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Oakley Gets in Touch With Feminine Side in Growing Apparel Line

Oakley Gets in Touch With Feminine Side in Growing Apparel Line

By JENNIFER BELLANTONIO

Orange County Business Journal

Oakley Inc. needs a woman’s touch.

The macho maker of sunglasses, apparel and shoes is stepping up its focus on women’s wear a move that Colin Baden, the Foothill Ranch-based company’s president and head of design, said should have been made sooner.

“Our manifesto is to make products that are so desirable a person can’t stand it until they own it,” Baden said. “We’re not sticking to our M.O. by making women’s products that have had so limited a success to date.”

Oakley already makes some products for women, including athletic wear, sunglasses and shoes. But the selection is “weak,” Baden said.

The women’s line has grown from around 10 pieces to 100. But it still trails men’s in sales, said Nancy Coons, Oakley’s apparel program manager.

The split: 75 percent men’s, 25 percent women’s.

Oakley wants more.

“We have the most advanced outerwear line (high-tech jackets) in the women’s market, yet it fails to capture what it should be doing,” Baden said. “There’s something going on that we need to understand and improve.”

That thinking goes for the rest of Oakley’s offerings. The company also is looking to boost its women’s shoes, watches, sunglasses and prescription glasses. “We make stuff we like,” Baden said. “And if it’s just guys making stuff they like, you can see where that leads.”

The company recently hired a woman designer whose background is in women’s and girl’s apparel for action sports brands. The designer has cleaned up the line, brought in new fabrics and focused on fit, including making denim jeans with a lower waistline.

In the past, Oakley’s women’s clothes grew out of its men’s line, often resulting in pieces that were more masculine.

“It was a fabulous product and we sold it quite well to the female consumer, but it wasn’t as good as we knew it could be,” Coons said. “Often we weren’t the product that would be hanging on the wall (in shops).”

Oakley historically has gone after guys ages 18 to 34, which has left the women’s market untapped.

“Their current offering in sunglasses as well as apparel and footwear just needs a feminine touch to it,” said Kristine Koerber, an analyst with San Francisco’s WR Hambrecht + Co.

Oakley could use the growth. The company recently reported a 14.5 percent drop in net income to $12.3 million. Sales grew 15.7 percent, to $132 million, though at a slower pace than projected a month ago.

A weak launch of Oakley’s basketball shoes hurt profits a sign of the risks Oakley faces going into new markets.

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