The Scandinavian running brand Saysky has been focusing on performance clothing with relaxed style since it was founded in 2013, winning the ISPO Brandnew category in 2016.
IIn an interview with ISPO.com, founder and CEO Lars Pedersen explains why he prefers not following usual pattern with Saysky rather than chase after Adidas and Nike, and how important specialized retailers are for his brand.
At ISPO Munich 2020, the topic of sustainability was particularly in focus. There was hardly an Apparel brand that did not focus on natural raw materials, Ocean Plastic, recycling or even upcycling. For you, it was more about style and fun.
I think that's great, and it's really important that all of us - customers, dealers and manufacturers - produce as little waste as possible and operate sustainably. At Saysky there's a saying: "We care but we don't give a fuck". In other words: We do everything we can to act sustainably. We ship our parts in compostable plastic that completely decomposes in two to four years. In the future, we are going to cut from recycled polyester.
Others already have a head start.
Sure, in this particular case, yes. For small brands it was hardly possible to get the right fabrics until recently. We wanted to get started two years ago. Back then I would have had to buy a ton of fabric. The demand was simply too low for small batches to be worthwhile for the manufacturers. That wouldn't have been sustainable either. That changed completely sometime within half a year - fortunately.
Nevertheless, Saysky is conspicuously silent on the subject of sustainability.
As I said: environmental protection and sustainability is not a trend but part of our mindset. In everything we do, we think about it, always and with conviction. Nevertheless it is not our USP. In two or three years, there will probably be no more synthetic fibers in the sports industry that are not made from garbage, food waste or algae. It will be great. But if the main argument for a brand is that it uses sustainably produced materials - how can it be different from others? The Saysky DNA is friendship, camaraderie, fun in sports - that's not subject to trends. Besides quality and design, this is a real unique selling point.
How does this show in the Saysky collection?
Sustainability also means that we don't make models for just one season. What we put on the market should work very easily, look great and fit our customers really great. Above all: our parts last quite a long time. What should I reinvent every year? For us, this saves time, energy and resources, while the customer, on the other hand, always has cool, up-to-date parts on hand - and can buy his or her favorite part later if in doubt.
So then reduction is the key to your success.
When you look at Scandinavian design, it is very often reduced and focused on the essentials. It's all about clear forms and high functionality. We do nothing else. Other brands for runners combine different technologies every year, adding extra to extra. We simply want to make top-functioning running wear. For us this means: good fabrics in good cuts and leaving out all the fuss.
As ISPO Brandnew Category Winner 2016, Saysky has already done some things right in the first years of his company. Do you have a tip for the newcomers of today?
It's okay to be different than the others. I think it's a good sign when people think you're a little crazy; it means that you're doing something that has never been done before. If everyone immediately understands what you're up to, you're probably pretty close to the norm. Building a brand in sports business is really hard work. And it takes patience not to stray from the path. On the other hand, you also need luck at one point or another, you have to meet the right people at the right time. And you have to recognize the right moments.
What do you have to pay particular attention to?
Good service wins! This applies in stationary trade as well as online. In principle, nothing has changed there either - that has always been the trend. Many people unfortunately forget this and think it is enough to be available online or to open the shop door in the morning.
The relationship between brand and dealer in particular has recently changed considerably.
Of course, this has become much more balanced. In the past, as a brand I could only sell my products if the seller liked them. Today I can also address the customer directly, which has of course completely changed the relationship. We are very pleased when a retailer gets to grips with our product, gets involved and sells it well - both sides benefit from this partnership relationship. If a dealer doesn't want that, we can still reach people online. There are no more gatekeepers. This is a huge opportunity for small businesses.
Saysky has a very relaxed performance. That doesn't go down well with every runner.
What I have always wondered: Why do you have to look fast to be fast? That's why we also have prints with flowers or hamburgers. We want to be fast and at the same time stay relaxed. This is also good for the head and gives you mental strength. It gets you further than if you were tensed up from concentration.
How important is your own identity in sports business?
Take Adidas and Nike - they are a bit like Pepsi and Coke, the differences are not very big. Our aim is to have a very own brand identity with Saysky and to set our own trends. We don't want to imitate anyone, we don't want to chase after anyone. That is also a challenge. Many traditional sports retailers are used to having only the big brands in the shop, which everyone knows anyway. You have to understand that - the big brands are stable and have been reliable partners for many years.
Breaking new ground means work for the shop.
You have to get involved with a brand like Saysky, train your people, sell the products actively. That takes effort. That's why I see us more in specialized running shops where people are really advised. The customers there want the knowledge of the salesperson. And that's exactly where Saysky is a great brand that allows the specialist to further differentiate itself from the big chains. Our clothes are simply not available on every corner. In order to assert myself as a small shop with running wear, I need good products for the target group. And above all, I need qualified staff who are responsive to the needs of the customers, can really advise them and find the right individual product.
How important are top sporting performances?
This is a very individual story. People want to be fit, have fun and feel good. There are so many great and fast runners who are always challenging themselves anew. They never run for the world record, only for themselves. Hence our claim "Be a star". If you have children or a demanding job - you simply don't have the time to go training six times a week. It's not about big victories and records, it's about doing the best you can and feeling good about it. If someone manages to run a marathon under three and a half hours under these conditions, that is incredibly good.
How important is the direct line to the customer for you?
This is crucial for a small brand like Saysky. Part of our strategy is to organize many events ourselves. I know this from surfing and snowboarding - people always meet somewhere and do sports together. These don't have to be huge events. It's always about bringing people together. We often do a mixture of party and competition, meet our people and have fun together.
Sounds like some kind of grassroot trend.
That's quite good. We bind our customers to the brand, form a community. That grows slowly, but in the end it is much more successful and sustainable than any advertising campaign in a magazine. We communicate directly and at an equal level. That way we are getting much more direct feedback. If you look at it from a business perspective, the contact price is relatively high. The quality of these contacts is priceless. And of course it's great fun.
This doesn't really sound like a competition ...
There is never a time measurement with us. Of course, the participants still battle it out. We always think up special challenges, a kind of "urban orienteering" for example. And you have to be pretty fast but also clever. Often the winner is the one who knows the area best and who is the smartest in planning the route.