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Roland Sands apparel matches design innovations of bikes

Chris Peters, Contributing Writer
November 28, 2011
Filed under Features

Dealer-direct program offering impressive margins for new entry

Roland Sands and his team at Roland Sands Design might be best known for their custom-built motorcycles, but the company is looking to make an impact in a new segment with its apparel line.

The idea to jump into the apparel side of the business was hatched in 2010, according to RSD general manager Roger Sgarbossa.

“The main thing with RSD is it’s about design,” Sgarbossa said. “The apparel portion just made sense as an extension of the bikes.”

RSD’s dealer-direct apparel program features stylish jackets, T-shirts, hoodies, thermals, gloves, belts, hats and more.

Because of the abundance of heavily branded apparel currently on the market, RSD wanted to produce something a bit more understated, while also providing the necessary protection.

“We knew that we weren’t going to outperform the technical brands. That wasn’t really the point,” Sgarbossa said. “We also knew we couldn’t do a straight fashion piece either. We threw together kind of a hybrid, where we’ve got good, solid leather; good protection in the right areas; armor pockets where it’s needed if you want to run that; and then adjusting the cut. So they work really well for riding, but you’re not walking around looking like ‘racer boy.’”

Right out of the gate, RSD is offering margins of 50 points to dealers, which is in line with traditional apparel programs in the fashion world.

“We just want to get dealers the most margin possible,” Sgarbossa said.

He also said RSD is seeking dealers who understand the company’s apparel line is truly different.

“We want the dealers we work with to make sure they are the right dealers for us and can stay true to the brand. They understand it’s not just putting a bunch of T-shirts out; it’s more of a program,” he said.

The RSD apparel line has a strong focus on style and materials, such as waxed cotton and oiled leather. Because of the emphasis on style, Sgarbossa believes dealers who carry the line — particularly the high-end jackets — might be able to attract new customers.

The Tracker jacket in the Limited Set features the comfort, durability and function of authentic waxed cotton. It has an MSRP of $390.

“[The apparel line] resonates to a consumer that dealers may not even have yet,” he said. “Customers might have a couple bikes, and we’ve found a spot where this is the jacket you want to wear on just about any bike you can ride, whether you’re on a Harley, a Triumph or even a sport bike.”

Sgarbossa believes there’s a bit of an heirloom quality to the RSD line of jackets, which could open up opportunities for dealers.

“There’s a pretty wide market. It’s definitely a special piece. If somebody’s going to buy some of our stuff, they’re going to appreciate it and it’s something they’re going to keep for a lot of years,” he said. “It’s not a throwaway kind of thing. It will become their favorite jacket for sure.”

The RSD custom motorcycle line is widely known for its merging of heritage and modern components, and its apparel line mirrors that concept. In fact, Sgarbossa said that the process of designing the apparel line has been very similar to that of designing a bike.

“It’s kind of the same. We have a general driver of the concept and we get feedback and make adjustments. We have such a good team of designers and their feedback is valuable. That’s one of the great things about the whole RSD program. We have a really strong design team. You can reach out to anybody and they’ve got a valid opinion.”

Sgarbossa explained that he came up with most of the general concepts for the line, but the entire RSD staff has contributed to the design of its apparel products.

“My background is more in design. We collaborate on things. Roland comes up with designs and concepts, so it’s definitely a team effort,” Sgarbossa said.

An important element of RSD as a company is that the entire staff genuinely loves motorcycles and riding. Sgarbossa hopes that idea comes across in the apparel line, as it is designed for consumers who share that passion.

“When customers come by the shop, they instantly get a sense of how much we love bikes. We’re either working on them on the weekends, or we’re doing something with them, or we’re riding them or we’re racing them. That joy in the motorcycle industry is sometimes lost. We’re trying to present that whole element in the apparel line,” he said.

The line also extends into a “Gentleman’s Starter Kit” that includes wallets, belts and dopp bags.

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