Company Profile: Isis

Why did it take decades for the apparel industry to wise up and offer women-specific clothing? Because no one thought of it until Carolyn Cooke and Poppy Gall.

With over 40 years of outdoor-market experience between them, Carolyn Cooke and Poppy Gall know what high-performance outdoor apparel means, and for a long time they'd been thoroughly disappointed with what passed as high-end, performance-based clothing. Why? Because women like them—mountain bikers, backcountry and telemark skiers, kayakers, and backpackers—were forced to wear the same clothes as men. Cooke and Gall would typically vent their shared distaste while sharing a Vermont chairlift, an ideal realm to put any apparel to the test. These gripe sessions evolved into brainstorming, which inevitably led to Isis and a revolution in the outdoor-apparel industry: The first line of clothes made by women, for women.

Cooke, former VP of sales at shoe company Merrell, was first introduced to the benefits of gender-specific apparel while working with a Swiss-based women's outdoor-apparel brand. This insight and years of valuable business experience became the cornerstone of Isis' business model. Gall, meanwhile, fulfilled the yang half of the relationship; prior to Isis, she'd owned a company specializing in creatively designed women's outdoor hats called Mountain Ladies and Ewe.

Isis' original name, Juno Rising, remains apposite: the active women's market is a burgeoning industry. According to a recent Leisure Trends audit, women's activewear sales are surpassing men's. When Cooke and Gall began their company in 1998, the Electro Pant (still a hot seller) was one of the first sportswear pants to forgo the small-medium-large sizing for a more realistic size spectrum stretching from four to 16. The pant was also one of the designs with a femme-specific higher waist with adjustable Velcro closures.

Gall still oversees all the technical fabrications, the colors, and much of the design work. The Niobi Jacket is a prime example of her drive for combining female comfort and fashion. The down-insulated jacket is quilted to mitigate the puffed-up look; the waist is tapered for a slimmer, shapelier line on the hips; and a microfleece collar prevents skin irritation (all eight colors are immediate sell-outs). Isis performance gear embodies more than just the downhill skier; the company designs female apparel for sea kayaking, mountain biking, backpacking, and backcountry, cross-country, and telemark skiing. Regardless of its application, all Isis apparel embraces a central, dual-purpose design: to look good and feel good, indoors and out.

Isis echoes their dedication to female apparel by promoting the outdoors as the natural arena for all women. They have partnered with the Breast Cancer Fund, the Women's Wilderness Institute, and Wild Women Unite, among others. Each year, Isis outfits the participants in the major climbing fund-raising event organized by the Breast Cancer Fund. As Kris Hathaway, Public Relations Representative for Isis, explains, "Being outdoors is a great relief and important for women."

Isis is a young company and no doubt on the rise. In the fall of 2005, the company will hit the international market in Canada, surely the first of many borders to be crossed.

Shop directly from Isis' website at

Published: 1 Feb 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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