Amy Marwick talks to Robbert Hersman, global head of product and operations at Oakley, about the brand’s iconic heritage and its high-tech, eco-friendly future 

Amy Marwick: You are responsible for the creation of all Oakley’s collections of apparel, footwear and accessories. Tell us about the new outerwear collection… 

Robbert Hersman: The Fall/Winter 20 line is a refresh of Oakley’s collection. We took inspiration from what we saw happening in streetwear. We’ve used the classic Oakley logo, so it’s very recognisable – we haven’t used it that much with our snow wear until now.

We are using Thermo Nuclear Protection as a tag line for the range. This is a term that came out of our marketing in the ’80s for skis and snowboards. We’re using the heritage of the brand, and also incorporating the use of block colours, bigger logos, brighter colourways and new materials.

Oakley is one of the few brands that covers both skiing and snowboarding.

We took the input of the athletes, and asked them what they like, then we put everything together. 

AM: Can you tell us more about the input Oakley riders have had? 

RH: We have a huge list of athletes who have been with the brand a long time, as well as new athletes.

We listen to them on different levels; some are technical – they want everything perfect with regards to the fit and materials; others are more concerned with style – they want to make sure it feels comfortable and the colours are right.

Some are just riding in flannel shirts and want the pants to be mostly black, then play more with colour on the top.

With gloves, we had the request to add more mittens. 

AM: Who is the range aimed at? 

RH: We make different styles for different end users, but we also know the consumer really decides what they want to wear.

If we make a jacket that is designed for backcountry skiing, in the end we might see kids wearing it in the park as they like the look. 

AM: Does the gear have any eco credentials at all? 

RH: This is something we have been working on, but the Fall/Winter 20 line is just the start.

For 2021 we are doing a lot more on environmentally friendly and sustainable gear.

With this line we have used recycled polyester in our best-selling jacket, but next season is really when we will work with a lot more recycled materials. 

AM: What direction would you say Oakley is going in? 

RH: We want to use the heritage of our brand from the days when we created lines with Tanner Hall, Simon Dumont and Seth Morrison back in the 2000s, and tell those stories, but in a new way.

We have the heritage but we want to refresh it. Our aim is to make the best technical products, retain the DNA of the brand, but also have some products that are more at the entry price point. 

AM: What is the main direction of Oakley’s future designs? 

RH: The backcountry is definitely a key category.

We see a growth coming in touring and splitboarding, especially with the Covid pandemic – we are already seeing an increase in sales of touring equipment.

How that will influence our sales… maybe more lightweight products, more shells, more functional layering pieces.

We are also improving our sustainability; we are trying to focus on this for future ranges. 

In the women’s line, the collection is inspired from a more unisex point of view. It is less feminine, and wearable for both men and women, although we have to make sure we still get the right fit.

The colourways are a lot of black and white. Some colours might be a bit bolder but we tend to use the same colourways across both men’s and women’s lines. 

AM: There has been some discussion in the media recently about whether women’s gear is actually suitable in terms of the fit, so it’s interesting you are thinking of creating a more unisex line… 

RH: When we look at our consumers we find the women are more focused on the technical abilities of the gear and the sport itself, and not necessarily in the super-feminine, slim-fitting products. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to be feminine, but just in a different way. They might wear a slim-fitting pant but with a loose-fitting jacket. The type of look we are working on is trying to understand how you can be feminine without being too ‘girly’.

AM: Which riders should we follow on Instagram to see the gear? 

RH: We have Øystein Bråten, a Norwegian freeskier, and check out Colby Stevenson, who just won two gold medals at the X Games.

Colby is a young kid and an amazing skier, but he’s also doing a lot of backcountry skiing with his family.

This is something we are seeing a lot more of: technical park skiers who are also very interested in skiing the whole mountain. 

AM: What are your favourites from the Fall/Winter 20 outerwear line? 

RH: The new TNP Insulated Anorak is my favourite. I also like the TNP Jacket – it’s a throwback to our heritage.

The women’s Cassia One Piece is super cool: you can ride the backcountry in it, and stay warm just cruising the slopes.

The TNP Shell Bib is super comfortable – you don’t get the snow in your pants if you fall, you have an extra layer of warmth, and it also has a bit of a throwback with the iconic Oakley logo. 

These pieces show the heritage of the brand, but are new and high-tech: that’s the direction we’re moving in. 

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