So I don’t know about you, but I sometimes look at my wife’s clothing and think “Wow! Those shorts are awesome….where did you get them?”. Then I’m gutted to find out they’re women’s only.
Historically, men seem to have the monopoly on choice when it comes to mountain bike apparel, offering women a measly selection of dull and, from what I’ve heard, poorly fitting choices. Until now!
Over the past couple of years, we’ve started to see more and more clothing designed specifically for Women, which is stylish, fresh and with colour options that make my creative mind explode with joy! I love it, I really do and there’s probably one brand right now that I keep secretly wishing they would come out with a men’s line, and that brand is SHREDLY.
Ashley Rankin is the owner and designer of SHREDLY and we were privileged to be able to spend some time with her to talk about the business and the mountain bike scene for women in general. Oh, and my vain attempts to convince Ashley to create a pair of SHREDLY shorts just for me.
T&S: Ashley, thank you so much for taking time to chat with us today, we really appreciate it. We are slightly star struck to be honest. My wife and I are big fans of the SHREDLY products.
SHREDLY: Wow, I don’t think I’ve made anyone star struck, now I am blushing! Thank you for having me and for being such fans!
T&S: We’ve got to say we love the name, it’s like one of those made-up words that’s become normalized in the MTB community, such as; gnarly, braap and our favourite down under is Yeeew!
SHREDLY: Haha, so you’re saying we might find it in the Urban Dictionary sometime soon? I’ve never even thought to check, I should do that! Naming a brand is really hard – especially since you have no idea where the brand will go, what direction it might take. My girlfriend, Staci, actually came up with SHREDLY – “for girly chicks who shred.”
We all had our own thing going on. I was the only one silly enough to think I could play with this on the side.
T&S: Talking with friends over a beer and the conversation often turns to what it would be like to have our own clothing brand. Then we sober up. How did it all start for you? Was it a drunken conversation with a friend or something much more thought out?
SHREDLY: I think I was in a blackout for the first year or two, maybe still am…but not from drinking! I just don’t remember having that moment where I had it all planned out. Two of my best friends and I all had the same complaints about the bike apparel options available and then kind of came up with our dream short in one of those casual conversations where you say, “you know what someone should do?” Probably like the conversations you are referencing.
I don’t remember deciding I wanted to have a clothing brand and be a business owner but I do remember emailing the girls and saying something along the lines of “I think someone should really do this and I think that should be us?” Whatever “this” was. I guess that would be the moment I made my declaration and since we had all dreamt it up together I felt it was fair to let them know and see if they wanted to be involved.
That’s making it sound more formal than it even was. We all had our own thing going on. I was the only one silly enough to think I could play with this on the side. I had a full-time job, no experience with starting a business, no idea what the first step would even be. It was one of those things where I just made baby steps and tried not to acknowledge how scary and possibly unattainable the big picture was.
So, I had the short design in mind, I’d already dreamt of a ton of fun patterns and had rendered a mockup of a half dozen, then it made sense to come up with a name, then a logo, then the right fabric, then prototypes, and so on.
Eight months later I was launching a Kickstarter campaign for funding and I think that is when I realised, whoa, I am really doing this – still not exactly clear on what “this” was.
After the first season, I realised I had presented something to the world, they liked it, then they expected that to keep producing. That’s when I had more of a grasp on what “this” was, what it could be, what I wanted it to be.
T&S: One of the major attractions about SHREDLY, are of course, the designs. Are these creations yours or do you work with other designers?
SHREDLY: Trade secrets! Although I would love to be that talented, I do not personally create the designs, I just get to do the easy part and pick the best ones! It’s really fun because the process allows me to make my selections then tweak them in terms of colour, scale, direction, and etc.
Sometimes I leave them as is or I get to add my personal touch. It varies. This year I worked with a local artist to create one of our designs launching in the 2018 line. That was fun and I always love to bring a local aspect in when possible. (Being based in a small town in Colorado is not entirely ideal for clothing manufacturing/design!)
I am always trying to understand what it is that is so pleasing to the eye when some things are not.
T&S: Inspiration…who or what do you look to, to inspire your designs?
SHREDLY: I find inspiration in everything. My inspiration for technical designs or new products comes from necessity in my everyday life – it’s quite advantageous that I am my own customer! So, sharing my ideas with others allows me to determine if those ideas are specific to me or a need shared by others.
I’m incredibly drawn to aesthetically pleasing things. I will dissect an interesting flower on the side of the trail, a crazy looking bug, or a unique piece of furniture, advertisements, etc. I am always trying to understand what it is that is so pleasing to the eye when some things are not.
I think the conscious thought process behind this enhances the things that inspire me. I also daydream a lot and designs randomly pop into my head. That is usually how I end up with designs for new products.
Men pull off women’s clothing quite nicely. And let’s be honest, men have had a lot more to choose from for a long time so it’s ok if they suffer with envy for a while!
T&S: Will there ever be a men’s range? I apologise to you and the readers but I just had to get that out there. It’s been on the tip of my tongue this whole time.
