"When we launched in 2012, after 2008 happened brands were cutting their women's lines," says Ashley Rankin, Shredly's founder and lead designer. "There were just not a lot of options for women at all. . . . The brands that were really on it knew that they needed to offer something for women but there was not very much forethought that went into the products."
She adds, "Not only was that happening, but everything was also just black, or maybe there was a plaid, maybe a screen-printed design on a pair of black shorts."
With a degree in apparel design and production, Rankin says she wondered why there weren't any fun shorts available. "That really was pestering me," she says. "It was either they were comfortable shorts and they're really ugly. Or there are kind of cute shorts and they're not comfortable. I was like, 'Why can we not accomplish these two things?'"
Rankin brainstormed with her friends to develop the line, which debuted in 2012. "In the beginning, since we launched when nothing else exciting was happening in the mountain bike world," she says. "We got a lot of really great organic PR from that."
Shredly won Outside magazine's women's mountain bike short of the year in 2020. Notes Rankin: "We've gotten that two other times throughout the years, but it's getting more competitive because there are more people doing things in this space, which is good because that means the space of growing in this space is improving."
New products and options keep Shredly in the media spotlight. "Last year, we launched sizes up to 24, which no one else was really doing in the space," Rankin explains.
Where Shredly manufactures
Since launching, Rankin knew she wanted to manufacture and maintain as much of the company's supply chain as possible in the U.S. She found she was able to manufacture Shredly's garments in California and has increasingly sourced more materials from the U.S. and North America at large.
The company currently manufactures at two factories in California, according to Rankin. "I'm super proud of our factory in San Diego. We were able to keep sewers working throughout almost all of COVID except for when they were required to shut down. It has anywhere from seven to 12 sewers and we're employing them about 75 percent of the time with our work," she says.
The company also contracts with a factory in Los Angeles. "They're much bigger. We employ them about three months out of the year," Rankin says. That facility has about 20 sewers working on Shredly clothes.
"Primarily we have all of our shorts done in San Diego right now, and then our tops and some of our accessory items are done in L.A.," Rankin explains. "Our more technical garments . . . have historically all been made in San Diego."
Manufacturing technical biking clothing in the U.S. has its issues, however. "There's a certain type of zipper that you see a lot in mountain bike shorts that we can't do here. There are certain types of finishes that you can't do," Rankin explains. "The machinery is different and therefore a lot of the techniques that are used are different and there are types of seams or stitches that you just can't get here."
Still, to make the pieces Rankin wants, "There's usually always a workaround," she says.
The supply chain has also gotten shorter over the years. "In the past, I had to import our shorts fabrics from overseas because nobody in the states manufactured performance fabric," says Rankin .
However, an Asian-owned factory opened up in the Eastern U.S. that now manufactures the fabric Shredly uses, and the company's chamois cloth is made in Mexico.
The U.S. manufacturing and supply chain has its advantages, especially considering the current situation with tariffs and trade wars. "If we would have produced [or bought those materials] overseas, that would have really hurt us in a time where you didn't even have time to plan for it," Rankin says. "That was huge."
She also points to the flexibility it allowed during the onset of COVID-19: "Yes, we did get shut down. No, we did not get to make all of the products that we had planned on making this year. We absolutely left a lot of money on the table because we didn't know that our industry would explode."
"Having that speed to market, having your supply chain here is incredible because we got shut down," Rankin adds. "But the minute that we were able to open back up, we picked up right where we left off things as quickly as we could."
"One of the huge opportunities is that we can continue to grow mountain biking as a sport for women," says Rankin. "We can be the brand that does all things for women's mountain biking, supporting the community of women's mountain biking and offering the product that women need in that space."
That means building a company that can support growth, she adds. "We are lean and mean," Rankin says. "As we scale and as we grow, we're going to need all the things that are required as a business evolves."
She adds, "Now that I'm running a business that needs to be profitable and I'm responsible for other people's livelihoods, there are some harsh realities about what is practical and what is not. It's really walking that line, and we have to find our groove."