San Diego, CA

Vuori: The San Diego Brand that Went Big

Michael Beausoleil

If you’ve spent any time walking around Southern California you’ve likely seen someone with a “v” on the left leg of their shorts. Brand names are splashed across a lot of the clothing you’ll find in this part of the country, but the locals know the “v” is for Vuori. This Encinitas-based athletic line has built a strong following, and has been experiencing stready growth since it was found in 2015.

In the right part of the country, Vuori is an established brand. In other parts, this brand is going to be popping up on yogis, surfers, and lifters. Clearly, they’re doing something right. In 2019 they raised $45 million in growth equity and the brand continues to do well. If you’ve never bought anything from Vuori, you might wonder why the brand is so popular and whether or not you should be wearing it.

The Birth of Vuori

Entering the athletic wear market is going to be competitive. Consumers already have competition from massive retailers like Nike and more niche stores like Lululemon. For Vuori, this meant they needed to understand their purpose before they could gain traction. Founder Joe Kudla came up with the idea thanks to his passion for yoga. It seemed like athletic brands weren’t catering to the yoga crowd and yoga brands were focusing mostly on women.

Vuori sought to correct this and make the clothing fashionable in the process. Apparel would be given modern cuts and remain stylish, often infusing west-coast vibes into the designs. Plus, the fabrics are durable, flexible, moisture-wicking, and odor resistant. In doing this, Vuori was designing the perfect clothing for active, fashionable, and practical men.

When the brand first started selling products in 2015, it was a pop-up shop before it had a permanent space. In 2016 they opened their first retail store in Encinitas, CA. This established the brand as a part of the Southern California community, and they would host gatherings such as yoga classes. Additionally, products began appearing in retailers like REI and Nordstrom’s in addition to yoga to fitness studios. Within the course of a year an a half, the brand began to leave its SoCal home and spread to a greater audience.

Why Vuori Grew

In under two years, Vuori went from a pop-up to a brick and mortar store with a presence in major retailers. By most accounts, this is pretty great, but it didn’t always seem that way. Joe Kudla even admitted the start was slower than he’d like, but they were able to build momentum with some key strategies.

Understand the Customer

Looking at the inception of Vuori, it seems like the brand was created for a specific persona. That would be a an active male who wanted modern athletic clothing. This person felt like he was an afterthought when shopping at Lululemon, but other brands offered clothing that was too generic. Vuori caters to this guy, and originally he was central to the brand.

As part of the company growth, Vuori had to be honest about their core customer. They noticed women were buying clothing from the men’s lines, so they started to design for women as well. In 2018, they launched a women’s line of clothing and this gave the brand a new market to explore.

Take a Multi-Channel Approach

In a time when many retailers struggled, Vuori grew. This can be attributed to their multi-channel approach of retail sales that has been integral to the brand since its early days. While the brick and mortar store in Encinitas was a great starting point, e-commerce has also been a major part of the brand’s growth. When physical doors are closed, laptop screens are still lighting up. This means customers can shop for Vuori’s clothing online: whether it’s their namesake website or one of their retail partners.

Leverage Social Marketing

Early into the brand’s life, Vuori used social networks as a main source of advertising. They invested in paid social media marketing early, and it paid off. Using platforms like Facebook and Instagram, users with specific interests would see Vuori ads on their timelines. This allowed them to acquire new customers and establish a greater presence. They’ve also used social media to build a community during the pandemic. Followers could participate in live yoga classes or engage with other fans of the Vuori brand.

Improve Their Impact

All brands have their “why”: the reason they exist in this world. For Vuori, part of their identity is a love for the environment and opportunities it provides. So, the brand has taken efforts to become a Climate Neutral Certified business. For the daily operations, this meant changing to sustainable materials when making products and revising standards for distribution. All of this is part of their effort to eliminate carbon emissions and reduce their impact on the planet. Not only will this build respect for the brand, but sustainability is also viewed favorably by customers.

Walk the Walk, Surf the Surf, and Pose the Poses

(Photo of Surfers. Via Vuori and SGB Media)

Everything about the Vuori brand comes from a place of authenticity. The idea was derived by someone who saw a market need. Kudla only identified this need because he was the person who wanted better options for men’s yoga clothing. As a west-coast brand, Vuori’s employees really wear the clothing in gyms, oceans, and outdoors. If the style screams “west coast” to you, its for good reason. The brand is from the west coast and designed by people who live the lifestyle.

Is Vuori Worth It?

It’s funny to assess Vuroi’s growth strategy and know I fell victim to their tactics. I found the brand in 2018 right before I moved to San Diego. My browser was likely filled with search terms for Southern California combined with the fitness regimens I regularly searched. I saw Vuori on my Facebook timeline, loved the styles, and made a purchase.

While Vuori might be more expensive than some athletic wear, their clothing is as affordable as other mid-to-upper range yoga brands. As a customer, I can certainly vouch for the comfort and durability of their products. I own multiple items, and have worn their Kore Shorts for many difficult work outs. Over a few years of regular wear, the products have held up and I continue to receive compliments.

Even if you’re not a perspective customer, it’s fairly clear why the brand has grown so much over the past few years. They’re strategic without losing sight of their purpose. This started with a clear identity for their target customer and designing products catering to those needs. Throughout this process, they were able to connect with the right people and gain visibility. The brand is now available through multiple channels, has three birck and mortar stores, and has established the resiliency to survive a pandemic. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the Vuori brand, that’s unlikely to hold true for long. They’re continuing to grow, and soon they will be recognizable on both coasts.

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Writer, educator, and a few other things.

San Diego, CA

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