The Nitty Gritty

  • How Bridget’s struggle finding tops that fit her body type encouraged her to make her own — and how that pursuit turned into Arêt Basewear’s first top, TOURA
  • The six words the Arêt team uses to influence their branding, whether that’s photo styling or product developing
  • Their journey for finding a local athletic wear manufacturer that could make high quality garments at an affordable price point — and what led Bridget to switch manufacturers
  • What their ambassador program looks like and why Instagram is their main marketing channel
  • How they ensure that customers find the right fit every time by using a sizing guide and a free exchange program — and how that value drives product design and informs customer service

On today’s episode of What Works, Bridget Kilgallon, cofounder of Arêt Basewear, a collection of minimal basewear for the outdoorswoman, openly shares her journey bringing a physical product to market. From hand-sewing and testing the first top to partnering with a local manufacturer to marketing the brand, Bridget walks us through her thoughtful approach to product design, branding, and customer satisfaction.

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Finding a local manufacturer

“Finding a reliable manufacturer that can create our tops at the quality that we want at a price that works in the marketplace: that was the biggest hurdle we faced as a business. It still continues to be to this day.” — Bridget Kilgallon

Once Bridget nailed down the handmade prototype and tested it for four months with willing participants, she needed to find a manufacturer. As you can imagine, finding one that meets your needs isn’t always easy but Bridget knew what she needed: a local manufacturer that specialized in athletic wear. And she did… but they only worked in standard format, meaning they only produced athletic wear with one-size-fits-all type of sizing like S, M, and L.

“It took a lot of convincing for us to be like: no, we’re doing it differently,” she says. “Our sewing process is different and our fitting process is different.” So, the search continued. They ended up working with multiple different manufacturers in and around San Diego, California, but continuously faced issues with quality control and price point.

As of today, they’re in the process of switching to a new manufacturer that can do everything in one place. Plus, this new partner has a design studio on site to help get their designs ready for production.

Matching your values with your branding

“We’re not just making athleisure: we’re making something that’s functional and technical. A lot of clothing companies for women right now are focused on making something that’s stylish and pretty. We’re not on board that. We think womenswear should be just as functional as menswear.” — Bridget Kilgallon

From the get-go, Bridget defined Arêt’s top as technical gear… and that one key decision influences everything from how they communicate online to how they create imagery for their online shop and on Instagram. “We really go out of our way to make sure that it’s communicated that this is a piece of technical gear,” Bridget says.

Beyond the design, they identified keywords that they use throughout the branding process: contour, strong, dynamic, futuristic, minimal, and elevated. These words influence their design decisions and aesthetic.

They’ve also intentionally created a brand that’s a bit androgynous. “We didn’t want it to feel excessively feminine or excessively masculine,” Bridget adds. “It walks the line between which gives us a little wiggle room if we ever did want to branch out to doing menswear.”

Satisfying customers by truly understanding their needs

“Let’s make sure we’re finding that problem and providing a solution. It’s paid off in terms of getting our customers to highly value us and gaining their trust that we have their best interests at heart.” — Bridget Kilgallon

What’s different about Arêt is their sizing, which is based off of cup size instead of the traditional S, M, and L. “It’s great because now we’re giving women the option to shop for what fits them instead of what’s available,” she says. “But it means it’s going to be more complex for them to understand what size they’re supposed to be getting.”

To help customers do just that, they offer multiple tools and sizing guides, including a Basewear Guide and a sizing guide widget where customers put in their bra size and it recommends what basewear top they should buy. Once customers find the right fit? “They come back and purchase every color we have in a single top,” Bridget says. “It’s paid off not just in terms of money but in terms of making these customers fans of our brand.”

And, in the off chance that the top doesn’t fit, they offer a free exchange program. “We’re really out to get them the perfect fit — every time,” Bridget says.

Listen to this episode to hear the lessons Bridget learned about the fashion industry, how she chose a manufacturer to partner with (and the hiccups along the way), and why they use Instagram as their main marketing channel.