Entering its third season, Oakley’s collaboration with elite snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler continues to gain momentum. Sportswear International caught up with Bleiler in London to talk about her latest offerings for the brand. Interview: Emma Holmqvist

How did the collaboration with yourself and Oakley come about?
Oakley was my first sponsor, and I signed up with the brand the very first year they started making outerwear. Since then their entire outerwear business has come a long way– in the beginning the womenswear line was essentially men’s stuff but in a size XS. Things have changed at Oakley, and my career has come a developed too, so it was the perfect opportunity to team up and create something together. It’s an amazing honor since Oakley has never partnered with any athlete for a complete collection before, male or female. For them to bring in a female athlete for the first signature collection is a big deal, and it shows what a push they’re making with their womenswear segment.

To what degree are you involved in the design process?
I’m involved every step of the way, from the initial stages and through to testing the samples and giving my feedback. The project wouldn’t work if I wasn’t as close to Oakley as I am, and the fact that I’m totally involved in the project is as crucial to me as it is to Oakley.

What’s the biggest challenge when working on the collections?
To marry technicality and style successfully can be a challenge. Sometimes I come up with a design feature that that the designers deem impossible to execute. I learn a lot from working closely with Oakley’s different design teams across accessories, lifestyle and outerwear.

Describe the essence of the F/W 10 collection.
Oakley is known for its advanced technicality, and this line combines that aspect with a strong style factor. In terms of aesthetic, the look is classic and sophisticated but with a fun and bold edge. The eco element is also important, and each collection includes a couple of pieces created using 100% recycled material that is also 100% recyclable to help reduce carbon emission. When you’re finished with your piece, the idea is that you send it back to Oakley to close the loop on the recycling operation.

Name some of your favorite pieces in the F/W 10 range.
I consider the jacket featuring tiers at the back mission accomplished – the look is minimalist but unique and very flattering. This particular feature is a design element only, and it doesn’t provide any technical benefits as such. Although the collection is full of technical know-how, it’s also pushing women’s outerwear to make it more fashionable and flattering. A signature of mine that is recurringly featured is the faux fur hood, and I also have a weakness for high and generously cut necklines that can be pulled up around the face for warmth.

What’s next?
We’re currently working on the F/W 11 collection, and the samples will arrive in August. Hopefully the collaboration will keep going and going, as it gathers momentum and keeps growing each season. As a result, next season’s range will incorporate more lifestyle pieces.

Finally, what’s the best part working on the project?
When it’s over and the finished product arrives, I get to wear the samples before anyone else. As rewarding as that is, it’s even more exciting and inspiring to see people on the street wearing the collection. I’ve spotted every type of person wearing it, from young girls to mature women, something that goes to prove that the range is signified by a universal look that doesn’t go out of style.

Photo courtesy of Cole Barash.