Sally: I cannot believe it, but here we are. It’s been 10 years since Lucky 13! As in, ten years since we had the crazy gumption, and online stalking powers, to sign Lauren Freaking Fleshman as our first high-level, sponsored athlete.

I’m catching up with Lauren (hi LF!), and thinking back on some of the big sh•t that’s gone down over the past 10 years, both personally, at Oiselle and with you, and around the world. It’s pretty mind boggling.

As we sit at the end of 2022 and moving into… Lucky 23 (?) I think we need to manifest some Lucky 13 goodness into the future!

So let’s start at the start! C’mon, we all know it: the real reason you left Nike is because we sent you underwear in the mail. Underwear that said Fartlek on the rear. I mean, Nike might be a 40 billion dollar company, but they can’t touch that.

Lauren: Nike has its strengths, but understanding women isn’t one of them. We joke around about that underwear but it symbolized so much when you sent it to me. Nike gear, even the women’s stuff, always seemed to cater to the male gaze. The underwear you sent was so clearly designed for the wearer’s benefit, physically and psychologically. Men didn’t figure in at all. A basic brief that didnt ride up and had the word fartlek on it was a conversation between the underwear and me. The different slogans for each day of the week were all workout options for me to choose from. If Jesse saw them, fine. They were cute too. But not at the expense of being truly 100% mine, if you know what I mean. They were cute for an audience of me. It made me think about how powerful it is to remove the male gaze from our apparel decisions, especially in active wear when we are engaging with active embodiment! I got chills thinking about how that fundamentally changes everything, when you aren’t catering to the dominant group.

Sally: It’s like an online dating story where the couple gets married! What began as tweets and flirtations, grew to be a super real, super fun IRL relationship that swept us all away!

We met you in person for the first time after the Eugene Marathon in 2012. I remember a pack of us — you, me, Sarah Lesko, Sarah MacKay, and others huddling around a stand up table in a beer store. It wasn’t even a tavern… just a store with giant walk-in refrigerators. And we… basically made our own party (which became a Oiselle theme from there on).

Looking back, one of the things that I think drew us all together at that time was that we were in similar building stages of our lives and careers. Oiselle was new. You (and Steph and Jesse) had just founded Picky Bars. We all knew and felt the challenges ahead, but we were also just so damn excited. It felt like this vast expanse of possibilities laid out before us.

What do you remember of those early moments and meetings?

Lauren: I remember the electricity. The possibility. Each of our frequencies created the satisfaction of a beautiful chord played together. There is magic in that. I believe that when you get aligned passions with diverse skills together, anything is possible. You don’t mind hard work when it so clearly makes a difference. I remember thinking I would probably have the best time of my life with these brilliant people working my ass off, and I was right. I wanted the best for each and every one of you in that room, and still do.

Sally: Later that year, when our sponsorship talks with you got serious, I remember all of us sitting around the big table at our Seattle office, relishing the moment when we were going to drop the f-Bomb on New Year’s Eve. The Fleshman bomb… that not only were you leaving Nike and signing with Oiselle, but you were pregnant too!

On January 1, 2013, it was official. Without giving it much thought, honestly, because we were so pumped about your pregnancy — Oiselle became the first running brand to sign a pregnant athlete in part because, gasp - wait for it, you were pregnant.

I also remember you sitting at my dining room table and hitting publish on your announcement blog post: “We met on the Internet and now we’re hitched!”

We were all standing around in our post-5K clothes - a little bit chilled but plenty caffeinated, and I had this overwhelming sensation of love, and hope, and excitement. We were so grateful for your belief in this crazy small brand trying to shoot for the moon.

Lauren: I felt the same love for you guys, the same belief. I felt seen and believed in and trusted, three things I had never felt professionally before. There was no doubt in my mind we would change the sport together, and there was no other place I’d rather be. Being at that NYE party, making the announcement, surrounded by new friends and family, I felt like the luckiest human alive. I wanted to do right by everyone there who believed in me. I knew I was in the right environment to do my best work that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else.

Sally: 2013 was also the year of the epic, completely viral combo of NYC Fashion Week AND your post on body image — as you pulled back the curtain on the contrast between spray tanned illusions and relaxed reality.

That struck such an immediate chord for so many women. Then and now - how do you think back on that moment? Do you feel like that’s still an important message, or do you think people are turning the corner on body image, with more acceptance?

Lauren: It’s an evergreen message. We can’t take our foot off the gas on it. For most brands, body positivity, like “diversity” or “women”, is a marketing fad used to generate sales before moving onto another message. Dieting isn’t slowing down. Body shaming hasn’t stopped. White, cis, hetero patriarchy continues to drive our culture’s beauty ideals overall. We will probably always have to fight for the right to feel that we are enough in our bodies during this lifetime. Brands like Oiselle are essential in this fight because it isn’t a fad to us—it’s our daily life. The good news is, it’s easier to keep feeling good in our bodies as they are when we are surrounded by others who share a commitment to that culture. We create safe spaces, adjust them as we learn how to be better, and keep inviting others in.

Sally: One steadfast truth, that is a constant through all of our years of working together, is that your take on the world really, really, really resonates with people.

I’m going to fall short, in trying to describe it, but I’ll give it a go.

You’re approachable. I would characterize the classic Lauren post as aspirational with a hearty nod to imperfection. You might share a glorious, postcard quality photo, but also - with a shot of your kid crumpled in the snow, red-faced and crying. Do you intentionally think about how to keep it real on social media, or is it just what’s happening, and you figure why change it?

