Paul Naude is no stranger to pioneering new companies in the surf market.
A longtime surf industry veteran and key executive at Billabong for 15 years, Naude has proven that paving one’s own path and sticking to your principles can lead to success. About a year after stepping away from his tenure at Billabong, he debuted men’s surf brands Vissla and D’Blanc, as well as Amuse Society – a women’s fashion-driven brand – with a lean team of experienced leadership and a DIY funding approach, and the results have been positive.
This year, Naude’s parent company (collectively known as Stokehouse Unlimited) has conceptualized another brand, SISSTREVOLUTION, speaking to an entirely different audience: young women who are immersed in the lifestyle and culture of surfing. Recruiting a well-known expert from the women’s surf industry, Gina Turpel, who helped shaped the vision of Volcom Women’s for many years, SISSTR is poised to hit the ground running with its debut collection, set to hit retail February 2019.
Together, Turpel and Naude have been working to develop the business model and design aesthetic for the brand, which is geared toward a female youth demographic, ages pre-teen to mid-twenties, and aims to set itself apart in the marketplace by offering a wide-ranging selection of surf-centric women’s gear, including apparel, swimwear and a few technical necessities like wetsuits and roll-top packs.
We caught up with Naude and Turpel to hear more about the vision and strategy for SISSTR, and what we can expect for early next year when the brand ramps up.
Paul, let’s start at the beginning – how and when did the idea arise for SISSTEREVOLUTION?
About eighteen months ago as the constant requests for a Vissla juniors line kept growing, I took a bit of time to research the female surf market and decided to start a modern female surf brand. Vissla’s sister, really.
Paul, tell us a little about the brand ethos, mission statement and what sets it apart from other women’s brands on the market right now?
PN: SISSTREVOLUTION is grounded with a mantra and ethos founded in our brand pillars will set us apart in the same way Vissla has done. In the women's market, the strongest point of difference you'll find is that we are a true modern women's surf brand with emphasis and focus on surfing.
Why do you see a place for this brand in the market? What audience are you speaking to and why do you feel like they need a brand like SISSTER?
PN: We’re super excited about where women’s surfing is right now. The top female surfers are putting in incredible performances and the number of new young participants entering the market is significant. We believe we can bring something fresh to the market in terms of function and style that speaks to that female beach girl whether she surfs or is just into the lifestyle. There hasn’t been a new female-only surf brand that can offer a full spectrum of product for decades now and we’re happy with our timing.
Can you explain how the name came to life and what it signifies?
PN: Well during the early stages of development, the working title around the company was Vissla’s sister. Then it started being referred to as Sister and after the painful process of researching hundreds of names we came back to sister as a starting point and then added to it to finally settle on SISSTREVOLUTION.
There’s a lot going on in the name. It’s clearly feminine, it’s somewhat references empowerment in the play on words, evolution and Revolution, the first four letters of evolution is love spelled backwards, which is cool, and we used the ss in the middle of Sisstr to link it to Vissla and the “seven seas” term, which is our wetsuit collection. So there’s a lot of meaning in there.
Gina, you’ve had a ton of experience working with successful women’s lifestyle brands in the past. What do you think is the key to reaching that critical mass success with a female audience, and how are you working from a strategic standpoint with SISSTR in the first 12 to 18 months of launching to do this?
GT: Through all of our marketing, you'll recognize a brand voice that conversates with our consumer directly and inclusively; a brand point of view that is not all things to all women. It's about relating with her and as a brand being inspired by her as well. It's not just about brand to consumer but consumer to brand. Together, the brand and the consumer can live and celebrate the surf lifestyle we both love as often as possible.
Paul, from a business standpoint, why does it make sense to add a female-centric surf brand to the Stokehouse roster at this time?
PN: As a company, we are surf-centric. There’s an opening for newness in a somewhat stale market and as I’ve stated we love what’s going on in women’s surfing. And we like and know how to design and produce product for females.
From Stokehouse’s perspective, what synergies, resources or outward facing marketing and/or collabs will be shared between SISSTER and the parent company’s other brands?
PN: Where there’s opportunity to join in marketing activations we will. For example, the upcoming Vissla ISA World Junior Championships at Huntington Beach later this month will feature Sisstrevolution as the sponsor of the ladies division. We may do collaborations such as a couple of styles of shades under D'Blanc. There many opportunities to leverage the resources within Stokehouse.
Speaking of retail, what will the distribution model look like for SISSTER, at least for the foreseeable future? Does it include direct-to-consumer, brick and mortar or other components, and if so what will the emphasis on each look like?
PN: The distribution policy will be similar to Vissla – Selective and disciplined.
What are some of the key pieces we’ll see for Spring 19? What is the theme for this marketing campaign and how will that tell the story of introducing this brand to the world?
PN: The Spring line is comprehensive from swim, printables, sportswear and functional wetsuits. There’s enough variety in there to merchandise a diverse range of looks on the floor.
What in your opinion is the overall state of the market at the moment, including health levels, future opportunities and any critical challenges or risks?
PN: We think the market has stabilized and that we will see a good uptick in demand for surf and California lifestyle product starting in 2019. There’s a bit of uncertainty over the potential tariff increases which could see some price increases. But it’s generally a level playing field for everyone and we’ll all have to deal with it. Some brands may not, but there’s no accounting for ill-discipline.
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