Casall, a small Swedish sportswear brand focused on activewear and training gear, is easing into the U.S. with a “grassroots” approach.
“The plan is built around communities and ambassadors,” Jon Lööf, chief executive officer of the Stockholm-based brand, told WWD, describing a plan to build a network of personal trainers and coaches who wear and spread the word about the Casall collection, acting as “ambassadors” for the brand.
Seeking to capture a piece of the U.S. active/athleisure market crowding up with competitors like Lululemon, Nike and Athleta, Casall is taking it step by step without leaping forward with splashy flagships or billboards. The $30 million, 35-year-old brand is initially focusing on Los Angeles and New York City, and currently works with about a dozen trainers in the U.S. and over 100 in Europe.
Casall officially launches e-commerce in the U.S. on Tuesday with free shipping being offered, after having conducted a period of testing. Down the road, pop-ups and wholesaling to better specialty stores in the U.S. are possibilities.
In Europe, Casall sells in its own stores in the Nordics, in sporting goods chains and upscale department stores such as La Rinascente in Italy and Nordiska Kompaniet, known as NK, in Stockholm.
Casall works with trainers to develop product and “taps into their networks and knowledge about the consumer. They will help us find the communities where our products will resonate,” said Lööf, formerly a strategic accounts director at Nike. Trainers don’t get paid but receive Casall outfits and other products and are themselves promoted by Casall through social platforms, e-mails, e-commerce and point-of-sale displays in stores. “We give them visibility on a global level — a real platform to grow on.”
Among the trainers is Magnus Lygdback, who trains actors Alicia Vikander and James McAvoy. “The trainers are focused on a holistic way of training for the mind, body, heart and soul and they are really close to us in the development of product. They also get other people to wear our clothes,” said Lööf. Casall is a play on the name of the founder, Carl-Axel Surtevall.
“Being from Sweden, trying to break into the U.S., we don’t have muscle or money to buy placement, and I wouldn’t think Alicia would feel comfortable being photographed in the gym all the time,” wearing Casall, said Lööf. “We are not in a rush to grow the brand too much but we want to grow. Finding new trainers we don’t see as hard.”
Casall products are designed and produced in Europe with a Scandinavian aesthetic, and incorporate organic-based polyamides made from smooth fibers for softness and bacteria resistance. Lööf said they’re easier to dye than many other fabrics, minimizing the environmental impact and have properties of breathability, coolness and elasticity for better fits and shape retention.
The collection includes sports bras and tights — the top sellers — as well as yoga clothes, running shorts, jackets, swimwear, backpacks, bikini briefs, ankle weights, fitness bottles, yoga clothes and other training products. Prices are a notch above Nike and Lululemon.
This is Casall’s third attempt at entering the U.S., which involved distributors. “We are doing it through the consumer and not through a distributor or any retail right now but we are not ruling out retail in the U.S,” Lööf said.