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Whether you’re out on a run, you’re likely not thinking about the life of your gear—how the material was chosen or how many versions preceded the final product. Every piece of running apparel started as an idea in someone’s head. Here’s the story of how a pair of shorts found their way onto the bodies of runners around the world.
Oiselle Roga Short
The silhouette that launched 1,000 (plus) shipments.
Sally Bergesen, competitive runner, mother of two, marketing guru and founder of Oiselle, didn’t like how running shorts made her feel about her body. She wanted a short that was “less poofy.” Even though she was not a huge yoga person, she preferred the straight-fitting yoga short to almost any running bottom on the market—and she had an inkling that other women did too.
“I had never made anything garment-wise in my life,” Bergesen says, explaining that, in 2006, she found a pattern production person in Seattle, where she lived, and told her about the idea. “She instructed me to go to a fabric store and find the weight and drape material I wanted, regardless of color,” recalls Bergesen, who says those first shorts looked like “Hugh Heffner’s pajamas.”
Over the course of a year, Bergesen wear-tested her design, which she named the Roga to meld “running” with “yoga.” When she refigured the fabric into a new prototype, additional rounds of wear-testing ensued. Bergesen researched factories and had a crash-course in finding the right one—a plant that would make a small product at a reasonable cost. “That was a big challenge,” she says. But by the end of 2006, Bergesen started production on her first pair of Rogas, building around it the brand she named Oiselle (French for “bird”).
Making a great product and selling a great product create two separate challenges. For all running apparel, store sales happen roughly six months before the production run is complete. “I laugh now thinking about what I was showing people, [especially] the local running shops who knew me,” says Bergesen. “I’d be like, ‘This is the style and the cut, but the fabric will be different.’” Shop owners at Super Jock ‘n Jill and the Seattle Running Company placed small orders, after asking their female employees to run in the shorts for their stamps of approval…which they gave.
Highs & Lows
Today’s Roga short has evolved through a few iterations—the original knit is now a polyester/spandex stretch woven blend, and the short has gained a few pockets. Oiselle now offers the Roga in a shorter and longer style as well.
The Mac Roga was named after a Oiselle employee and 1:18 half marathoner who prefers her shorts shorter. The original Roga now comes in seven colors. Designed with ultra runners in mind, the Long Roga provides move coverage and less potential for chafing.
Larger changes have happened to Oiselle as a company. What was once a simple desire for less baggy shorts has transformed into a key player in the women’s activewear space. Bergesen explains, “We grew into a bigger company by taking the same problem-solving approach we had with the Roga to other garments. Tank tops, long sleeves, sweats and jackets—many needed updating.”
They have even changed the way athletic apparel is unveiled. At New York Fashion Week, athletes, employees, and models took to the runway to showcase Oiselle’s 2014 Spring line.
Elite runners, including Lauren Fleshman and Kara Goucher, can be seen sporting the Roga—both athletes are now Oiselle-sponsored runners. Bergesen says that Goucher “was recently converted to the Roga and has told me it has changed the way she feels about shorts.”