For Size-Inclusive Brand Year Of Ours, 2020 Meant (Some) Pivots And A Winning Formula

Year Of Ours campaign shot, Photo Credit: Scott Leon

Year Of Ours campaign shot, Photo Credit: Scott Leon

Photo Credit: Scott Leon

One of 2020’s taglines has been “we’re in this together” — a rallying cry for inclusivity, optimism and connection. While the buzz and demand for body diversity has become louder and louder, athleisure brand Year Of Ours originally launched with this ethos, when it first the scene in 2016.

For starters, it’s in the name.

The female-run company has since become known for its signature styles and fits, which span a wide range of sizes: Year of Ours (a.k.a. YOS) offers a diverse size range and does not change the styles based off size. This means that a customer will find the same styles, whether they are an XS or XXL.

“The brand really was started from the lack of inclusion in the activewear and fashion industry in 2016,” founder Eleanor Haycock shares. “Things have changed a lot since then, but we really wanted to have a brand that was for every body, and that we actually wanted to wear. There are too many brands that target a very specific customer. I think that’s a really outdated way of looking at brand building and marketing.”

Haycock teamed up with Lily Shen (a factory owner in the manufacturing industry for more than 20 years.), and designer Alejandra Hernandez (a celebrity stylist and vintage expert). Chris Haycock handles branding and marketing, while Sarah Wolfson recently joined the team, as social media and content manager.

According to Hernandez, designing styles that work for every body was critical from day one: “I think that not offering the same styles to all sizes is the opposite of inclusive. Everyone should be able to have access to our signature styles. It defeats the purpose of extending access to your clothes if you are creating a watered down version in certain sizes.”

When lockdown hit and we were faced with a collective new normal as a result of COVID, Year Of Ours was forced to pivot its marketing and content strategy — like many businesses.

Thankfully for Year Of Ours, the brand’s manufacturing is all done in Los Angeles — which means that Haycock and designer Hernandez can be hands-on with samples and fits, leading to its impeccable fits — also a saving grace for the brand when COVID started.

Find out how Year Of Ours doubled down on team spirit from the start and how it shifted its content and social media efforts as a result of our new “work from home” reality.

Alejandra Hernandez, Photo Credit: Matt Kallish

Alejandra Hernandez, Photo Credit: Matt Kallish

Photo Credit: Matt Kallish

Karin Eldor: What are some of the ways Year Of Ours walks the diversity talk, from a tactical, product and branding point of view? 

Alejandra Hernandez: Since we launched, we made it clear that we’re a company that reflects who our team is, hangs out with, exercises with, lives with, moves with. We represent all different sizes and body shapes. And it was important to us that our fits — in most styles — worked and complemented not just sizing, but shapes.

Aside from the clothing, we also wanted to make sure that the models we chose to showcase the collections weren’t always professional models. We have tried to always feature a balance of non-models in the mix since our first collection. It’s important to us that our customer can feel represented and imagine themselves in YOS.

Eleanor Haycock: It’s extremely important that a diverse group of women’s voices are heard and seen through our platforms. This has been our mission since day one. We see the brand not just as clothing, but a place of understanding, education, communication, and connection.

Year Of Ours, Photo Credit: Meredith Bruner

Year Of Ours, Photo Credit: Meredith Bruner

Photo Credit: Meredith Bruner

Eldor: How does the brand emphasize its “team spirit” ethos?

Hernandez: As a brand we want everyone to feel like they are part of our story. I think highlighting our real customers and trainers that support the brand on social media really shows that we aren’t just interested in the imagery of a perfect model wearing YOS. Design wise, it really helps me to see who #TEAMYOS is. I want to make sure I’m keeping all the “players” in mind. It’s important for everyone to feel included and that the support is reciprocal, like a team. They have our back, and we have theirs.

Haycock: It’s a lot more enjoyable to work with a team, then do something all yourself. I’ve never really wanted to be a boss, but rather a leader that helped others.  To have an opportunity to help grow individuals to a fuller potential is extremely rewarding and I could never imagine not working in a team setting in alignment of bigger.

Eldor: Why was it important for Year of Ours to be made in the U.S.A.? 

Haycock: With so much uncertainty in the market, it’s been extremely beneficial to have quicker lead times with our factory. With our current growth, we have been able to fill business from wholesale accounts, while also not having to project too far into the future for inventory.  

Eldor: I’d love to discuss the phenomenal growth and sales Year of Ours experienced since March 2020, when isolation and “stay at home” orders began.

Haycock: Yes! Our web sales have tripled since March and our wholesale business is also growing.

Photo Credit: Alejandra Hernandez

Eleanor Haycock, Photo Credit: Alejandra Hernandez

Photo Credit: Alejandra Hernandez

Eldor: How have you adjusted your business or pivoted? 

Haycock: I think we’re going to be adjusting for a while, because no one really knows what is coming over the next year. We have pivoted to focus more on new social content and our website, which was something we already knew we wanted to do. We have had amazing support from trainers and influencers. In the summer, we did a press class online in partnership with Obé, to launch our summer collection. Every Wednesday we have our #keepitmoving series on IG live in partnership with Bala and APL (we are now just doing once a month with Bala). We also have weekly schedules, which includes daily content with new contributors. For product, we are moving more into monthly drops, rather than seasonal collections, which has helped with inventory and marketing pushes.

 Eldor: Tell me about your new content strategy. Was it the result of pivoting from the new normal created by COVID? 

Wolfson: We were already strategizing, and laying down the foundation to integrate content that focused on health and wellness, and beyond. We have been able to utilize social media as a vehicle to help empower, educate, learn, and inspire.

Some of the content includes Self-Care Sunday takeovers and tutorials, current conversations, which consist of interviews and discourse, as well as playlists by DJs, mid-week inspo, which gives contributors the opportunity to discuss art and music, and topics around mental health, race, social justice, and highlight their own companies, and touch on pivoting a career in such a challenging time. 

In addition, we began an “Exercise Your Vote” challenge on social media to encourage our audience to move with us, educate ourselves about the upcoming election, register and vote!

Haycock: We have worked closely with our  trainers for content over the last months. Our trainers are DaLette Anderson, Aubre Winters, Camai Brandenberg, Vera Wu, Lindsey Harrod, Starr Hawkins, Marissa West, and Heidi Schmidt. They have been a key representation of the brand. With each of them having different backgrounds, styles, personalities, living in different parts of the U.S.,  and teaching different types of classes.  

While it’s tough to plan with so many unexpected and unpredictable events, is there anything you’d like to share that’s coming up for YOS, for the rest of 2020 and 2021? 

Haycock: It’s hard to plan or predict anything, but we are putting more energy into our DTC business. Also introducing a new “Home / Sleep” capsule just in time for the holiday season.

A key learning for me during this time, has been that “Slowing down is not a bad thing. In the beginning of this, everything was so uncertain and we were moving fast to try new things. Our community ethos has always been the backbone of our company, and right now it really is shining through.”

This post was originally published on Forbes - Startups

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