photo by Katie Mccurdy
We're thrilled to be featuring Jeanine Pesce today for our She Lives Major series. Pesce is a trend analyst and with her business Range, she offers creative services to the active, lifestyle, and outdoor industry. We chatted with Pesce about the active trend, her second issue of Range Mag, and how brands can communicate better with their female customer.
Where did you grow up and when did you realize your were in love with the outdoors?
I grew up in Brooklyn, went to high school in Jersey, and college in Philly. I lived in Park Slope/Windsor Terrace as a kid, and I spent a lot of time romping around Prospect Park. I would say those are my first real memories of being in love with nature. My grandfather was a hunter and my dad was an Eagle Scout. So although we lived in the city, the country and the mountains were always a huge part of our family. We would go to the Catskills, Lake George, and all the typical resort locations that middle class families from NYC could get to in a short car ride. My first real camping trip as an adult was in 2001 with my best friend - a three-week road trip up the Northeast coast from Philly to Maine. We camped in every state, and in every type of campground. From Acadia National Park to a KOA on the side of the highway, every experience was pretty magical. I was totally hooked from that point and I knew my heart belonged to the outdoors.
When not camping, you were studying fashion design at Drexel University. Was your focus on performance apparel?
The funny thing is, I actually studied eveningwear and thought I was going to be a costume designer for the ballet. Which is totally the opposite of lightweight, durable, performance pieces. My senior thesis was a five-piece couture collection made from incredibly delicate fabrics. There was tons of antique crystal beading, corseting and old school tailoring involved. One of the jackets I made, which I want to be buried in when I die because it almost killed me while I was making it, spanned almost six feet wide when it was opened. It took me two full days to hem it by hand, and I used to sleep under the table I sewed at. True story. Fashion design students are like soldiers. It's no joke.
I got into the active/outdoor market when I started working for a trend-forecasting agency from Paris called Promostyl. They are one of the oldest and most esteemed trend companies in the world, so I was very lucky to be a part of their team at such a young age. They used to produce a trend book called "Sport & Street" and at the time (this was around 2004 I believe) sneakers, streetwear and skateboarding were blowing up. I had a very intimate knowledge of all of those things, plus a love of the outdoors, and a genuine interest in construction and nerdy materials from my time at school. So when the sport and active clients would come in to see us, I would take the account. That is how my whole career really started. I later went on to work at Stylesight.com as a senior editor and started the active section for them. It was a really exciting time to segue from the books over to the digital space. Everything at Promostyl was very French and romantic, and everything at Stylesight was very quick and cutting edge.
So you’ve been a trend forecaster for over 10 years now. Do you think there is an “active” trend going on right now?
There are SO many factors that go into shaping a trend - the economy, environment, politics, manufacturing, innovations in fibers and materials, art, pop-culture. All of it plays a key role in sparking something new. I definitely think there is an "active" trend happening at the moment and if you think about it from a semi-historical perspective, this is not the first time that the fashion industry has fallen in love with the active market. In the '80s, Olivia Newton John had everyone doing aerobics. In the '90s, Donna Karan introduced yoga to the mainstream masses. After the recession in 2008, it was a faux pas to buy luxury items because the whole country was broke. People were only interested in purchasing durable goods that lasted, or products that also complimented their lifestyle. When they stopped going out for expensive dinners or to nightclubs because they couldn't afford it, they turned to the outdoors and to the gym to get their fix. Wellness and working out became a different kind of luxury.
Now it has just become the standard. As more people are living in cities than ever before, as opposed to rural or suburban communities, there is a new breed of consumer looking for functional apparel that can be worn in any type of condition or urban environment. Why spend money on a jacket or a piece of apparel that doesn't perform in a variety of climates or social situations?
With your vast experience you launched your own business, Range. Tell us a little about that and what it’s like being a female voice in this market.
Having my own business is the most fulfilling and most difficult thing I have ever done. I always thought it was my boss pushing me too hard, or that the companies I worked for expected too much from me. But now I realize that I am the one that puts the most pressure on myself to deliver top-notch work. Being a woman is a challenge, not because I feel weak or less appreciated. I am compensated well for what I do because people respect me, and my POV. BUT the one thing that gets on my nerves is the fact that men ALWAYS go above and beyond to support each other, while women get pushed into the background. They build each other up and pat each other on the back when they do a good job. Women have to fight tooth and nail to get that same recognition, especially in a male-dominated industry. Sometimes I feel like they are like, "Oh, that's cute, honey. You have such a big mouth! Now sit down and let the big boys do the talking."
Do you feel like that’s improving and that women are being heard more in the outdoors industry?
I really think we are getting somewhere. After the 10+ years of standing on my tiny little trend soapbox and screaming about design, people are finally listening. I have been giving this new presentation to clients and at trade shows called "The Modern Outdoors Woman" (page 4) and everyone is really intrigued by it. The presentation is about analyzing the current state of the industry in terms of product, marketing, and social media. I have been interviewing tons of women from all different walks of life and all levels of outdoor experience about what the outdoors means to them, and it is super interesting. They all talk about it from an emotional, almost primal standpoint. The way it makes them feel and the way they interact with other women when they are in the outdoors together. It isn't as pragmatic as it is when men ask men the same kinds of questions. They tend to focus on performance, practicality and function. I think when it comes down to it, we need to make better product for contemporary women - not just hot pink and graded down from a men's silhouette - and engage female consumers through storytelling and creative merchandising at retail stores and online.
Speaking of sharing stories, you’ve just published the second issue of Range Mag, congratulations!
Thanks! It has been a wild ride and I am still figuring it out as I go. So much of my career has been focused on producing intangible concepts and big-picture ideas. Much like the garments I used to make when I was younger, I wanted to introduce something physical into the world I could hold in my hands. I also have a voice and an opinion on the state of things, especially in terms of creative content, and was craving an alternative, design-driven platform I could relate to.
It’s a great publication – one of our favorites! To us, you’re totally “Living Major”. What does that term mean to you?
To me "Living Major," means living life to the fullest, even if it doesn't always end up the way you envisioned. Make the best of it, you'll figure it out in the long run.
And because we really ought to ask, what's your favorite Ursa Major product?
My favorite Ursa Major product is the Fortifying Face Balm. I steal it from my husband all the time - I love the herb-y smell.