WITH A LARGE AND GROWING STABLE OF PRODUCTS, QUIKSILVER’S ROXY BRAND HAS ACHIEVED MEGABRAND STATUS AMONG ACTIVE TEEN GIRLS.
Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones
LOS ANGELES — Barbie beware.
A new feminine icon has been looming on the pop cultural scene. She has the dream wardrobe, the dream room and even the dream car. She may not have the fantasized perfect figure, but she’s got something many modern girls can measure up to.
“She” is Roxy, a pretty, athletic, empowered “Every Teen” who for eight years has been more of a collective idea than a specific individual. Roxy is also T-shirts, bikinis, jeans, watches, sneakers, luggage, bed sheets, shower curtains, perfume and, for Quiksilver Inc., a growing catalog of products furnishing every breathing moment of a teen girl’s life.
That even includes a car for her Sweet 16 party, unveiled last month at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The five Roxy Echos, a co-branded promotion among Seventeen magazine, Roxy and Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., is only the start, promised Randy Hild, senior vice president of marketing for all of the Quiksilver brands. Negotiations are already under way for a possible line of Roxy cars to roll out at Toyota dealers.
In the next year, the company will add car freshener, floor mats and other auto accessories under the Roxy Vroom line. Color cosmetics and an expanded skin care line are on the way and an intensified denim program will unveil at this month’s trade shows. The company already has one company-owned store, with additional freestanding Roxy shops in the planning stages, and its first stand-alone women’s pro contest will be brandishing Roxy’s banner.
Launched in 1993, Roxy is among Quiksilver’s top lines, raking in nearly $100 million domestically last year for the Huntington Beach, Calif.-based monolith. Separately owned and designed, with collaboration from the American branch, Roxy Europe takes in about $40 million, said Hild, and Australia, which only adopted the Roxy name two years ago, accounts for $10 million in revenues.
Roxy is widely hailed as a pioneer in the action sports industry for offering board shorts specific to the female form and recognizing that there was a wave of teen girls ready to be active — or at least look the part. Until its launch, the junior category had been largely ignored or never fully respected in the board riding and so-called extreme sports market.
But the feminized surfwear and a consistent marketing campaign filled with fresh-faced surfer girls quickly spread beyond surf shops, impacting fashion and the culture at large.
“It’s a testament to the brand that they’ve been able to reinforce this new, empowered, three-dimensional female character,” said Sharon Lee, co-president of Los Angeles-based trend tracking service Look-Look. “Instead of being just the jock girl who’s not desirable to boys, Roxy is young, active and cute at the same time.”
Quiksilver, Lee continued “is coming from a point of authenticity with the Roxy girl.”
“If you look at the role models girls are generally given, they’re either anorexic models or Britney Spears-type pop stars,” Lee said. “[Roxy] is not a singular personality phenomenon. You can’t participate in being Britney Spears, but you can in a lifestyle that is healthy and athletic, outdoor and accessible.”
Unlike the not-so-accessible image of Spears — who has her own plastic doll — Quiksilver has represented the “Roxy girl” via its team riders — sponsored athletes who are pretty, sometimes gawky, even silly, but always looking like they’re having the time of their lives running, surfing, leaping and being real. Young consumers might recognize the smiles repeatedly starring in ads, but there’s a sense Roxy is not so much a look as a broader composite with a lifestyle and attitude in common.
The Roxy image has even entered the vernacular as a way of describing a type. Asking for a “Roxy girl” has become part of the parlance among modeling agencies, creative directors and photographers seeking to capture fresh, postfeminist modernism.
Using athletes to peddle merchandise is nothing new, but the mostly unknown girls who can actually surf, skateboard and snowboard lend credibility to the image for sale. This is groundbreaking stuff in the surf world.
For Hild, at Roxy from the start, there’s been a sense of obligation to remaining true to the iconography of the brand, even as fashion trends change from season to season. He said when a shot is picked, the company makes sure it’s not overtly sexual, “or that the girls look too skinny.”
“We’re very concerned about the responsibility we have in how we affect these young girls’ minds,” Hild said. “It’s OK to be a girl, to be an athlete and be feminine at the same time.”
Tony Cherback of the Costa Mesa, Calif., office of Deloitte & Touche, which specializes in the action sports industry, said, “Roxy has to head the list of the great brands developed in the last 10 years. They created this following that has been a phenomenon.”
While surfing and its mystique are at the core of Quiksilver’s identity companywide, it has been its savvy ability to embrace a world beyond its core that earned the publicly traded company fiscal 2000 revenues of $515.7 million, and 2001 revenues expected to be 15 percent to 20 percent higher than last year. In August, it announced the acquisition of Quiksilver International Pty. Ltd, the Australian owner of the worldwide trademark rights to the Quiksilver brand name.
Quiksilver’s deepening feminine side is expected to contribute to those numbers. Teenie Wahine, a girl and tween Roxy-flavored label, emerged in 1998 following a bombardment of requests for size zero boardshorts and other Roxy gear for the elementary school set. Last May, former Roxy design director Lissa Zwahlen launched Alex Goes, a contemporary line ready to outfit the Roxy girl when she moves on from boys to men.
