In 2007, Sally Bergesen decided to begin running again after taking a hiatus from the sport to start a family. After searching for a pair of form-fitting running shorts she came up, well, short. A lack of “non-poofy” styles led her to design what is now called the “Roga” (running + yoga) short, and the company, Oiselle (wah-zell), was officially born.
Sally first ran cross country in high school, and quickly discovered a love for running after returning from studying abroad in France. After graduating from the University of Oregon with an English degree, she moved to Seattle and soon began racing. Making the cross country nationals team on seven occasions, and competing in everything from 5Ks to marathons, Sally cultivated her love of running. At the same time, she worked with major athletic brands like Nike and Reebok as a brand strategy consultant, helping them with everything from brand vision to marketing campaigns.
The name Oiselle (“bird” in French), alludes to the “powerful sense of freedom that most runners know and love,” and likely stems from Sally’s time spent in France. While she’s not a professional athlete (although her PR’s are dang impressive), she has surrounded herself with some of running’s elite females who are like-minded and had been under contract with bigger brands. Both Lauren Fleshmann, who’s now retired, and Kara Goucher, who had previously been with Nike, were pursued by Bergesen when their contracts were up and formally invited to join the Oiselle team. As a smaller brand Oiselle may not be able to offer sponsorship packages like the bigger names, but what they can offer their athletes is a like-minded team and an extended family that fosters similar values.
Together, they form a team that is stronger in their pursuit of fair athlete representation, but also clean sport – two subjects that the clothing company has been very vocal about over the past few years. With Sally at the helm, Oiselle is a business that’s not afraid to take a side and preach their stance high above the rafters (they are birds, after all). During the most recent presidential election, t-shirts were designed to read, “Air Force One” with the “O” in One displayed as the universal symbol for female. Sally continues to encourage Oiselle followers to “Speak Out” with yet another t-shirt and social media campaign directed towards those who feel empowered to stand up for their beliefs.
But t-shirts are just a small fraction of the products that Oiselle offers. As an athletic and leisure or “athleisure” clothing company for women, their focus is on fashionable, quality, comfortable pieces that fit women’s bodies. Oiselle pays attention to how a waistband fits, and where it falls across a woman’s stomach – often a deal-breaker when choosing running pants or shorts. Women’s bodies fit in running clothes differently than men’s do, and we want to look confident in what we wear – even if we’re just out for a run.
“Helping women get there – and enjoy its emotional and physical benefits – is what the brand is all about,” said Sally. “Our goal is to deliver the ideal garment: one that is refreshingly unique, fashion forward, and precisely designed for women runners.”
With products that range from running bras and “rundies” (underwear with workout names emblazoned on the rear) to winter jackets and flowing dresses, Oiselle seems to be catching the eyes of women with subtle bird designs on many of their pieces. It’s not uncommon to see someone wearing a Oiselle singlet during a race (and get passed by them). With fabrics that include merino wool (Wazzie Wool) and silky polyester and spandex blends (Lux), they’ve got the comfort factor down when it comes to soft, breathable fabric.
With such a competitive market, Oiselle’s mantra is simple: “Fashion is a sport now – you have to run.” The brand continues to do just that by keeping ahead of the latest trends in both sport and lifestyle fashions. The business continues to grow leaps and bounds each year, expanding their “flock” of supporters, as well as sponsoring additional elite athletes. But what it comes down to are the reasons why we run, which can be summarized by Sally as, “…our therapy, escape, religion, and girl time. But perhaps simply enough, it’s been our sense of freedom.”