posted by dpm on 07/11/2011
DPM's Erin Codey chatted with Vertical Girl's Jenn Q about the brand, the clothes, and the vision.
DPM: What was the inspiration behind the creation of Vertical Girl?
VG: Vertical Girl was not my idea. I was out climbing for the weekend in Mazama WA when I met Rich Johnston. Rich has been a long time fixture in the climbing world. In fact, he opened America’s first climbing gym back before I knew how to tie my own rock shoes. Rich’s experiences and travels created a fundamental understanding that in order for the sport of climbing to grow and sustain it needed women. After visiting a Water Girl store in Hawaii, and experiencing the effect a brand like that had on the surfing community, he thought, why not do the same for climbing? The idea for Vertical Girl was born. But it would take years for Rich to meet someone who shared the same vision and could develop the concept. That’s where I came in. Rich and I are BOTH inspired by what climbing can do for women, and what women can do for climbing.
DPM: What is the company’s vision?
VG: The Vertical Girl vision is to be a leader for women in the climbing community, to foster a positive environment in the sport and make climbing accessible to all women from ages 2 to 102. We do this through events, information, sponsorships, and our ongoing mission to refine our unique, climbing-specific line of clothing and accessories. Climbing has been a large part of my personal growth and journey to self-awareness and I know that it can achieve something different for everyone. It’s my hope that we can expose the many different areas and benefits of climbing to a broader range of women, this will in turn help grow the sport beyond the long time notion that it is intimidating and difficult.
DPM:Who and what does the Vertical Girl brand represent?
VG: The Vertical Girl brand represents all women who aspire to climb, not just elite athletes. The Vertical Girl brand embodies the empowerment of climbing. The act of climbing involves movement, strength, focus, self-awareness and dedication – things that make you strong and capable in any activity.
DPM: How has the company changed and developed over the past year?
VG:A young brand constantly evolves. It seems that everyday there is a new opportunity for us. Obviously we have worked hard over the last year to develop new products, but what are more exciting are the new relationships that we have built. The rapidly expanding group of supporters, contributors and brand ambassadors is incredibly motivating. They keep me psyched everyday.
DPM: Vertical Girl released its first line of climbing-specific clothing and accessories in 2010. What has the response been to your first line?
VG: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Building brand familiarity is difficult but it was immediately apparent to us that there was a need for our products and services.
DPM: Currently you’re in the process of releasing your 2011 line and opening the first Vertical Girl retail store. What are the must-have items in your Signature Series collection?
VG: I think that everyone can fall in love with something from our Signature Series; these pieces are all designed with simplicity and affordability in mind. This series currently features a bra, knicker, capri, full-length pant and soon [as the weather cools] we will add a new hoodie! Our Signature Series incorporates our best features into the simplest design: the highest quality material, a sleek cut that is specifically designed for climbing, and a selection of neutral colors that can be worn with anything.
DPM: What is your design process for creating climbing-specific clothing and accessories for women?
VG: All of our product designs are driven by requests from the climbing community. Initially, when we were first conceptualizing the brand we held a series of focus groups. Out of these focus groups we gathered a long list of requests, thoughts and ideas – and we proceeded to build a small product offering out of that. We launched with one bra, one tank top, one hoodie, one capri, one pair of long pants – all built from that spec. Over the last year, we have watched how these products have done in the market place, and refined, expanded or eliminated them. We constantly seek input from wearers and brand advocates; we listen to every comment, thought or suggestion and weigh those against our brand’s mission. At our core we seek to produce long lasting affordable training apparel that women can wear for climbing and life.
DPM: Vertical girl clothing is created using sustainable materials. How do sustainability practices guide your company?
VG: I think that best way that a brand can be sustainable is by creating products that will stand the test of time, and products that are versatile enough to be used for many activities. The less you buy the more resources you save. But, sustainability runs through every decision we make: Could we use less packaging? Could we ship more efficiently? Are the dyes we are using eco-friendly? Right now we are a pretty small company, so our impact is pretty minimal, but we take it very seriously so that someday when we are much larger it will still be one of our fundamental principals and it will make an even greater impact.
DPM: You recently did a climbing event in partnership with The Girl Effect, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting global poverty by empowering young girls and women. How do events like these represent the vision of Vertical Girl?
VG: Events like this are the core of our vision. Vertical Girl is more than a brand, or a list of SKUs. Vertical Girl is a collective. A culture. A mentality. We exist to enhance the climbing community and support women who aspire to climb. The recent event was a major success in many ways: in one night we managed to introduce 85 new women to climbing, involve the entire community though various levels of volunteer work and contribution, and raise money for the Girl Effect. You can watch the video about the event here: http://vimeo.com/25902573 Our ‘Women’s Climbing Event’ model is only one of many ways we interact with and support the community. We also sponsor professional athletes and brand ambassadors, sponsor a blog called Girl Beta [girlbeta.com], host a community blog for contributions from all female climbers [verticalgirl.com], teach clinics, and are developing a Women’s Climbing Camp – the next level in our event series.
DPM:What would you like to tell all the readers who may not have heard of Vertical Girl and are just reading about it now?
VG:Vertical Girl is a place for women to connect and get support for their personal climbing journey – no matter what level they climb at. We are always looking for new contributors or outstanding community leaders who need support, and we want anyone to feel free to contact us at any time with requests or ideas.
DPM: I want to buy your clothes! Where can I purchase them?
VG: Right now the best place to buy Vertical Girl is online at www.verticalgirl.com. We also stock various specialty outdoor retailers in the Pacific Northwest, as well as a handful of shops in other parts of the country and are currently accepting new accounts, if you are interested in trying on our products, tell your local shop to contact us!
Interview by Erin Codey