SGB caught up with former Olympic freestyle skier and apparel designer, brand owner Kari Traa of Norway, to find out what inspires her and what’s in store for U.S. retailers next winter.
By Aaron H. Bible. Photos courtesy Kari Traa
We’ve been covering an influx of European brands launching in North America, many of them outerwear, but some are full line like Ortovox. Why is now the time for Kari Traa to come to the U.S.? Kari Traa has had a tremendous success over the past years and become the number one sports brand for women in Scandinavia and Europe. With an exclusive focus on women only we have made a unique expression through design and colors. It’s all made for girls by girls and we feel that in North America we will fill a need for a women’s brand that is combining comfort and style with trailblazing technical features. Over the years we have been approached by numerous North American retailers and, now that the brand has established itself in Europe, we felt that North America was the logical next step given the interest and the gap in the market.
“Women should be able to express one’s individuality, athleticism and femininity all at once when doing sports and being active.” – Kari Traa
How is the brand viewed in Europe? Is this a performance brand or a lifestyle brand? It is both; most of our girls (consumers) use Kari Traa for their workouts and other activities…but we have started to see many of our designs being used for daily use – mostly as lifestyle pieces that are a reflection of their active lifestyle. We have a very active consumer base in Europe, that we call our Kari girls, that post actively on social media, using our clothes in various situations, running, hiking, skiing, hanging out and so on that has helped create an image of an active and social person that personifies our brand. There are few brands we can compare ourselves with. That is why we think there is a massive opportunity for us in North America – and why we’re seeing strong sell-through results in our first season.
What is your marketing strategy for the U.S./North America? What are you going to do to make yourself stand out? We are going to work closely with our specialty retailers as we build brand awareness through merchandising and displays at the retail level. We are building brand awareness through social media and various events as we try to engage women that have a lifestyle similar to what we have seen in Europe. Marketing wise, our focus is on healthy, strong and active women.
“Our focus is specialty retail, and we expect to build a strong network over the next years in key markets and resorts across the U.S. and Canada.” – Kari Traa
Can you talk about any growth you’ve had in recent years? The brand has grown about 35 percent annually for the past five years in Europe and is the number-one women’s baselayer in Northern Europe. Our focus is specialty retail, and we expect to build a strong network over the next years in key markets and resorts across the U.S. and Canada.
What is your passion as a designer, as an athlete, and a role model? What inspires you and your products? My passion in life has been handicraft and extreme sport, freestyle skiing and skydiving. With my own brand I’ve been able to combine these passions and made a sportswear brand addressing active girls all over the world. It’s all about vibrant colors and top performing active wear. Women should be able to express one’s individuality, athleticism and femininity all at once when doing sports and being active. You shouldn’t have to compromise on style when performing. We want to inspire women to be all they can be by creating great social arenas for sports, interaction and, most importantly, fun!