North Sails Apparel is an offshoot of the North Sails company that was founded 65 years ago by Lowell North, the American Sailor and Olympic Gold Medalist. Since the founding of North Sails Apparel in 1987, the brand has combined a classic Italian design with the history and real heritage of the American brand. In this interview, RLI catches up with CEO Marisa Selfa to discuss the new store concept they are working on and what the future holds.
What started out as a sail making brand has today become much more. North Sails Apparel designs lifestyle collections with functional and contemporary style, for those who share their passion for the ocean, whilst their Performance line is made of technically advanced clothing aimed at the performance-focused sailor.
The brand is maintaining its global momentum and is committed to People & Planet as it drives growth across the business. This month will see the company be present at the global sailing event, Les Voiles de St Tropez and during that time they will be launching their first global activation, We Are North Sails, a campaign with incredible ambassadors from sailing to kite, windsurf and activism that will bring the North Sails culture and commitment to the oceans.
“We are seeking to unlock the “spirit of the ocean” mentality in consumers globally, thus expanding the set of consumers who know and will support the brand,” explains Marisa Selfa, CEO of North Sails Apparel. “In order to do this, in 2023 we are relaunching our direct-to-consumer owned store concept to serve as our best and most iconic expression of the brand. This will be the first North Sails store that will drive our One North strategy, bringing the different divisions of the group (sailing, kite, windsurf, SUP & lifestyle) under one roof. The location for this groundbreaking store will be the harbour of Saint Tropez, it’s perfect.”
The idea of this unique store is to put the company’s creativity and knowledge into making quality products that push the limits of performance and that inspire more people to experience the sea. The One North store will bring to life all aspects of the North Sails brand under one roof, anchored by their positive ocean mind-set.
Aside from bringing the different businesses together under one roof, the aesthetic for the store will be inspired by water sports and the interior design will bring an innovative feel to the shopfloor. In addition, customisation for the customers will be a key focus and there will be a special area for guests to personalise their products for themselves or their full crew.
Away from this new concept, their store portfolio remain pivotal to their strategy and their main focus is to increase their penetration in Europe, whilst at the same time exploring new opportunities in Asia, Middle East and the US with partners that can portray the North Sails DNA across other regions.
When discussing the years ahead and what is in the development pipeline, Selfa explains that they are on a journey to improve their sustainable blueprint and are currently working on a three-year plan to measure their footprint and drive KPI’s to improve as much as possible.
“We want our collections to be relevant for our customers during their week in the cities but also for their weekend and holiday destinations by the ocean. We are building a brand that is globally relevant and, as such, our interest to be in other regions outside Europe is one of my key priorities.”
The engagement North Sails Apparel has with its customers is rooted in authentic narrative as they evolve lifestyle-based communications, to communications that are rooted in their water sports and ocean positive mind-set.
Like every lifestyle brand, they bring newness into their collections whilst protecting their most iconic and loved styles from previous years. Parallel to this, they engage their customers in activations around ocean conservation, with particular focus on a campaign they have been running since 2020 which is the “Adopt a Coral” campaign which allows customers to adopt a coral that the brand plants for them with the Coral Gardeners.
“Our partnership with Coral Gardeners is one I’m very proud of. They are a group of young activists from French Polynesia who have developed a method to plant corals and restore the most degraded reef areas around the world. Their goal is to plant one million corals by 2025 and our customers can support this work when purchasing products through our website” Selfa explains.
The purpose of the brand remains to embrace the spirit of the ocean and the ethos of the company is to model what it means to be an ocean positive brand. They are committed to using more responsible materials that cause less pollution to water, air, soil and life and they strive to make business decisions that keep ocean regeneration and protection in mind.
Discussing the greatest challenge facing North Sails Apparel today, Marisa feels this challenge is also an opportunity to model their ethos and this is the triple challenge of Profit, People & Planet and she says that whilst this is a beautiful goal, the current global challenges on supply chain, logistics and war means their work involves many external factors, causing ongoing difficulties.
“As we continue to grow and move forward, I invite customers that don’t know us to look into our stores, web and social media to join us on our journey to be the first ocean positive brand.”