Roark Grrrls

Interview: Julia Spadaro

When I was a little kid, I took hip-hop dance lessons.

I didn’t practice at home, because I didn’t want my family to know I was a tomboy (they knew), but I practiced on the neighborhood sidewalk because I wanted to be seen—if you know what I mean. I was reminded of this while talking with Dayna Cottee, the brand manager for Roark’s new women’s line. After 12 years of business, Roark is expanding into the female market with Dayna as its fearless leader. The idea behind the initiative is to capture the essence of what it is to be a woman doing cool stuff. Whether you’re a surfer, a climber, a snowboarder, an artist, a hiker, the weird little hip-hop girl on the corner, or even all of these things, you just may find a home in Roark Women’s.

What’s up? How are you?

I’m doing well. I do have the flu. It happened like two days after we launched, so I was like okay, at least you waited, thank you.

Were you able to go to the launch party last week?

Yeah, it was epic. We packed the place. The bands were amazing. It was a really fun mix. We had Lee-Ann Curren who did an acoustic set and has the most beautiful voice, then we had Demi who is one of our ambassadors and she is like raw punk rock. Just crazy energy, all over the place. Then we had this disco DJ chick come on. It was so fun, so perfect; because the brand is kind of about that juxtaposition, you know, women who do all these different things.

Is that what Roark Women’s means to you, the juxtaposition?

Roark, the brand, has been around for a long time, and they’ve built this really strong brand ethos about this trail-to-bar aesthetic. It’s product that you can wear that has functionality no matter what sport you’re doing, but it’s stylish enough to wear to the bar afterward. That’s the foundation of why I think Roark has been so successful. Then when we were talking over the last few years about women’s and what would it look like, it was like… there’s nothing like this for women out there. You’re either wearing leggings or you’re in super high-performance gear. There was no in-between. So our big thing is like, within a male-dominated space, we’re looking to provide the same accessibility to apparel tailored by travel that is inspired by the female journey. Everyone is already out there doing things—surfing, climbing, snowboarding, camping—and it’s important to give them the product they need to feel not only comfortable and confident, but safe. Also to be able to tell the story 360 by a woman: it’s a woman on the trip, it’s a woman photographer, it’s a woman writing the story. I think of women as being these multi-faceted beings. We’re not just one thing. I think we all feel like we have multiple identities in some way, which is where this juxtaposition came in. I feel like you could have your nails painted pink but just helped build a house yesterday. You can rip and shred and be this incredible performant and then you can still go home and want to have a sexy glass of wine and a bubble bath. I can confidently say after talking to a lot of women through this project that women, especially athletes, really do feel pigeonholed in one space. It’s like you’re a snowboarder with the boys and you have this tough vibe, or it’s the pink it and shrink it where it’s, like, all bubblegum. We want to look cool and feel like ourselves.

Yeah, I’ve struggled with that my whole life. I have such a girly side and I have such a tomboy side, but one doesn’t take away from the other.

Yeah. And certain styles, like our Layover Pant which has become a favorite of mine, they’re super travel-friendly, and they also make your butt look so good. Do you know what I mean? They look really utilitarian and yet you feel feminine in them.

Has the collection been well-received?

Yeah! It’s been great. It’s new, and we’re still getting the word out there, but we’ve had such great feedback from our peers and the industry. I don’t want to jinx it.

What type of woman would like this collection?

To me, the Roark woman is the ultimate juxtaposition. She’s just as much a lover of the mountains as she is the waves—timeless and modern, tough and feminine. Another big one we love to say is that she’s unapologetic and never found riding shotgun to anyone. Then our big battle cry is ‘the women’s voice in adventure will no longer be ignored.’

Do you feel like women have been ignored? Do you feel like there’s a general lack of inclusivity in the outdoor industry?

I would say we are looking to create a more diverse and equitable experience for women in the outdoors. It does need to be more diverse, and we just want it to be equal. We want that equality within the storytelling that is already out there. Women are surfing. They’re climbing. There’s a woman on every trip, but instead of it being one, now there’s a whole women’s team doing their own trip. Maybe they lay over with the guys for a little bit, but our women are going to help plan the trip themselves, so everyone will have a portion of that trip that represents them. I think building this really strong community of women creatives and athletes is 100% out there; we’re just trying to help connect it, whether that be the actual sports we focus on, the ethnicities, the body types, or the age range. It’s all important.

Looking to the future, where do you hope to take Roark Women’s?

Oof. Big question. I think first and foremost, we just want to do right by the women out there, and we want to do right by the product. For me, my biggest hope and dream with this is to stay really true to that mission of authenticity. To stay really true to the mission of creating a more diverse and equitable experience for women, to get it in as many doors as possible, to get the product out there, and also to help women pick up a new sport, feel like they can take the climbing trip because they found this great product that they feel like is going to be perfect for it or reach out to other women in their area. That’s the goal, right? To get people out there.

I think it’s so cool that you guys put so much emphasis on the story. People really care about that now, and it’s nice to see that care being reciprocated.

Yeah, it’s important. It’s such an oversaturated market in the apparel industry. If you’re going to survive, as we’ve seen with Roark, you have to be true to the storytelling and the ethos. And if you are, it really creates an emotional connection with people. It brings these stories of travel. It brings people back to a certain time or place, or it makes them dream of experiencing something like that. I think that’s really special. 


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