Co-founded by Eleanor Haycock in 2016, L.A.-based Year of Ours is managing to differentiate itself in the crowded activewear category. That’s thanks, in part, to its fashion influence, which has earned the brand celebrity fans including Tinx and Hailey Bieber. The brand’s head designer, Alejandra Hernandez, is also a fashion stylist, for celebs including Britney Spears and Sza.
Despite no outside investment, Year of Ours has managed to own and operate a factory, double its revenue every year and expand to new product categories, including skiwear and comfort-focused Body apparel. Swimwear is next.
Haycock and Hernandez said they also want to ramp up the brand’s direct-to-consumer sales, which currently make up just 20% of the business. And that’s just the start of their in-the-works plan for the next era Year of Ours.
“There is a heavy weight on us [to figure out] where we want to go, because we know there’s so much potential, and we’ve learned so much. And we’ve been a bit relaxed on progressive growth,” Haycock said on the latest episode of the Glossy Podcast. “So we’re at that point where we’re like, ‘OK, let’s do this now. We have both feet on the ground, we’re profitable, and we have a great team. Let’s go.’ But, we’re asking, ‘What does that look like?’ And we’re saying, ‘Let’s make sure we do it right.'”
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
The limits of wholesale
Haycock: “In March of 2020, [retailers] were like, ‘OK, I’ve got to stop my orders. We don’t know what’s happening.’ And it was crazy. But that was for almost every brand. We’re lucky that we’re in the segments of leisure and activewear. … [Retailers] returned very quickly, saying, ‘I need the order; I need to rebook.’ This happened a lot with activewear brands. And DTC grew organically because people were looking for sweats, leggings — anything they could live in at home. It was amazing. But I knew, too, that this wasn’t going to be the model you could base your company on for the next two or three years. Because this [trend] is going to end at some point, right? People are not going to be living in sweatpants and leggings past this pandemic. Yes, they’ll wear them, but it’s not going to be the same demand. So, we didn’t really focus on DTC until about the middle of last year, when we introduced new parts of our business. We now have sweaters, outerwear, and other lounge and body stuff. And just having our own voice and showing a customer what that is, is important to do, from our perspective. Otherwise, we’re relying on retailers to tell that story. And you can only go so far with that.”
The benefits of Domestic production
Haycock: “We’re really lucky, in that we have the capabilities to do so much, with our own factory here in El Monte, California. We get to do sampling quickly, and our fits and every measurement are very specific — we fit items 2-10 times. Quality control is huge. And coming from my background in domestic production and fabrics, that was a must.”
Hernandez: “We offer size XXS, and we’re launching Curve, so we’ll go beyond XL. Being able to be here in the factory and fit so much directly with the pattern maker and with the people doing our production really helps. We can just fix everything on the spot, as opposed to sending things out and waiting. It’s more organic. If we didn’t have the domestic side of the business, it wouldn’t be possible to be so hands-on.”
Bringing fashion to activewear
Hernandez: “Styling and designing are totally different, but they do inform each other. So when I’m in a fitting with a [styling] client, and we’re talking about a certain [detail] like the waistline, or different preferences, or the cups, or bra fat, … I take all of that into my design work. And as far as inspo, I’m a fashion girl. I have been my whole life. So my inspiration comes from fashion, including runways and street style. And I think that’s why our design is so different from other activewear brands. I also love to work out and I love sports, and I love vintage sportswear — I’m so inspired by classic, older brands that had that sportswear vibe. And I’m a product of the ‘90s. So ’90s inspo and that undertone is inevitable, always. Eleanor and I are both millennials, so we came of age during that time. It’s always going to be there for us.”