're easy to wear and can be worn year round. But both t-shirt brands are connected to the action sportswear theme.
The first brand is a surfer, earthy brand Vetra. The name, which Green said has connotations with earth, reflects the line. She said that the Vetra line will eventually go entirely organic, in keeping with its earthy theme.
Clothrock.com features four Vetra designs: two shirts for women and two for men. The men's t-shirts seem to take the "earthy" descriptor from the Vetra line. The black and white designs have a tribal or ethnic quality. They are designs that are simple--not overly embellished with the graphic. Not overwhelmed with the brand name scrolled across the t-shirt, the "arrowhead" and "directional" tees both feature a subtle V design.
On the other hand are the women's Vetra tees which take on the surfer quality of the brand. The "Foxy Boxy" t-shirt, featuring overlapped square graphics, evokes the ocean with its blue and green color palette, while the "Chromomagnificance" t-shirt's burgundy and pink circular design looks like anomalies you'd find at the bottom of the ocean. One set of circles has the appearance of a set of alien-like eyes.
Thrill of Victory
The second t-shirt brand created by the Cloth Rock gals is the Zafer line. Zafer, a term used in action sports that means victory, is the more hardcore, action line. Similarly, clothrock.com currently has a total of four Zafer designs, two for each sex.
While the Vetra lines seemed loose in their designs (the design on the "Chromomagnificance" tee, for example, aren't precise circles) the lines of Zafer are sharp. The "Band of Colors" women's tee features sharp swirls flowing diagonally (yes, sharp and swirly seems like a contrast, but this design accomplishes it) down the body in bright colors and the "Power Chord" women's t-shirt features layers of black, white and pink designs of diagonal stripes over a triangle pattern layered over a Zorro-like pink swirly Z for the brand's name.
The men's Zafer t-shirts do prominently feature the brand name. In the basic color scheme of black, white and grey, both t-shirts currently on the website feature geometrical shapes overlapped with free form designs that evoke the doodling you might do on paper margins. Neither of the designs is overwhelming. Throughout both the Zafer and Vetra line, you are wearing the graphics; the graphics aren't wearing you.
Both the Vetra and Zafer lines are available in sizes small to XXL (for men and women). The women's v-necks run a little snug, but all designs are true sizes. But most importantly, the t-shirts are priced at what you'd expect to pay for a t-shirt: the mid-$20 range.
Green notes this is only the beginning of Vetra, Zafer and clothrock.com as a whole. The company's overall objective is to take their company in the direction of major retailer PacSun. That company established itself by providing consumers with popular action sportswear before introducing its own line. Similarly, the Rock Cloth ladies are hoping that by carrying popular brands on their website, they'll also bring interest to their own designs.
They have finalized a deal with O'Neill, the popular surf wear brand, and soon those designs will be sold on clothrock.com. And, they are also finalizing a deal with Hurley, the brand made popular by skaters. Green and company are also negotiating with major brand names like Roxy Quiksilver (another surf-centric brand), Alpinestars (a motorcycle racing brand), and Xtreme Couture (a fighting/wrestling/martial arts brand). Not only will these deals bring new brands to clothrock.com, but also showcase new items.
For back-to-school, Green says the site will soon feature backpacks. She also says that eventually clothrock.com will have the "full nines", featuring a fuller line of apparel, swimwear, hats and accessories. Green is also excited to carry these brands because they aren't typically found in Tulsa.
In the upcoming months, the Cloth Rock women plan to continue expanding. They're spreading the word in Tulsa via their MySpace.com page, myspace.com/clothrockapparel. They had friends passing out coupons and the gospel of clothrock.com at D-Fest.
They're also continuing to expand what clothrock.com sells -- and where too. Green says the Cloth Rock team is spending the rest of summer and fall, traveling. First stop is the market in Dallas, where they are eager to meet more vendors that could soon be featured on clothrock.com.
Green's especially excited about the ASR action sports expo in San Diego. Visiting as a buyer, Cloth Rock is looking forward to finding new action sportswear brands not currently found in Tulsa as well as spreading the word about their website to the rest of the world.
Though their website is only a month old, the aspirations of Cloth Rock is already expanding nationally and within five years time aspires to have a physical location. It's going to take a lot of action to accomplish those goals, but something tells me these three know a thing or two about action.
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