The new issue of iRun for 2018 is entitled Running is for Every Body. We came up with that before learning that Brooks, the Seattle-based, 103-year-old running company, had a marketing slogan entitled A Bra for Every Body. In our issue, out Friday, we hear from a runner named Debbie Millar who struggles to find clothes that fit. “I left the stores empty-handed, almost in tears,” she writes in the piece. Heather Cvitkovic, Director of Global Apparel for Brooks and Danielle Pepperl, Brooks’ Global PR Manager, talked to us about what they’re doing for runners like Debbie, and why inclusivity is more important than elitism in our sport. The interview was conducted by iRun GM Ben Kaplan.
iRun: It seems like making clothing that fits the maximum number of people isn’t only the decent thing to do but also the smart business move. Don’t you want to sell stuff that as many people as possible can buy?
Heather: Of course, but it’s a lot of work and a big commitment and a huge cost to doing this business. Most brands are at sample sizes because it’s how sizing works. The sample size is the middle of extra small and large. In order to make the jump to extra large and above, it’s an extremely large amount of work, and cost.
iRun: Why do it?
Heather: We know there are a lot of different sizes that run and we want to be of service to them. On the Moving Comfort side, we always covered larger cup sizes and had a plus-size line. When Moving Comfort moved to Brooks, we wanted to stay with our larger sizes.
iRun: Has it paid off?
Heather: Our core sizes are still the sample size, but as the consumer changes and they’re more vocal with their needs and wants, and as we watch runners, we realize there’s an opportunity in making good clothing for diverse bodies.
iRun: The need for larger sizes has grown?
Danielle: Well, a lot of brands now are going into this space and there are more eyes on it—more awareness, and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for runners.
iRun: You guys are an interesting running company in that your logo is Run Happy, as opposed to, say, Run Fast. Why is that?
Danielle: Run Happy has been at the core of our DNA for years. We believe in the transformative power of the run and Run Happy brings that to life. No matter your motivations for running, you end up in a happier place through the run. We want to portray that glass-half-full approach.
iRun: Who do you see as the typical Brooks athlete?
Danielle: Runners. All runners.
iRun: Do you think running is inclusive?
Heather: That’s the unique thing about it. All you need is a good pair of shoes, some clothes and you can run whenever and wherever. Accessible and, yes, inclusive.
iRun: Talk about the bra line. How do the sizes work on your sports bras?
Heather: We do everything from an A to a G cup, and 30-44 band. We focus on all the needs of a woman, sometimes a pull-over bra in a small to an XL or XXL or sometimes she needs a band that is a 34 band and a B cup. We try to give her all the different types of sizing to fit her needs.
iRun: Is it really possible to fit every woman’s needs?
Heather: Our focus is a bra for every body. We try to fit all sorts of body types and fitness levels and I think this is important—when we make bras, we fit them, we wear them, and we do most of the testing in-house.
iRun: How is a plus-size bra made?
Heather: It’s an involved process. We make a prototype and put that on a sample size, a size medium, and then we make another prototype, and we go through three rounds of prototypes, all the while grading them in and out to broader sizes—from extra small to extra, extra large. Then we give all of those prototypes extensive wear-testing, especially our core products.
iRun: And who tests the products? How do you make sure you have a variety of women doing the sampling?
Danielle: We have all sizes in our headquarters and we use internal people to do wear tests.
Heather: Which is interesting, because sometimes it can be a great thing and sometimes a curse, they can be very picky and hold us accountable.
iRun: That’s cool.
Heather: It is cool, and like the photograph that we sent you, in the Brooks ad? Those are internal employees. Almost all of our marketing and Brooks Running on Instagram and Brooks Women on Instagram, both channels are mostly internal models.
iRun: Also cool.
Heather: We strive to represent as many different body types and runners as we can.