Lauren: For me, it creates discomfort to be perceived as something other than what I am. Being/feeling in alignment is when who you are on the inside matches who you are on the outside, and finally how you are seen by others around you. The first two are in my control. I can’t really control the last one, and for public figures that is an area that can cause a lot of pain. I do my best work when I’m in alignment. My words are most impactful on the reader and for my own processing when I say them from a real place.

Sally: You’re curious. The world is changing fast, and I love that you’re forthright with the fact that you’re a learning human on a learning journey. And yet at the same time, you’re clearly not afraid to say ‘now that we know better, we should do better.’ Does that curiosity, or bigger picture radar, come from the communities that you’re in, the reading you do, or some inner conviction to stay open minded?

Lauren: I do a ton of reading and seek out inquisitive community and now have a lot of humility about what I think I know and don’t know. I no longer believe you can have it all figured out, ever. One of my gifts is the ability to zoom out and see patterns and how things relate over time, and I know that what we thought we knew 10, 25, 75, 200 years ago has changed dramatically. Social norms, language, what is ethical, they shift and will continue to. This constant changing and shifting and even science telling us one thing and then the other five years later—it can make a person want to despair and do nothing for fear of doing it wrong. Or worse, think none of it really matters. The only things that dont change are the importance of Justice to a healthy society and the power of love. So I anchor in love and Justice, and love demands action with the best info I have at the time, and the promise to continue paying attention.

Sally: You’re engaged. I’ve long appreciated that you welcome people in, and respond too. Part of that is the approachability and curiosity, as stated above. But it’s also the fact that you’re willing to wade in and have conversations with people. To high five, or push back. I’ve also seen you show up big time at IRL events (as well as the aftermath of the exhaustion). As you get ready for your book tour, how do you think about showing up, while also holding onto yourself?

Lauren: This is a legit hard question. I’m preparing myself to be disliked, to be disapproved of, and to face criticism from people, most of whom don’t love or truly care about me as a human being. I’m also preparing to open some hearts and minds and move people into thought and action. I am not the ultimate source of anything. I certainly can’t solve big problems alone. I’m trying to give myself permission to let the incredibly hard work of the book feel satisfying, as a personal accomplishment, to feel the completion, and then put an emotional shield up for whatever comes next. The book is an offering. As Cheryl Strayed says, what happens next is none of my business. There are things I could do to help the book sell better and “be successful” but some of those things require energy I simply don’t have right now. I can’t do an exhaustive tour. I just don’t have it in me. I will definitely promote the book because I believe in it and stand by my work and genuinely believe it can make a difference. And I will travel for events but I need to be selective and preserve my energy. My post-depression resilience is better than a year ago but not yet robust.

Sally: Maybe it’s obvious, but I think we all saw eye to eye on product and design. I have many memories of us huddling over prototypes, talking about the details that make a garment special, and luxuriating in all the fabrics.

When I think of the styles that you’ve loved most, I think Wazzie Wool, Outerwear, Flow Tanks, our thickest tights, for Bend winters – and of course the Fleshman Felted Wool Cap. Am I missing anything?

Lauren: You nailed it. I’d add Pocket Joggers and Super Puff Mittens! And I love me a Lux Mile One Pullover. Lux 4ever.

Sally: So here we are, ten years in - and you’re about to be a published author!!! Good for a Girl will be released next week! Everyone should order it here.

When I received an advance copy, I did something I rarely do (because I’m a slow reader) and devoured it cover to cover in one sitting. Basically, from about 6pm to 2am. I would describe it as 50% memoir, 50% roadmap, and 100% incredible writing that had me flying through the pages. It’s such a special book - and a gift to the world!

In terms of the book writing process…If you could share a high and a low, what would those be? And if you could go back and tell your ‘day one’ author self one thing, what would it be?

Lauren: One high was spending nearly a week with my writing friends at the coast. The energy was fantastic and we all go so much done! A low was trying to write through the muck of a depressive episode that seemed to never want to end. Negative thoughts are part of writing a book in the best of times; heading into an activity every day that made me face my demons when already surrounded by them…just awful. I’d tell my day one author self to get healthy before starting in earnest.

Sally: Below are the dates of your first events, with more to come. I can’t wait to get my signed copy, and send copies to friends as the best way to start 2023!

Speaking of writing, and as a sign off, I have to say that some of my favorite memories - in terms of our work together - have been writing related. Specifically, co-writing our Flight Manual / Brand Manifesto - which really grounded us as a brand - as well as the New School video we did in 2018. Your voiceover still gives me goosebumps!

Lauren, thank you. No seriously. Thank you for putting your time and trust in Oiselle. Personally, you’ve helped me grow as a leader. Professionally, Oiselle has flown higher under your wings. And we’ve all managed to navigate many ups and downs, and come through stronger.

Lucky 13 indeed! I hope we can keep it rolling forever and ever… 2033, here we come!

Xoxo Sally

Lauren: So thankful for you and this incredible company, Sally. Happy New Year!

Xoxo Lauren

Sally: I will leave you with this throwback. Check out the original, printed (haha LETTERPRESS) membership cards we did for the Fleshman Flyer Club after signing her in 2013. I’m sure there are women out there that are still hanging onto theirs, just like me!

Sally Bergesen
Tagged: Team