Posted by Ben McCoy on May 31, 2011 at 8:57 am
O2 Rainwear recently signed on as an MPLS Bike Love sponsor, so we thought we’d use this opportunity to learn a little bit more about their brand and the man behind it, Adam Ziskin. And considering the weather we’ve had lately, we’re guessing that there are a lot of people out there looking for rain gear.
MBL: How long has O2 Rainwear been around? Has it always been a Minneapolis and/or Minnesota brand?
O2: O2 Rainwear originated in 1997, while production and shipping started in 1998. Our company name is actually Rain Shield, but our retail brand is called O2. And yes, it’s always been a Minnesota brand.
MBL: Where does the name O2 come from? Why not H2O?
O2: We always focused on waterproof breathable apparel, so it was a play off of that. Taking the H out of H20 kept everything dry & breathable.
MBL: What is O2’s background in cycling and in rain gear?
O2: O2 began from an exclusive right to a waterproof breathable membrane that had incredible performance. We originally began producing general rainwear items for camping, hiking, hunting, fishing. The challenge there was that we were fighting against customer’s comprehension of breathable rainwear versus price at that time. After a few years, we realized that runners & cyclists were the earliest adapters & understood performance attributes and their benefits versus price. So in 2000 we began making cycling specific pieces and within one year, it took off. At the same time, we also had some major non-O2 branded licenses and private label programs in the mass retail and medium box markets that were thriving. This allowed us to be diverse in rainwear and learn all about different niches, textiles, packaging, etc.
MBL: Has O2 always been cycling-focused?
O2: Since about 2000 or 2001, O2 has been cycling focused.
MBL: What makes O2 unique? Why should somebody buy it over jackets make by Craft, Novara, Chrome, or any other brand?
O2: For starters, we are super unique because we have a technology that no other brand has, and we can bring extremely breathable waterproof apparel to a price that only PVC & EVA garments are currently at. Our Original Series showcases this technology. So we have a huge market share in the lower price pointed cycling outerwear market. Plus, as small business, we do not have a lot of overhead that goes into our pricing.
Secondly, our styles are clean, functional, and perform.
Third, we stand by our products and our customer service is excellent. If there are issues, you contact us, and you get me – I’m very easy to reach.
Finally – and not to sound like a textile geek – but the performance of our fabrics is transparent. When we say we are waterproof AND breathable, we mean it. On our 2011 product, we actually print the performance on the hangtag because the consumers were beginning to understand what we meant. And we feel it’s important for them to know what they are getting since there isn’t much regulation when it comes to being waterproof and breathable.
MBL: I really like the look of your jackets. Do you do design and produce them yourself?
O2: Yes and no. I design the jackets, but sub-contract the production. Doing so helps me keep prices down by reducing overhead.
MBL: Personally, I tend to steer away from full-length cycling pants. Do you (or have you) ever made or considered making waterproofs knickers?
O2: Ha! I knew this question was going to come from you. I can’t argue it either. It would be super cool to have waterproof knickers, but that’s the challenge of being a small player. I wish I could have a ton of other styles, but that required more overhead and investment. Plus, we risk losing our focus by trying to be too many things to too many people.
That said, I absolutely think the Euro fashion trend (where knickers are the norm) is going to continue in the US markets. And with gas prices, more and more people are commuting by bike every year. As these trends continue, I would be open to knickers as well as some other ideas I’ve been kicking around. All in good time!
MBL: Where can people find O2 rainwear locally? Do you have a presence beyond the Twin Cities?
O2: Our gear is seasonal, so although most stores locally carry O2 Rainwear to some extent, it’s always challenging for consumers to know what they can find where. We have an O2 dealer locations function on our website that people can check out that includes over 1,000 independent bike dealers throughout the United States and a small distribution in South America and Europe.
MBL: Does O2 sponsor any riders or teams? Has O2 collaborated with any other brands? Do you ever get into customized gear?
O2: It’s always fun sponsoring teams and events. We currently sponsor a couple collegiate teams and a couple adventure racing teams. Our college teams are MIT Cycling and Iowa Cycling. Our adventure racing teams are WEDALI Adventure Racing and TecnuExtreme Adventure Racing.
As far as customized gear, any dealer, team, or club can put their logo on our gear, we do embroidery & screen printing on them for customers. We’ve worked with other brands to do private label for them and I’m not sure if those brands would or would not want people to know that we were the makers, so I’ll leave their names out of it. But we do make goods for other brands as well.
In terms of collaboration, this year I was invited to participate in throwing the best bike party in town called the Cutter’s Ball with some of Minnesota’s finest cycling companies, including Twin Six, Handsome Cycles, HED, Kurt Kinetic, Peacock Groove, and Banjo Brothers. We were also lucky enough to be included in the first annual Tiny Bike Shop Concert Series at Calhoun Cycle that the fun loving Banjo Brothers created. I’m pretty sure there is a second concert in the works and we hope to be involved in some capacity yet again. We also try and get behind as many of our own local organizations and events as much as possible, such as the Almanzo 100, 30 Days of Biking, MPLS Bike Love, Twin Cities Bike Walk Week, Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, and more.
MBL: What bikes do you keep in your stable?
O2: I’ve never sold a bike. They are like family to me. I get separation anxiety from them. So all but one of my bikes are old and tattered, which I love.
- 1 early 80’s Razesa fixed gear
- 3 vintage Schwinn Collegiate road bikes (in brown, green, and burnt orange)
- 1 Giant 870 mountain bike circa 1994
- 1 Lemond Zurich road bike (which I leant it to my friend 6 years ago)
- 1 Serotta Legend Ti road bike