Upfront

May
2008

Oakley Plays the Fashion Field

Flashbulbs popping. Models strutting down the runway. Editors scribbling furiously in their Moleskine notebooks. The scene has all the look and feel of New York’s Fashion Week. Except we’re in Miami and Oakley is calling the shots and placing the product. The press is here to see the debut of the Oakley line of women’s apparel and accessories and meet the female athletes that inspired the collection’s style and function.

I’m one of a hundred or so editors, mostly female, participating in the event. Bringing a new meaning to “putting on the Ritz,” upon entering our individual rooms in our hotel—the Ritz-Carlton on Miami’s famous South Beach—everyone gets an Oakley exercise outfit, eyewear and itinerary starting with a7 a.m. “boot camp” on the beach. This is not going to be a relaxing vacation.

On the beach before sunrise, I’m not the only groggy participant. After a grueling total body workout from Malcolm, the Ritz’s “tanning butler” and an ex-military trainer, there is time for a hot shower and a hearty breakfast before the product demonstrations begin.

First, we are taken on a tour of the Rolling O Lab, Oakley’s 40-foot mobile demonstration unit designed to educate consumers about Oakley’s High Definition Optics technology. After explanations of how Transitions lenses adjust to a variety of light conditions and how Oakley’s lenses offer complete UV protection, we all cluster around a clear box with a rubber head in it and watch as a pair of Oakley
sunglasses and a pair of recognizable designer sunglasses are shot with BB gun pellets. The Oakley lenses barely dent, while the designer plano lenses shatter. Just to further hammer the point home—literally—we watch as an anvil is dropped on the eyewear from a height of 10 feet. The Oakley frames take the hit and are still functional. The others… well, let’s just say it’s broom time.

Next up, Jenn Bradley, the women’s brand manager for Oakley, presents the essence of the new women’s collection. After lengthy collaborations with women athletes from various sports, Oakley designed frames to meet both performance needs and fashion wants. New frames were specifically designed around a woman’s head form, instead of just making a masculine style smaller. Lolo Jones, world champion hurdler, then takes the stage and presents the Endure, her signature sunglass style, explaining why it works for her.

“Athletes are paranoid about wearing eyewear for competition without trying them out first,” she says. “I have to see obstacles. The glasses have to fit tight. Other companies approached me, but their glasses were loose and had gaps in them.” She points out the Endure style has vented lenses that won’t fog up during her warm-up, and that the glasses are sleek-looking and available in a variety of stylish colors. “I try to differentiate myself from the men,” she admits. “I don’t want spectators to be watching the men’s events and then not notice when the women start.”

Next, champion snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler introduces her new line of apparel and accessories. “I have a necklace that I bought for myself that is a coin with a lion on it. I wear it up on the mountain,” she says. “It’s a symbol of power, strength and poise. It’s a visual inspiration for me.” So Oakley developed a special logo for her collection featuring a lion’s head, which includes eyewear and goggles. Bleiler made sure everything was both fashionable and practical. Her pants have plenty of pockets held closed with leather straps and belt buckles crowned with a tough brass finish. She also unveils her eco line of performance snow gear made from recycled materials.

“It’s an issue I’ve been passionate about from the beginning,” says Bleiler of her interest in conserving the environment. “My livelihood is affected by climate change. This fully recyclable collection and eco line represents a small step towards making an impact and creating awareness.”

Time to relax a bit, Bleiler presents her “lighter” line featuring clothes designed for an athlete’s time “off the hill.” Pieces include organic V-neck cotton tees, hoodies, leggings and pants. Her entire collection is presented in a full-fledged fashion show.



Bradley takes the stage again to describe the “Oakley woman,” one with an active lifestyle, who wants to bridge the gap between style and performance. She introduces the “Uniquely Oakley” athletes in signature frames. Surfer Sage Erickson wears the Ravishing sunglass style, fellow surfer Leilani Gryde wears the Eternal style, biker and skier Katerina Nash wears Betray, actress and triathlete Maxine Bonds wears Belong, Jones wears Breathless, golfer Nikki Garrett wears her Pendant ophthalmic style and Bleiler wears Ravishing. Bradley points out these women don’t want to wear performance frames all the time, but still want stylish glasses with
technologically enhanced features. Bradley also presents the new women’s goggle line, designed to fit a woman’s head with or without a helmet.

Since no Oakley trip would be complete without some kind of sports activity (aside from boot camp, that is), we are ushered into the aptly named “swag suites” to stock up on precious gear for a variety of activities. There are bikinis, board shorts, sandals, hoodies and T-shirts for those who chose paddle surfing, jet-skiing, wake boarding, kayaking and sunbathing, as well as plenty of polos, argyle sweater vests and pants for the golfers. Everyone grabs a tote bag and gets ready for the poolside dinner. After a few hours of mingling with athletes, dancing and eating an extra helping of dessert (hey, we earned it!), everyone begins to feel the burn… and the burn out.

Day two begins with morning yoga, a run on the beach, breakfast and a presentation of Oakley’s 2009 lifestyle collection. Meredith Feldman, Oakley’s director of apparel merchandising, describes the cohesiveness of all the Oakley collections, from snowsuits to golf wear. Created by Oakley’s new designer, Megan Kelly, the collection features trench coats, dresses, skirts, sweaters, capris and denim styles. “Just because the athletes are not on the field doesn’t mean they want to look like they’re on the sidelines,” says Kelly.

So skipping the sidelines, we load up into shuttles—a  fleet of Volkswagen Tourareg 2s—half going to Crandon golf course to play a round with Nikki Garrett and the rest bee-lining to a private island for water sports.

Festivities come to an end at the Florida Room at The Delano, with a performance from Kelly James and a surprise appearance by basketball legend Michael Jordan.

After viewing the new collection, I can say that Oakley has captured the spirit and style of women and made it… uniquely Oakley.    
—Lauren Taylor

 

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