Dana Dartez stepped in to head design for the flagship women’s brand in December 1999, her arrival signaling a shift to “age up” the line. The former founding designer of Spot Girl and Sugar, Dartez brought her signature young and edgy contemporary imprint. While 13-year-olds will forever copy their 17-year-old idols, she noted, the props don’t run the other way.
“[Roxy is] having a resurgence with Dana and the new crew,” said Danny Kwock, Quiksilver’s executive vice president. “It’s the next stage of Roxy. We were also watching our demographic grow and we didn’t want to lose the girl who started with us. It’s girl meets boy now. She’s 15, 16, 17. We could keep riding it the way we had. But rather than be reactionary, when sales go flat we decided to be proactive.”
As head designer, Dartez views her role as a “liaison” among Roxy’s categories, as well as among marketing, sales, production and creative. She brings a former life as a sales rep to the dialogue.
“That’s where I get my biggest rush,” she enthused. “It’s the team effort thing — even when I hear what they (co-workers and buyers) don’t like.”
Dartez and her team have been concentrating on diversifying Roxy’s trend and category offerings, from its sexier styling to more denim, in order to maintain sales and compete with brands such as Guess and Diesel, favorites of older high school and college girls.
Retailers are responding. While Roxy’s growth is being measured at what Kwock called “a 30 percent clip” versus prior 100 and 300 percent levels when it first came onto the scene, its retail base is crossing more categories.
After three years of stocking mostly Roxy T-shirts, Pacific Sunwear of California bumped up its sku’s in all of its 454 doors nationwide last season, reported Debbie Shinn, vice president and general merchandise manager for girls at the specialty chain.
“Dana understands this customer so well,” Shin said. “We added a lot of dimension in the last season: tank tops, sweaters, swim, jeans and accessories. We have more Roxy than ever before. The line came on strong the last half of 2000 and shot to number one in the third and fourth quarters.”
Its position as the company’s number one vendor strengthened over the holiday shopping season, she added, noting that Billabong and O’Neil are strong contenders in the junior section.
While retailers en masse continue to complain of a glum Yule, Hild gushed at the success of its South Coast Plaza store in Costa Mesa, Calif., the first company-owned Roxy unit opened in August 2000.
The 1,500-square-foot store ranked number one in volume of all the company’s retail units, including the 170-strong and growing Quiksilver Boardrider chain.
Roxy accounts for some 30 percent of stock in those stores, which boast addresses in New York’s SoHo and the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The other two Roxy stores, both in Hawaii, are owned by licensees, and the company also has three licensed stores in Europe.
Despite the success of the first store, Greg Soloman, vice president of QS retail, said the company is not basing the South Coast Plaza sales on the company’s future strategy. The uber-mall is not a typical model for any retailer, he said.
But Soloman did suggest another two to 10 Roxy shops could open in the next two years, with the first doors opening on the West Coast. Los Angeles and Dallas are high on the list.
Online, Quiksilver and Roxy’s sites have no e-commerce component, nor plan to for now.
But the company posts links to the e-commerce sites of Becker Surfboards and Killer Dana Surf.
Certainly, with its full range of product, from soap dishes and alarm clocks to flip-flops and fragrance, Roxy’s reach appears unlimited.
Only watches and eyewear are licensed. Hula, its citrus perfume launched in 1998, and related body gel and lotions, are handled in-house, but Hild hinted they are talking to a beauty licensee for all further skin care, health and beauty products.
In-house, the 50-member Roxy team includes Sally Peckenpaw overseeing Roxy accessories and Joanne Cruz heading the Teenie Wahine line.
Quiksilver’s “design by committee” philosophy extends to Roxy’s image, also designed in-house. Larger-than-life surfer girls will be plastered on buses from Los Angeles to Boston this summer, while the print campaign straddles the core and mainstream arenas: Surfing Girl, Wahine, Surfer, Seventeen, Teen People and Teen Vogue.
So, too, does its sports sponsorships.
Surf contests have been integral to its grassroots marketing since the beginning, particularly the Quiksilver Roxy Wahine Classic, a women’s longboard competition at Southern California’s San Onofre Surf Beach drawing some 300 amateur contestants ages 8 to 73.
But the company logs a new entry in surfing history when it hosts the first stand-alone women’s pro surf event in Fiji this April, with a $35,000 purse at stake — still a fraction of what men make, but a leap in the sport’s evolution.
Roxy has also lent its name to local tennis matches in recent years, recognizing that its “girl” does more than surf.
“You can’t blow up Quiksilver or Roxy into a multimillion-dollar company only on surfers,” admitted Hild. “But protecting the core is part of our credo.”
It’s what keeps the brand and its energetic team beating. The heart-shaped logo of the Quiksilver wave mirroring itself hasn’t changed since a Turkish licensee created it in 1992.
As for the brand name, there is a real Roxy or two behind it.
It’s the name of chief executive Robert McKnight’s now 13-year-old daughter. One of the Australian founders is also named Roxy.
“And Danny [Kwock] says it’s the Roxy nightclub in L.A.,” Hild added, referring to the legendary Sunset Boulevard hot spot.