By  on February 23, 2005

Despite its deep roots in rugged outdoorwear, Woolrich has managed to get in touch with its feminine side, producing women’s fashions that mix a lighter feel with the company’s signature rustic touch.

“Historically, we have always produced apparel for people who spent a good deal of time outdoors,” said Roswell Brayton Jr., president and chief executive officer. “What has changed about that is it’s no longer people who work in the outdoors, but it’s people who like to have active lifestyles and just be in the outdoors.”

That’s not the only thing about the line that’s changed over the company’s long history.

When Brayton was a salesman for Woolrich in the Seventies, he said the brand’s women’s apparel was more or less the men’s line made in women’s sizes.

“The colors may have been a little bit different, but it was still a men’s garment,” he said. “That is no longer the way to do business if you’re aggressively pursuing the women’s business. Now, we’re really designing women’s sportswear for people who like the feel of the outdoors, people who like to garden or bird-watch.”

Wholesale prices run from about $10 for a turtleneck and $15 for long-sleeve woven tops up to slightly more than $35 for sweaters.

Produced in Asia and sold through 16 outlet stores and about 2,500 wholesale accounts, the line has a lot of wovens for fall, such as cotton T-shirts and printed tops. These are easily matched with the brand’s fine-gauge corduroy shirts, mock-turtleneck sweaters and fleeces for a layered look. The top-selling bottom is a corduroy pant with spandex to offer a forgiving stretch.

Even though the company, with its outdoorsy positioning, operates in what Brayton acknowledged is a “very competitive niche,” he noted, “There’s a lot of opportunity for a company like us, because we are truly a lifestyle brand.”

Much of the strength of that brand comes from its authenticity and long history, he said.

“It’s a lifestyle brand that can be extended as long as it’s extended with the heritage and the outdoor brand in mind,” said Brayton. For instance, the company has a line of furniture, but it is styled to be more appropriate for a cabin than a city apartment.

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