What the Flock? Is Oiselle’s Volée Right for You?

Is the flock worth it?Being a serious runner has its privileges. Brands often throw themselves at us, offering free merchandise in exchange for our tweets, ‘grams, and a place on our bodies at races. In their beginning, Oiselle was no different in this way than many brands. Through it’s brand ambassadorship program, the Volée, Oiselle offered loyal, socially connected runners a race kit and discounts on apparel.

But things changed in 2014, when Oiselle introduced the Flock. Responding to a surge in interest in its Volée team after scoring partnerships with superstars Lauren Fleshman and Kara Goucher, Oiselle sought to expand its brand ambassadorship program. To do so, though, it could not offer free stuff and huge discounts to everyone who wanted to be a part of it, so Oiselle created a third tier group to add to its Haute Volée (elite runners) and Volée (classic brand ambassadors) teams. This third tier group was initially called the Flock. For the members of the Flock, Oiselle scaled back the discounts offered to the old Volée members and charged them $100. In 2015, the brand merged its Volée with the Flock. Now all non-elite members are part of the Volée team and all must pay $100 to be a part of it.

With so many runners flocking to pay to be a brand ambassador for Oiselle and, of course, the chorus from the corresponding haters, I was curious enough to investigate, from the average runner’s perspective, whether joining the Flock was worth the $100 and the energy and time investment in promoting the brand. 

Since it hatched in 2014, the Volée has evolved to include thousands of women runners. The benefits of the Volée to Oiselle are many. Of course, like Amazon prime subscribers who need to purchase sundries online, when a member of their Flock wants running apparel, theoretically, she’s going to head to Oiselle first. Thousands of Volée members means thousands of loyal customers, customers who are bound to wear their gear to boot!

But more importantly, the Volée members are working as marketers for the company and executing its marketing strategy. They advertise for the company at races and all over social media. They promote the elite athletes that the company sponsors. There’s no denying there is some aspect of paying to do Oiselle’s marketing work for them when one joins the Volée.

Even so, the litany of benefits the company offers its Volée members might make it be worth it to you. Oiselle offers:

  • The Volée Kit (iconic racing singlet plus spike bag), free shipping on all domestic orders through oiselle.com, early access to new and limited edition Oiselle product, $20 off one pair of Oiselle bottoms (we’re known for great fitting shorts!)
  • $25 of your membership directly goes to our Emerging Elite Athlete Fund that supports our Haute Volée athletes making the leap to national level competition. These non-professional athletes are working to make the jump to pro status, and your contribution directly funds their dream.
  • We invite you to Volée; all paces and walks of life are encouraged to join us. If you are interested in helping build our run community, we welcome you.

Some of these benefits are pretty unambiguous: it’s easy for team members to discern whether or not they are getting their money’s worth. If you already buy a ton of running apparel each year, you might get your $100 worth in the free shipping and discounts alone on usually high quality, flattering stuff to boot. But for the average runner who buys a few pieces here and there, there probably needs to be more than that to be worth $100.

Oiselle seemingly knows this and that’s why it also guarantees the Volée more than cheaper expensive cute clothes. Volée members also are promised the feeling of being part of a team, support from fellow “Birds” in the “sisterhood,” and an opportunity to support and associate with elite runners. These offerings are very unique to Oiselle’s ambassadorship program, which are generally about trading deeply discounted or free products if the ambassador uses her social media and in-person social network to market for the company. Can Oiselle deliver these unique intangibles? Are Volée members part of a pro-woman, supportive sisterhood, or are those benefits more talk than action?

Is it a team?

flockMembers of the Francophiliac flock have varied opinions as to whether they feel like they’re part of a team. Oiselle is well known for their use of social media in marketing, and as expected, many members of the Flock are shrewd social media users. Just type in #flystyle or #oisellevolee or even #headupwingsout into any social media search engine and you’re likely to find a slough of Oiselleans in Oiselle gear, flashing race times on their GPS watches or posing in an artistic-but-athletic manner. This is one way Oiselle helps to build the team aspect of the Volée: members connect with each other and communicate via each other’s social media pages. Of course, this creates a team atmosphere while doing double duty as a guerilla marketing campaign. Behind the scenes, Oiselle also uses the Ning social network to keep Volée members in touch, fostering conversations and meet-ups.

