Up until recently, the outdoor clothing market has seemed a male-dominated field, but Andrea Westerlind, who runs a branding, distribution and sales agency for classic international outdoor brands, is one of the women making big changes.
Her newly launched eponymous online and brick-and-mortar retail stores are filled with the kind of luxurious, but durable, outdoorswear that make you want to add, instead of avoid, cold weather locations to your next camping trip. She continues to feature quality new lines as well as innovate her own.
Westerlind was founded with the aim of merging the fashion and outdoor markets, leveraging brands with superior functionality and quality and presenting it with unique story telling, merchandising, and distribution. Herself a lover of the outdoors and travel, Andrea often references the Swedish saying, “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes.”
We took a moment to hear from Andrea about how she got so busy so fast, and what she loves about being a woman in an (until recently) male-dominated advertising market.
Darling Magazine: When did you realize that you had entrepreneurial tendencies?
Andrea: Hehe. I started showing signs of being an entrepreneur at a very early age. I loved putting up lemonade stands, cutting lawns, starting small fundraisers, selling magazines door to door…etc. When I was 10 years old and on ski vacation with my family, I invested in a small stock of candy bars that I merchandised appealingly on the coffee tables along with a price list that was three times their market value. My older sisters’ boyfriends were regular customers. I made some good Kronas off those dudes.
DM: What drew you to design and particularly the “outdoorwear” industry?
Andrea: I guess you can say that I’m a product of my both DNA and upbringing. My family has run a Swedish fashion house since the 1940s, and both of my sisters work in fashion too. I’m the youngest of my family and growing up I was a huge tomboy with little interest in anything that had to do with clothes. I spent most of my time in the woods, and even became state champion in a sport called “orientering,” which is running cross country with a map and compass.
I’m not exactly sure why I finally decided to go into fashion, but I had to put my own twist to it and that’s where the outdoor theme came in. So I realised that if anyone would start a company to combine fashion and outdoor, it would be hard to find a better candidate than myself. Also, it’s made me excited to share the same line of work with my family; it brings us closer and we have so much to talk about.
I spent most of my time in the woods, and even became state champion in a sport called ‘orientering,’ which is running cross country with a map and compass.
DM: What do you find hardest and most rewarding about having stores in multiple locations?
Andrea: It’s hard to manage staff [in general] and in different locations and time zones. There are a lot of very early and late calls. The good thing is all my staffers are people I love to hang out with and I get to go visit them regularly. The shops are all in amazing places: on a ski mountain in Utah, in Marin, just north of San Francisco, and NYC, the city of all cities.
DM: What helps you to feel secure that your stores are run with integrity to your vision even though you can’t be there?
Andrea: In general I’m a very trusting person. I believe people will always try to do their best when you expect that of them. I don’t have a lot of middle managers so there’s no way I can micro manage. I think it’s amazing to watch my staff grow when given responsibility and trust. Sure, there are disappointments and problems, but overall I feel extremely lucky.
DM: When you feel like everything is going a million miles a minute, what is your saving grace? How do you recharge?
Andrea: I get outside. It’s the best form of therapy and the biggest source for strength for me. Growing up in Sweden is similar to a lot of other places, where girls put a lot of pressure on themselves and are generally very self critical. Being good at sports and having a deep connection to nature always made me feel like a strong and fearless girl. I avoided a lot of common pitfalls teenage girls fall into. There’s no doubt it’s helped me get to where I am today.
If I could do anything to give back, it would be to help more kids and young adults build mental strength by getting outside. I also believe, contrary to what a lot of established outdoor companies seem to model, that a sweet functional style can convince a lot of urban dwellers to go outside and get after it. I think it can be as simple as that.
Images via Daniel Dent; Styling by StyleKouncil