CHANGE OF PACE
Clothing brand Tribesport has shifted focus and is aiming to blend fashion and function – at a price
Three years ago we ran a feature titled Is this the future of running apparel? (RW, Feb 2015). It was about a new clothing brand called Tribesport (TS), which had built a social network for sportspeople ( peaking at around 250,000 members). It then harnessed the power of all those opinions by giving the members a big say in its apparel design, on everything from the colour of the fabric to seemingly minor details such as pocket placement (runners can be very particular about where they stash their keys).
TS also found a way to deliver mid/ high- end quality kit at entry-level prices by cutting out the marketing middle man, not investing in bricks and mortar and not selling through the usual retail channels. Today the company is very different. The brand has more or less ditched the social network idea for a more conventional design and distribution model, and switched to producing premium kit featuring highend fabrics and minute attention to detail.
So why the change of focus? ‘In the end we had to conclude that we had become caught between two stools in terms of our message,’ says TS CEO Steve Reid. ‘Network members and existing fans of the brand were buying the kit because they knew what it was about, but despite investing in online content to explain that, for example, a £22 T-shirt was the quality equivalent of a £50 piece of kit, that message did not get widely enough disseminated. We discovered that price is still the biggest indicator of quality in the minds of most consumers and although we tried to disrupt that, we could not. We found people wanting to purchase premium- end running kit are prepared to – would almost prefer to, in fact – spend money to do so.’
The TS range has been completely redesigned to compete at the top end of the market and seeks to merge fashion with function. ‘Our kit now is for people who want to run up a mountain, look good while they do so and know the kit can handle whatever is thrown its way,’ says Reid. ‘Rapha has the top end of the cycling market and Lululemon has yoga. We think Tribesport can be that brand for running.’