Renée Fraser-Shepherd On Reforming The Skiwear Industry In Style

Renée Fraser-Shepherd Is Reforming The Skiwear Industry In Style

”There’s nothing quite like a ski holiday, and until you’ve experienced it for yourself, it’s impossible to understand the hype.

”I didn’t ski until I was a twenty-something university student. My now husband and I took a break from revising in the library to meet for a drink on Grey Street via Ridley Place, where we accidentally slipped into Hays Travel and booked our first ski break to Bulgaria.

”It was cheap and cheerful, and after a handful of mid-slope tantrums, I returned having felt like I had achieved something and it wasn’t until the following year when I realised I’d well and truly caught the bug. Did I just become a skier?

”Every ski season since, pandemics aside, we’ve hit the slopes with friends and family, and have seriously fallen in love with, not only the thrill of the sport, but the breathtaking locations and the lifestyle that comes with it.

”One thing that I must admit comes as a stumbling block for myself and many others who have caught the ski bug, is how to look and feel good on the slopes.”

As I sit down for a virtual cuppa with Renée Fraser-Shepherd, founder and CEO of Sloobie Skiwear, we share our ski fashion frustrations and laugh as I share stories of my first trip back in 2013.

A last minute booking with no expectations and absolutely no gear, I headed for the mountains in a mismatch of colourful kit I’d rounded up from friends and family.

You might say I was sporting the ‘colour- block’ trend, but I’m not sure bright green salopettes and a red ski jacket would ever make the winter catwalks.

Renée laughs and nods, reminding herself why she set up Sloobies – a brand-new, fashion-forward skiwear brand that has just hit the market – ready to raise the bar for fashion skiwear, just in time for the final months of the season.

“There’s no reason why we can’t look and feel good on the slopes,” she starts.

“The concept came from the want and need for warm and stylish skiwear during my own time in the Alps. I’ve always struggled to find nice base layers that tick the box for fashion and functionality.

“There are a number of brands out there, but not many of them focus on base layers and shapewear, so I saw a gap in the market.

“A lot of the base layers I have come across are either quite Christmassy in terms of style, or the brands at the top of the market like Prada and Gucci steer towards black layers. I wanted to bring style and colour to the base layer market.”

Sloobie launched in December 2022 and has been two years in the making, Renée tells me as I get to know the brand and the brains behind the business.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see skiwear growing in popularity in the way that gymwear did a few years ago,” Renée predicts.

“Big brands are starting to bring skiwear into their collections – Zara have done it for the first time this year.

”Slowly, they are starting to catch on that there’s a gap in the market, but I’d like to think we have a niche in that we focus merely on really good quality base layers to complement the usual ski wear like jackets and salopettes.

“The technical side of ski wear is a much more saturated market,” Renée adds.

“You won’t struggle to find jackets and accessories. What we are really lacking is stylish options when it comes to layering.

”Of course, staying warm is important, but feeling good is just as important for many people – particularly ‘lifestyle skiers’ who are heading to the slopes for the vibe, the apres and everything else that comes with a ski holiday.”

So, in short, Sloobie started its journey with a fashion focused skier, a sketchbook, and the determination to bring stylish base layers to an ever-growing market.

“I always wondered why there was so much emphasis on poolside couture, with winter-wear always left by the wayside,” says Renée.

With skiing holidays proving more popular than ever, it was time to be bold and hit
that market.

“I started sketching and came up with over 60 designs which I then got feedback on. I went with the most popular designs and began designing them with the ‘fashion skier’ in mind.

“I started looking at fabric compositions and playing around with the ratio to create a technical fabric that is warm and fashionable, but in a way that goes against ‘fast fashion’. It is not a trend-based brand, you can wear them every year. The colours aren’t trend based.”

Sloobie has launched with three staple sets in a navy and ice blue palette, with names inspired by Renée’s favourite ski resorts: Megeve, Chamonix and Courchevel. The sets are comprised of a roll-neck thermal top and base layer leggings, designed to be worn together to get the maximum shaping effect.

Sloobie Skiwear“While the brand has been created with skiers in mind, the garments are perfect for any outdoorsy activities,” Renée adds.

“I’ve actually had quite a lot of interest from people in the equestrian industry. It is a similar, unsaturated market. Sloobie items are also great for hiking and exercising in the cold weather – particularly if you’re looking for something comfortable and supportive, but with the technicalities to keep you warm.

“You can use the base layers as you wish, and I’m sure they will have many different uses for many different people.”

Sloobie might only be in its first quarter for business, but the brand is certainly spreading its wings, with stock in Fenwick Newcastle, as well as opening up to the European and US markets in the coming months.

“We have been focusing on growing the brand and selling through our own website until now, but with new markets opening up and opportunities arising in stores and overseas, we are delighted with the progress so early in the game.

“We want to make sure the foundations are there before we branch out with other retailers. At present, we are basing our collections off slow fashion, so we’re not looking at bringing out a collection every single year – it really will depend on how the business shapes.

“We’ll be looking at petwear and kidswear within our five year plan, which is an exciting market to grow into, but for now, it’s all about getting Sloobie out on the slopes this season!”

Renée is an inspiring young female entrepreneur to say the least – spinning lots of plates to ensure her business is heading in the right direction.

“I’m currently doing a business degree at Northumbria University, as well as juggling two jobs and an internship in marketing,” she starts.

“It sounds like a lot, but it’s all intertwined and is part of my masterplan to continue growing the business.

“I’ve worked in high-end retail at the Reiss concession in Fenwick for five years. The demographic is really similar, so it’s really helped me understand the audience for Sloobie.

”I’ve also worked and managed a customer service team, where I learnt that things don’t always go right. Having that understanding before launching my own business has made me way less stressed and has allowed me to manage my expectations.

“I’m busy, but I like having all of these things going on because they feed into
each other nicely.”

When Renée isn’t studying, skiing, behind the counter at Reiss, or growing the Sloobie empire, life is about getting grounded and ensuring she doesn’t get overwhelmed.

“My favourite thing to do is curl up on the sofa with a book, go through my skincare regime, light a candle and just get really cosy,” she says with a smile.

“You can only succeed if you reward yourself with a bit of downtime,” she adds.

“I’m really starting to associate my phone with business now – especially social media – so I always make sure I reduce my screen time when I’m at home and not working.”

If you’re hitting the slopes this Easter, make sure you layer up – luxe style – with
Sloobie Skiwear.

Unfortunately, with baby 2.0 pending, we’re not escaping to the Alps this year, but we’ll certainly be stocking up for the 2023/24 ski season.