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Life and Work with Bridget Kilgallon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bridget Kilgallon.

Bridget, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
The story of Arêt Basewear began back in 2016. Fed up with ill-fitting bras, and sports bras that fell apart I teamed up with my now co-owners Olivia Martens and Lauren Breitenbach to figure out why nothing on the market for women’s apparel for the outdoors seemed to fit or function the way we needed it to. Lauren and I are rock climbers, and Olivia was a swimmer just getting into climbing. We knew we needed something that could perform in any outdoor adventure (salt water, sweat, hiking, climbing, etc.), wouldn’t restrict movement, looked flattering, and was so comfortable you couldn’t even feel it. That’s when we came up with the concept of “basewear”: a functional baselayer that can be worn both on land and in the water.

We started by making some handmade prototypes and sending them out to our fellow outdoorswomen to take them for a test run in the wild. Through several iterations and improvements based on feedback, our basewear design became what it is today: the TOURA Basewear Top. The more we researched the more we realized that one size does not fit all! Women have so many different body types, and attempting to make everyone fit into the standard size just doesn’t make sense. We knew we wanted to make a positive change in the world not just in the way women shop for their body type, but also in the sustainability of our outdoor spaces. As we go forward into the future our products reject seasonality, which means they are designed to last a lifetime, not to be worn for a season and thrown away. To accomplish this, we take a minimal approach to design that focuses on highlighting exactly what is unique to the wearer: never overshadowing their unique beauty. To us, the wearer is the art and the basewear is the frame!

Today, the overwhelmingly positive feedback from our customers has proven that we’re on the right track. Our customers love the TOURA, and come back to purchase it in every color – throwing out all their old sports bras to replace them with functional basewear tops that fit like a glove. We’re excited to take our timeless approach to design and innovative process of redefining fit into the future with new basewear garments, and product lines for a wider variety of outdoor experiences.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has been the absolute opposite of smooth! We’ve learned that in manufacturing and in business what can go wrong, will go wrong, and it will go wrong every chance it gets. Haha! But here at Arêt Basewear, we’re up for the challenge. We’ve learned to adapt, shift, and accommodate any wrench the world throws at us and we know each hurdle and obstacle only makes our business stronger. To any women just getting started on the journey of creating a small business, we have a few pieces of advice. Firstly, it’s going to be rough – but don’t give up! Running a business is not fun, light or easy, but it is extremely rewarding. Secondly, be ready to adapt. Everything shifts at the drop of a hat and you’ve got to be light on your feet and ready to come up with creative ideas and solutions to problems that constantly come at you from all sides. Lastly, have a real purpose. If the driving force for running a business is leaving a positive impact or change in the world, the universe will help you achieve it. Make sure you’ve got something to believe in outside of just making money or being a success. Do it for something real, and the reward will be even greater.

Please tell us about Arêt Basewear.
My personal specialty is customer experience and brand strategy. Drawing from my journey starting Arêt I’ve learned a ton about how to create a strong bond between the customers and the brand. We knew early on that having a relatable brand with values that people identify with can create a positive relationship, so we really took our time understanding what our customers value, and what makes them happy. For Arêt Basewear that meant focusing on self-expression, and encouraging people to let their unique selves out. We put a lot of emphasis on sustainability, taking care of outdoor spaces, encouraging women to support each other, and enabling them with knowledge and tips about getting outdoors. From there, we continued to identify any pain points, frustration or struggles a customer might have and turned those potentially negative interactions into very positive ones. For example, we knew that finding the right bra size is tough and it’s frustrating to get something that doesn’t fit. So, to fix this, we created an interactive size guide on our website that enables customers to measure themselves and understand their true size, including muscle definition. Next, we created an exchange program that makes it quick and easy for customers to get the perfect fit, every time. We can’t believe how much this has improved our customer’s relationship with our brand. Once they get the right fit, our customers often come back to purchase TOURA tops in every color, and even a few for their friends!

Often it feels as if the media, by and large, is only focused on the obstacles faced by women, but we feel it’s important to also look for the opportunities. In your view, are there opportunities that you see that women are particularly well positioned for?
Yes, absolutely! Today we are experiencing a wonderful shift in the balance between men and women in our society where more exposure is being given to pre-existing traditions, beliefs, and social structures that no longer serve us. With more opportunity also comes more responsibility to treat our fellow women and men with the same respect, and equality that we demand from them. Internalized biases are often something that holds us back: nagging thoughts like “I can’t be that strong because I’m a girl” or “I can’t do this without asking for help from a man”. The more we address these internalized insecurities the more we free ourselves from fear or hesitation and gain the confidence to live life to the fullest. This time gives us an opportunity to assess our own gender biases, as well as the gender biases of society and choose which we would like to change or reject. It could be as simple as asking a man out on a date or changing your own tire, or as complex as becoming the CEO of a company. The choice is completely up to the individual, and the sky is the limit. If you can dream it, and if it serves you, go after it and don’t give up!

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Image Credit:

Keenon Herbon

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