ELAN FEMALE CHAIN OF COMMAND

Image:ELAN FEMALE CHAIN OF COMMAND
27. Feb, 2018 Written by: MJ Caroll
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Global issues aside, women are having a moment. Brands everywhere are maximizing on the opportunity to share their women-specific stories, empowering the female voice and consumer in markets where gender specific products never existed prior to this movement. Emotions aside, when it comes to who is bringing product to the cash register, it’s more often than not, women.

According to Forbes Magazine, “Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of their buying power and influence.” To put it bluntly, we get what we want, when we want it, for ourselves, and for others, including our families. In the world of skiing, it is still a male dominant sport and industry. But, women are continually on the rise with higher participation, female athletes are shattering records, grassroots organizations continue to evolve, and there are more women’s specific products on the market than ever before. It’s amazing. As a female professional in the ski industry for the last 8 years, “women’s specific” is not a new term. I’ve reviewed a ton of graphics and skied a lot of different ski technologies that are all classified as “women’s specific,” and often supported with branding such as “made by women, for women.”

 “Made by women, for women.” What does that really mean? In year’s past, I was convinced it meant that women were involved with a thumb’s up or thumb’s down approval of graphics, naming and testing the skiing performance before the final skis went to production. Then, I was asked to join the Elan W. Studio.

In April 2017, I was invited to Slovenia for the 14thAnnual W. Studio meeting. We reviewed the women’s graphics, ski technology and names, and as the day evolved, I met and learned more about the women behind the brand. Then, we toured the Elan headquarters, which completed changed my meaning for, “made for women, by women.” First off, I must mention that I have never seen a more beautiful setting for a factory. Across the street from blossoming green pastures and in the shadows of the towering Julien Alps, stands one of the largest manufacturing suppliers of skis in the world. As an avid skier who enjoys the European après culture, the scenic countryside and gorgeous mountains combined with the smell of fresh resin from thousands of brand new skis had me merrily humming, “the Hills are Alive…” Beyond the stunning view on the outside, it was what was happening inside Elan’s buildings that amazed me the most. Throughout the tour of Elan and meeting the various individuals involved with each process, I quickly took notice that there was a female involved with every step of the process to bring an Elan ski to life.

Beginning with the concept of the ski and then shepherding the entire process along is Melanja Šober, head of product management department and who responsible for putting in place a road map for the product. With a technical background as a ski racer, a passion for the sport, and great attention to detail, Melanja is often the reason excellent ideas turn into outstanding products. Once product management has a new product idea in process, Melanja with the team of product managers’ work with the various departments to bring the skis to life.

Beginning with graphics, one of the more important, yet more difficult feature to please everyone, the masterminds behind Elan graphics are predominantly all women. In-house, Hilda Bassanese is the strategic designer for graphics, who turns creative design concepts, which come from female run Sonda Design studio, onto an actual product with profound understanding of production opportunities.

Sonda Design Studio based out of Croatia is responsible of design inspiration that is modern and matches the trends of today’s female skiers. Sonda Design Studio is co-owned by a woman, Jelena Fiskus and Elan works specifically with designer, Martina Sirotič. Together, the graphic production team, five women in total, finalize the graphic direction for Elan products.

Meanwhile, Melanja and her team is working with the engineers communicating the skis’ intent and needs for the female skier. While there are no female engineers at Elan, Melanja is the tie between all departments and once the ski design meets the graphic design and overall approval of W. Studio influencers, the proposed ski is ready for production. This is typically where the women’s approval and job with a ski is finished. Not at Elan. Over 40 % of Elan’s employees are women and a good part of that number works in the factory, manufacturing the actual product. In fact, head of production process is a female. While there are women involved at various points in the assembly line, they were most noticeably involved with the printing process. Due to the high level of attention to detail required, it is a manufacturing process that has been proven to be completed the best by women. 

After production, it is up to distribution to get the skis to the dealers and then up to marketing and sales to sell the skis. Distribution and sales are more commonly managed by men in the ski industry, but at Elan there are women closely involved with both operations. The entire order-processing department is female as is the head of logistics. In marketing, Rebeka Lah works to create the stories and messages specifically targeted towards women consumers.

Outside of in-house sales, Noemie Personaz, leads distribution in one of Elan’s biggest markets of France. As a member of the Elan W. Studio, Noemie offers a unique perspective of what women are coming into stores are asking about before making the final purchase.

The process comes full circle when a female purchases an Elan ski; from conceptualizing the idea of the product, to creating the actual ski to selling it in the marketplace. Next time you click into a pair of Elan Women’s skis you can trust with confidence that a lot of women hands, minds, eyes and opinions went into each pair.

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