On a freezing December in New York City, we headed over to the Roger Smith Hotel in midtown to chat with Nikki Sakellio, the rep for a new brand, Vuori, about the exciting brand new men’s athletic wear line. Learning that the company is based in from San Diego, our New York office immediately yearned to accompany her on her return flight. Once we took a look at the line, we discovered that the sweatpants and super soft tanks, which the models themselves dubbed as "angel hair,” would be the perfect travel attire to accompany us on the flight back to California. The brand, whose name means “mountain” in Finnish, was co-founded by a professional skater and a runway model, a perfect Labeling Men Urban King/Jock of all Trades/Sun Junkie combination. Not only are the clothes comfortable and stylish, but the brand is socially conscious as well. Singer Jason Mraz collaborated - and is an investor - with the brand on a shirt in which 100% of the proceeds go to the "Life Goes On" organization, which helps people who are paralyzed get back into action sports in any capacity.
Labeling Men: How did the brand start?
Nikki Sakellio: The brand started when professional skater Chris Miller, who is one of the founders, and Joe Kudla, who is also one of the founders - he used be a runway model for Dolce & Gabanna, BCBG, lived in New York and Milan - the two of them were athletes and friends living in California. They were going to yoga, running and surfing together. They kept talking about how they couldn't find active wear which actually looked cool, stuff that they wanted to wear but still performed. They felt like the only place they could go to buy stuff was Nike...
L.M: Which is kind of boring...
N.S: Which is very boring! Or LuluLemon, which is mainly a chick store..,
L.M: Yeah, no guy wants to go in there.
N.S: No, no guy wants to go in there! They wanted to make really cool clothing for guys that suits that lifestyle, and the concept was born.
L.M: When did they first come up with the concept?
N.S: That was last year. and we went right into development of product and will be launching next week!
L.M: Both aesthetically and in the fabrics, how does it differ from other athletic wear, like a Nike or LuluLemon?
N.S: The fabric and performance quality of the product is amazing. We’re using the top of the line fabrics, very high quality. We have a lot of recycled polyester, so there is a lot of sustainability in the line. And our tops, we are using this amazing sea salt fabric. It’s soft and comfortable and basically it’s a cellulose fiber and seaweed combined together.
L.M: Very unique!
N.S: It is 100% sustainable and it has naturally arcane properties, when you wear it and sweat, it seeps into your skin and is naturally microbial, not like anything sweats off on it. It’s really incredible!
L.M: Awesome! Who do you picture wearing your line; who is the ideal client?
N.S: I think it is a lot of different people. I think that somebody that want to feel like they aren't wearing work out clothing when they need to go work out. It’s something that they can wear on the weekend, maybe they can wear to a bar afterwards. I think it’s a "cool guy" who is aware of trends, but more specifically, that is aware of fit. Our fit is a lot slimmer than let’s say a Nike or an Under Armor, which is baggy. It’s much slimmer, fitted, tailored pieces. Somebody who has an attention to detail, to fashion, but it’s not inaccessible to people at the same time.
L.M: And do you think it is more of an East Coast or West Coast guy?
N.S: I think it’s everybody! I mean, we are born out of Encinitas, which is very coastal California, so of course it has that West Coast style and aesthetic, and a lot of surfers are wearing it and loving it. So by nature it does have that West Coast feeling to it, but Joe was recently in Montauk and everybody there was loving the brand and product.
L.M: What celebrity would Vuori love to see wearing their line?
N.S: Well, that's a great question! I don't know if there is one perfect person, but somebody like Adam Levine. He's into yoga, he's into music - obviously one of the best musicians in the world - he's on The Voice, very popular. He's great and is very aware of what he is wearing, so I think he'd be a great representative of who our target is.
L.M: The line is coming out next week, where can we find it?
N.S: It is going to be in a few yoga studios. We're doing some tests, we're doing some trunk shows with Equinox and mostly on our website. We are in Modo, which is a really great yoga studio here in NYC [in the West Village]. We are in Ishta Yoga, which is also a really great yoga studio in two different locations. And then same thing, a bunch of different yoga studios on the West Coast as well. We are actually shipping this week!
L.M: Congratulations! What are your future plans?
N.S: Gosh! What does the future hold, right? Everything right now is day to day, but we are hoping that people will love the product and that it'll really resonate with them. But more specifically, it’s not just about the product, but the lifestyle. It’s about being healthy, being vibrant, and it’s about yoga, surf, sport, life, music, art, culture. I don't really think we see active brands out there bridging the gap between the lifestyle of people and the actual activity, so who knows where we could go, the possibilities are endless.
L.M: We love it all [in their look book]. Tell us some background on the look book.
N.S: Thank you. We are super proud of all the looks we have for our Spring 2015 campaign, and we were lucky to work with photographer Dane Peterson, who is great. He is working on a lot of national campaigns right now, he just finished a Jose Cuervo one down in Mexico and he is actually one of the best long boarders in the world. You wouldn't know it, he's very humble about that - and he's a sponsored athlete - so he's the perfect person to really capture the lifestyle of Vuori.
L.M: Did the founders model themselves in the shoot?
N.S: They did not, even though Joe is a professional model, he did not. We did have Colin Whitbread, who is a professional long boarder. as one of the models in the shoot.
L.M: As you said, merging everything together!
N.S: Yes, absolutely. Chris Miller is also very involved in the brand. He's a professional skateboarder, been in the industry for over 20 years and he founded a really well known action sports brand called Planet Earth, and Audio Footwear, which sponsored Tony Hawk for many, many years.
Check out Vuori's newly launched collection at vuoriclothing.com and follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vuoriclothing for updates.
Interview by Nisim Frank
Photograph provided by Vuori