In 2014, a year after a young Parsons graduate named Tyler Haney launched a line of coveted, colorful workout kits, the Outdoor Voices boom officially kicked off. His company took off after being featured as part of pop-up stores at J.Crew stores across the country, and in 2015 he opened his first store in Austin, Texas. Haney’s approach to sportswear was unlike any other at the time. His sporty yet elegant leggings and bras, soft-minded, soft pink and gray and heather green, were anti-Lululemon. At OV you were “Doing Things”, which became the company’s motto, promoted in every “recreation kit” (matching leggings sets and bra tops). Haney’s brand was not about hard work, but about moving, going out, doing things with a purpose.
The peak of Outdoor Voices came at the height of the athleisure phenomenon in the fashion industry, when workout clothes were integrated into everyone’s wardrobe and not just stowed at the bottom of a gym bag. Former J.Crew and Gap CEO Mickey Drexler joined the company as chairman of the board and of the investor, and in 2018 Private Voices, privately held, was valued at $ 110 million, backed by some from highly respected VC firms.
By last year, however, that valuation had dropped to around $ 40 million. Executives came and went. There were reports of a gap between Drexler and Haney, as well as Haney and the rest of the mostly male board of directors. She walked away from the company earlier this year, but remained silent on the board. A New York Times The early March article detailed the controversy surrounding the brand’s internal operations with the title “How the Voices Outdoors, a Newly-Created Beloved.” But despite a bleak future for a company that once led the charge in sportswear for a new generation of millennial “recreationists,” now there is new hope on the horizon.
Haney officially returns to his company as an active member of the board. She also started on the board as president and the company’s latest investor is Lunya founder Ashley Merrill, who launched her minimal nightwear label in 2014. Drexler leaves the company and also interim CEO Cliff Moskowitz.
Details of Outdoor Voices’ structural reform are still scarce, but the idea, according to Haney, is to focus the company around the company’s longer-term mission and sustainability and to hire leadership that’s aligned with these things. Haney, who is a new mother to a girl, has not spoken publicly about the departure and internal riffs, except for an Instagram post in which she wrote, “For the time being, stay quiet. Heartbreaking narrative of an individual trying to cause harm. That said, excited to focus on what I love: creative, brand, customer sooner … ”But now she’s speaking, along with her new partner on the board. Merrill says: “I read everything that came out about OV recently and felt on the defensive for what I perceived to be an attack on another founder and wanted to help.” She adds: “I didn’t know Ty personally before this, but I’ve always felt an undeclared kinship with many founders because we see ourselves as part of a shared common mission to break gender boundaries and experience the change we hope to see in the world “.