I spoke to one Flock member, who we’ll call Lark. She didn’t want to be named, but was eager to share her input. Lark told me, “there is a lot of outreach from locally designated leaders and from central leadership through email and social media … I think that speaks a lot to how much Oiselle really does value the [Flock] concept.”

Despite this, some Volée members say that they don’t feel like part of a team at all. Another member of the team who asked to remain anonymous – we’ll call her Cardinal – described the evolution of the Flock as moving from “a group of semi-compensated brand ambassadors to a paying fan club.” Another member – we’ll call her Chickadee – said that she only started feeling like a part of a team when they were able to attend Oiselle’s group getaway, Bird Camp, which members have to apply (and pay) to attend. Cardinal, having been with Oiselle since 2012, feels the size of the Flock has taken away from the team feeling. She elaborated: “as much as I’m happy to see them grow, I’m sad that the small team experience is gone.”

Is it a sisterhood?

Through their team, Oiselle seeks to “to create a sisterhood of support at a variety of levels from beginners to professionals, from the roads to the trails to the track.” Do they deliver? Chickadee says they do. She feels that the Volée offers her a community linked by a shared common interest in running. She cited a recent Salty article about run-shaming, and said that she feels comfortable talking about running experiences with other Volée members in a way that she can’t in her non-running life. Lark, agreed. “The value of the Volée, like many other groups, depends on what you put into it,” she said. “There are many opportunities for group runs and meet ups, unique forum discussions, but members have to be proactive to get involved in these activities.”

Of course, there are those who feel differently. Cardinal feels that the rapid growth took away from the feeling of a sisterhood. For her, the group has gotten too big too quickly to establish any personal connections. She said, “I feel like the community experience I want just isn’t there any more, and I’m not in a place where I want to expend the energy to make it work.”

Another former Volée member and blogger, Allie Burdick, said she initially felt community support from the other Volée members and from Oiselle’s internal social media pages. But, she says, when the structure of the program changed with the introduction of the Flock, so did the level of support and communication from the company itself, specifically its interest in races and results from team members. On the positive side, Allie said, “I feel like the communication on social media is growing, and the community of the Flock can be very supportive.”

Is it a way to connect with elites?

Finally, Oiselle promises that Volée members will support, and therefore be associated with, elite runners. Twenty-five percent of the income generated from Volée membership dues goes directly to supporting Oiselle’s Haute Volée, specifically runners who have qualified for Olympic Trials or have comparable athletic accomplishments. Per the company website, the fund specifically helps with race entries, gear, coaching, and travel. Oiselle tells the Flock they should be “happy to be a small part” of the training of up and coming elite runners, implying a moral obligation to support their faster running peers. Besides warm fuzzies, do the Volée members get anything out of this aspect of the deal?

The Volée members I spoke to shrugged off any affiliation with the Haute Volée and with the Emerging Athlete Fund. They received exclusive emails from Kara Goucher and online pep talks from Lauren Fleshman that are only available to them, but beyond that, they didn’t feel connected to Oiselle’s elites much, if at all. Some of the four Bird Camps across the country offered guest appearances by usually lower-level Haute Volée members, but none of the Volée members I spoke to had opportunities to meet them. Some had not attended Bird Camp, and some had attended Bird Camps that did not have interaction with elites.

The Bottom Line

Oiselle provides high-end, flattering and functional running apparel and has sought to differentiate themselves from other similar brands like Lululemon and Athleta by promising its brand ambassadors a team, a sisterhood of support, and an affiliation with up-and-coming elite runners. If you feel compelled to financially support faster runners, or simply plan to buy a ton of their stuff, then a membership in Oiselle’s Volée is definitely worth the costs of brand-exclusivity, a little social media pimping, and the $100.

Are you a current or former member of Oiselle’s Volée? What have your experience been like? If not, would you want to be a part of it? Why or why not?

I am a stay at home mom and group fitness instructor from South Texas. I love reading, wine, and travel. I write about trends, injury prevention and maintenance, and satire. I am training to break 1:30 in the half marathon sometime soon, and for the 2017 Boston Marathon.

