Joe Kudla felt left out …
Lululemon was all over the place. It was in his yoga classes, in his wife’s dresser, and anywhere else he looked. As much as he might have wanted his own Lululemon gear for the functionality and style, he felt that the brand was focused on women’s apparel.
“I always felt like it was my wife’s brand,” Kudla said to Retail Dive.
In 2015, Kudla decided to do something about it with Vuori. Focused solely on men’s activewear for the first several years of its existence (its women’s line came about in 2018), Vuori’s goal was to create a product that could be worn for both a workout and errands in the same day.
The company reached profitability within two years of starting up, but it’s not the household name that Lululemon is today just yet. Kudla told Retail Dive that this gradual scaling was all part of his plan; the issues that come with rapid scaling are not of any interest to him.
“Vuori wants to be a relevant household name 20 years from now,” Kudla said. “We have no interest in growing really, really fast just to hit some number and then falling out of favor with consumers or having a major quality issue.”
Kudla’s career history has kept him patient with the growth of his profitable company, and it’s allowed Vuori to scale in a smooth, profitable manner. Keep reading for more on the story of Vuori.
CPA to CEO
Before beginning Vuori, Kudla was a CPA, and he credits much of the success he’s found as CEO to his baseline understanding of money. “I had never built an apparel brand before, I didn’t have a successful track record in consumer products. And so it wasn’t maybe as natural for me to go out to market and raise capital,” Kudla said.
Vuori, built out of a garage, ended up with $2.5 million in startup money, a large number to the everyman but a relatively small one within the business world. “[W]hen a lot of our peers launching in this DTC era were out raising $20, $30, $50, sometimes $100 million, they could afford to be a little more aggressive from a customer acquisition standpoint,” Kudla said.
Vuori’s opening focus turned to building good relationships with business partners, suppliers, and customers, and that played a big role in the company breaking even in 2017, just two years after its founding.
Using strategic organic customer acquisition by creating high quality products to differentiate itself from the crowd, Vuori has built a significant customer base. It doesn’t rival Lululemon just yet, but within its own niche, the Vuori fan base is strong.
Products Created With Quality and Sustainability In Mind
Vuori’s product line is expansive, from leggings and joggers to hoodies, socks, and underwear. The company even has outerwear offerings, reviewed to withstand the cold surprisingly effectively.
The Vuori website is full of offerings for both men and women, with the women’s line added more recently. Different colors abound, mostly within the darker and pastel regimes, though. The clothing has a simple, modern look to it despite being somewhat casual wear.
Beyond the D2C selling via their website, the company sells through a few big box retailers such as Nordstrom and REI. “While we didn’t want wholesale to be a majority of our business, and we didn’t want to sell to everybody, we believed that there was a place for strategic wholesale partnerships from the very beginning,” Kudla said to Retail Dive.
“And that also helped us with our working capital model.”
The company has over 100 stores on the plans for the future, but only 15 were planned for 2022 construction. Once again, Kudla prioritized healthy growth over unsustainable upwards scaling.
The prices are high–think $65+ for a pair of shorts and $55+ for a plain t-shirt–but there’s reasoning behind the seemingly inflated prices — beyond the overall economic inflation. Vuori prides itself on creating products of the highest quality for anyone’s athleisure wear.
“Durable performance material” makes up each and every item they offer, selling clothing for tough workouts but designed with “next-level comfort top of mind and a more casual aesthetic that effortlessly transitions into everyday life.”
Vuori’s “premium performance apparel” is designed to be of noticeably higher quality than other items in the wardrobe, especially when it comes to athletic wear and leisure clothing like sweatpants. It’s said to be reminiscent of Lululemon, but in a slightly different niche; where Lululemon focuses on compressive clothing for athletic enterprises, Vuori goes more for comfort and utility in its clothing.
Finally, what has truly set apart Vuori from its competitors is its commitment to sustainability. The company believes that “businesses have the power to make real, meaningful progress in securing a low-climate future,” and their initiative towards that is becoming “climate neutral.”
Vuori is fully transparent about its carbon footprint and emissions on its website, and it paces out how the business is offsetting its environmental costs. In partnership with Tennessee’s Chestnut Mountain Improved Forest Management Project and Oklahoma’s Dempsey Ridge Wind, Vuori is looking to make an impact in both forestry and renewable energy, all while creating high-quality products that are good for the environment.
Looking for a sustainable, growing athleisure wear business to replace your Lululemon?
Look no further than Vuori.