Matt Taylor is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tracksmith, a premium performance running brand inspired by the Ivy League aesthetic and style.
It seems like Tracksmith is uncovering a rich, deep running culture, that of retro films and Ivy League competition. Why did you decide to go in this aesthetic direction?
Tracksmith is deeply rooted in New England running culture, and our aesthetic reflects just that; it’s inspired by the landmark races and the elite amateur ideals upheld by the college and club teams in the area. I also found the existing product in the running category to be very one-dimensional; with Tracksmith, we set out to fuse high performance fabrics and functional detailing with classic collegiate style and American design.
You’re a classic ‘Made in America’ brand. What inspired you to keep manufacturing Stateside?
We manufacture much of our product in the US and our office is in Wellesley, Massachusetts – a historic spot in itself as the halfway point of the Boston Marathon. We wanted to keep manufacturing close by since there’s such a great history of manufacturing in the region. We’ve also developed relationships with iconic brands in the area, such as the New England Shirt Company (Fall River, MA) and Steele Canvas Basket Corp (Cambridge, MA), to collaborate on some of our products. More importantly, keeping production local is essential to us as it allows us to iterate more quickly and get products to market faster.
“I worked in the running industry for many years and became frustrated with how slowly things moved and how great ideas never made it to market. Every brand was basically producing the same thing, with the same materials, in the same colors.”
Why did you leave your role at Puma to do your own thing?
I worked in the running industry for many years and became frustrated with how slowly things moved and how great ideas never made it to market. Every brand was basically producing the same thing, with the same materials, in the same colors. And none of them were celebrating the sport the way it deserved. So I saw an opportunity do something different.
What learnings did you take from that position to Tracksmith?
There’s a lot to learn from a successful global organization filled with really talented people, although sometimes those things are hard to translate when you’re in the trenches trying to launch a new brand. So you have to pick and choose what you take with you and what you leave behind.
Image: Courtesy of Tracksmith
What makes you tick, what are you inspired by… Brands, publications, people, places?
New things and old things. I love to read and learn about the history of people, places and things. But I also desire to know what’s coming next. Too many people and brands try to replicate or copy things that are current. I think to innovate you have to look back and forward, never just right around you.
So many companies today call themselves lifestyle brands. How would you define yourself and how are you different?
We’re a performance running brand first, not a fashion brand inspired by sport, and as such we aim to uphold the best our sport has to offer. We love everything about it: its athletic grace, competitive spirit, passionate communities, and timeless style. We are a running lifestyle brand in the sense that we want to provide everything a runner needs in his or her life – gear, motivation, community, content.
Tracksmith introduces a new aesthetic and feel to traditional running gear. Can you talk about your customer base and how you are reaching them – are they traditional runners or more fashion-forward consumers?
It’s both, and that’s on purpose. At the core we want to provide product to anyone who decides to make running a part of their life. It doesn’t matter how fast they run, or how many miles they log; if someone makes the conscious decision to dedicate time in their day for a run, we want to be a part of that. And we’ll provide them with the highest quality product on the market to do it.
Image: Courtesy of Tracksmith
Would you ever open a brick and mortar store? How would it be different from what is happening in retail right now, or alternatively how do you build a successful online retail experience?
We currently sell direct-to-consumer on our website at www.tracksmith.com. Beyond being our retail store, our website serves as an important platform to share our brand story and ethos through compelling lifestyle imagery, educational content and informative product pages. Our story is crucial to our brand, which is one reason we are focusing our efforts on our direct-to-consumer platform solely for now.
What has been your marketing strategy, and how do you see social media playing a part in building brand awareness?
We’re focusing a lot of effort on content and community, since we’re in a category where people are actively engaged in the sport and seeking out content. We’ve also been increasing our brand awareness through press efforts, word-of-mouth and social media. We are active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, sharing content and imagery we feel is compelling to our customers, and have seen a steady increase in followers on all three platforms since launch.
Can you talk about Meter? What inspired that?
We created Meter Magazine to share great stories and celebrate the competitive spirit of the sport. Those things have been lost over the years and we didn’t think we were the only ones craving that type of content. The large-format photography captures the intensity and beauty of running at its finest, and the stories pay respect to its fabled heritage. We’re really excited for the next issue, which we’re working on now.