SHREDLY: I get asked this all the time! And then I must share that men (and not just a handful) wear SHREDLY too! At first it was because SHREDLY was a start-up, grassroots brand and those close to me wanted to support it. But then men who couldn’t say ‘no’ to the prints that spoke to them tossed the women-specific designation to the side and went for it.
I even had a guy on a SHREDLY race team who was not stoked about having to wear girl shorts, so he begrudgingly picked out the least “girly” print and did the race. He actually ended up liking them so much (fit, material, etc.) that he reached out to get another pair.
Men pull off women’s clothing quite nicely. And let’s be honest, men have had a lot more to choose from for a long time so it’s ok if they suffer with envy for a while! But to answer the question – perhaps there will be a men’s line in the future but for now I’m focused on taking care of the ladies.
T&S: Do you have any formal training in fashion and design?
SHREDLY: Degrees in Apparel Design + Production and Business Marketing. No formal background or industry experience in either. I wanted to live back in the mountains after college so this limited the opportunities available.
So, I guess you could say I created my own opportunity, in field I never thought I’d be in. I was never interested in designing activewear – how boring! I wanted to be a high-end couture designer living in New York City. Ha, how things change. I have never been to New York and I’m designing activewear. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
T&S: We really enjoy working with the smaller boutique brands because the designs are usually much more interesting and quirky. How tough is it to go up against some of the larger brands, with mass appeal, in a very competitive market?
SHREDLY: I don’t really think about being up against the larger brands. They will continue to do what they do and I will as well. I think they are more worried about how they can appeal to the SHREDLY customer!
T&S: We love that answer!
T&S: There must be so many factors when starting a business such as this. The production setup, logistics, marketing and of course the costs. What are the biggest hurdles you’ve faced along the way?
SHREDLY: I will always recognise I didn’t know what I didn’t know and that naivety is what allowed me to give it a go. There were definitely some key milestones in startup. Financing is a big one, especially being privately and wholly owned. Piecing together the supply chain was a huge hurdle that continues to change, grow, and evolve.
And with advances in technology I don’t think you ever get to the point where everything is all figured out or final. But with each hurdle you cross you have that much more experience to apply to the next challenge and you get better at crossing in general.
Women have more to choose from and companies are being more thoughtful about the products they offer.
T&S: Whenever we’re browsing the SHREDLY website, we feel like a kid in a candy store. Yes, we admit, it’s an overly used cliché but it’s so true. What are the reactions you see from your customers, are they as excited as us?
SHREDLY: Yes! We experience a lot of squealing and gushing (in person and digitally). So fun!
T&S: The choice for women’s MTB clothing in the past was pretty lame. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry since starting SHREDLY?
SHREDLY: Well – there are certainly a lot more patterned shorts out there! And in the last couple years more and more companies are offering a SHREDLY-esque option. It’s such a different landscape than it was 5 years ago. Women have more to choose from and companies are being more thoughtful about the products they offer.
SHREDLY entered the market at an interesting time, brands were cutting their women’s lines, some brands went out of business, the economy was a mess, so when everything was on the decline we showed up. Now everyone has steadily been recovering or rebounding so not only are there new brands, or some that have returned, but there is overall more and more for women to choose from.
There is also momentum with women who are joining the sport supported by clubs, teams, clinics, etc. There are so many great women advocating for the sport that will continue to improve it and the women’s presence overall.
I’m very committed to growing the brand sustainably and offering products that our customers need while staying true to our roots.
T&S: We wrote an article about the MTB scene for women and how positive it was to see the numbers growing. Encouraging more women to ride is a big part of what we do. At the end of the day it’s got to be inviting.
That goes for the different techniques of teaching men vs. women, the language used, the bike geometry and the clothing you wear on the bike. Do you think SHREDLY, in some way, has had a part to play in this?
SHREDLY: Well – I think that so many factors contribute to this but it does make me smile when women say that SHREDLY has given them more confidence, something to look forward to, or spiced up the apparel side of things. I think in general that everything is headed in a good direction with getting more women on bikes and making mountain biking an approachable sport for girls and women.
T&S: Will there be a men’s range? Oh sorry, have I already asked this?
SHREDLY: You may have mentioned it before.
T&S: What’s next for SHREDLY? Are there plans to grow the range to other products such as socks, gloves, jackets, body protection… hell, even bikes?
SHREDLY: Well, some bike companies have started offering patterned shorts so I joke we’re going to start making bikes! I’m very committed to growing the brand sustainably and offering products that our customers need while staying true to our roots.
2018 is going to be exciting because there are some new additions that leave us with a very well rounded line. Pick your adventure and we’ve mostly got you covered from head to toe.
Well, thank you so much Ashley for taking time to chat with us. It really has been a joy and a privilege. Yes, we’re mega fans! Can’t you tell by now?
We love the vision and the ethos of what SHREDLY is all about. We will continue to get stupidly excited, clap our hands and say “YES!” whenever we see the new range. If you had a store, we’d be the ones in our sleeping bags at the door, two days before the launch.
I only have one more question on my lips…It’s OK, you can reply directly to me with a special, one of a kind pair of men’s shorts. Then and only then, I may stop hassling you. ; )