Words by: Nicole Wagenstetter.
Illustration by: Evelyn Bracewell
Photographs by: Cole Barash/Oakley, Christy Chaloux
It’s 10 in the morning, and I’m here to meet Gretchen Bleiler at Oakley HQ. She’s all over a cup of coffee as I enter, looking implausibly fresh and smiley after a 12-hour flight and just three hours’ sleep. It appears the double X Games gold medallist, Olympic medal heroine and winner of the Triple Crown uses caffeine as a superpower. And this girl is a Superwoman of sorts – she kickstarted the invert revolution for female riders, was the first to stand a Crippler 540 in competition and has won more competitions in the last year than any other snowboarder. When she’s not kicking ass in the pipe she’s on the cover of FHM or Sports Illustrated and she lives in Aspen, Colorado, aka snow paradise.
The caffeine (and additional aspirin) is doing its thing and Gretchen is eager to talk about her latest project – designing her first fashion line for Oakley.
Take us back to the start…
Well, I’ve always been into style and had an opinion on fashion. And then Oakley presented me with this opportunity and of course, I mean, what an honour. I’ve spent a whole year working with the design team to create the collection. The fashion aspect was definitely the important part for me, as Oakley had already provided me with the clothing technology part.
Where did your inspiration come from?
I’ve been riding with Oakley outerwear for a long time so I knew what they’d accomplished, and being a snowboarder I knew where I wanted the padding to be, and the inflations, things like that. I had a vision board where I stuck pictures of all my favourite things, random stuff such as the lion head. But it’s the little things, such as choosing colours and fabrics, which is the hard part.
What is your favourite piece from the collection?
I love the Maine jacket (pictured), but my favourite part from the whole design process is the recycled line. It’s the first ever such line that Oakley has made and I’m so thrilled they’ve taken the step with me.
The environment is an undeniable issue in snowboarding.
It is. I’ve always been a girl who spent most of the time outdoors. I love doing anything athletic outside, so nature and the environment has always played an important part in my life. After the Olympics I decided to put some of my energy in doing what I believe is right. As a snowboarder you are especially confronted with the problems facing the planet, and everywhere I travelled last season it was just so apparent what was going on. When I had this opportunity with Oakley, I told them how I felt about the environment and they were 100 per cent behind me. The eco-line is a huge step for Oakley to take, and it’s a great way of making an important statement in the industry. The jacket and pants are made of recycled material, so it actually takes less energy to produce the materials and at the same time it’s recyclable.
Do you think the American market will respond to an eco-line?
Oh yes, it’s a big issue, believe me, people talk about the environment all the time. But they don’t know certain things, such as not to leave your TV on standby, most people don’t know that. I use my profile to promote the problem and get people to talk about it. We’re definitely behind compared to other countries, but it’s changing.
Since you travel a lot does that mean you notice the difference?
Yes. In New Zealand they try to only use New Zealand products, which is great because you use less energy, have less emissions and they make the most of the products that they have there locally. But I have to say something good about the US though! In Aspen there are all sorts of hybrid public buses, the gondolas run on wind power, and the toilets run on less water, all of which makes a big difference.
I wouldn’t expect anything less from Superwoman, though maybe we should start thinking of her with a green cape, instead of a red one. After the interview she shows me two bags from her new collection. I can totally imagine myself rocking the small one, with the cool lionsbangle, but these are exclusive prototypes. No problem, we see the sketches of the Maine jacket, and I love it. You’ve got your first customer, girl.
Gretchen’s Oakley collection will hit stores next autumn.