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  1. This came out great and very informative. Although I will no longer be part of the Oiselle team, I do feel they have a lot to offer the Flock and I will definitely continue to buy their clothing since it’s very high quality.

  2. I signed up yesterday for my second year as part of the Volee, and I really love it. Yes, Oiselle is a company, and it needs to make money. Yes, I am contributing to spreading the brand with paying to be a part of the team.
    But I feel I get a lot out of it. Oiselle stands up for what I believe in: supporting women of all abilities in running, speaking out against unfair IOC, USOC and USATF policies and practices, aiding in other companies and athletes in their fight to save track and field from its governing bodies, speaking out against doping. With being a part of the Volee, I put my money where my mouth is.
    I feel I’m buying from a company that has good practices and treats its employees and athletes well. Oiselle makes great running clothes! That fit! With pockets! That’s a big deal. I hated most running shorts until I found the Roga short. Having properly fitting and cute clothes is fantastic.
    It’s also a lot of fun to know I’m part of something. Wearing the kit means I get extra cheers from my fellow Birds at races. We meet up and it’s wonderful to see someone and know we’re part of the same tribe even if I have no idea who they are. Being part of a team offers connection, and meeting new people is not exactly my strength.
    When I talk about Oiselle, I honestly don’t feel I’m pimping out. I talk about running all the time not to brag, but because I genuinely love it. Same with Oiselle. This is honest, and I’m a skeptical kind of person. Being a brand ambassador of sorts isn’t exactly something I would have every pictured myself doing. But here we are, and I’m in.
    Yes, all of this is worth $100 to me.

    1. That’s great that it’s been such a valuable part of your runner life! It’s not for everyone, but if it’s awesome for you, that’s just awesome! 🙂

      1. Nothing is for everyone. I’m not sure why the Volee has drawn some hate. It’s great, but in the end, it’s just running.

          1. It’s not unbiased when an overwhelming majority of the commentary is negative.
            Not saying it’s hateful, but definitely not unbiased. You could have done a better job by interviewing both sides.

          2. Olive didn’t interview haters either. She wasn’t interested in taking a stand and presenting information that’s already out there and I personally wouldn’t be interested in publishing that. Each person Olive talked to had at worst mixed feelings. If runners are interested in the extremely positive they can go to the Oiselle site. If they want the opposite they can go to Gomi or whatever. If they want a neutral balanced discussion, come here.

          3. Ash-I interviewed Flock members with no agenda-just asking questions and reporting the facts. I wasn’t going to change answers to seem overly positive or negative, like Salty said. Also, I’m sure what in the post is overwhelmingly negative-did you read it?

  3. I love Oiselle — really, probably more for what it stands for than the products, to be honest. I loved the idea of being part of their “team,” especially when my local running store ended its racing team. When they recently reopened Volée registration, I thought about it long and hard. I really dig what they do. And they have a sweet crop racing top, which is something I’ve wanted but that nobody sells. But, the Volée kit comes with the regular singlet with a possible option to buy the crop … and I race in my coach’s team singlet and I wouldn’t trade that for a Volée singlet (I would, however, trade it for a sponsored kit if someone was kicking me free gear). Spike bag? Don’t need it. Sisterhood? I connect with other Oiselle fans on social media all the time without being in the Volée itself.

    So, despite my passion for what they do, the $100 price tag didn’t seem well-spent. But I’m still hoping to maybe get fast enough for Haute Volée someday!

    1. I also love that they cater to performance-focused women runners almost exclusively. It’s refreshing to have a brand that takes women athletics seriously rather than assumes we’re just in it to look cute. And I love that they’ve created a new goal for women runners to strive for! Hope you get it! Also, that stinks about your local running store 🙁

      1. Yeah, we’re benefit of a real sub-elite/development type program here. One other store has a racing team but it’s basically a singlet and a not-very-good discount (not even employee pricing). Ours had discounts on apparel and shoes plus a points system to earn store credit. Basically every race win was a free pair of shoes. Probably a little tooooo generous and that’s why it is no more. 🙁 So now I’m doing a little bit of marketing work for them in exchange for a discount, plus I’m teaching Pilates 3x a week at my gym so I use that money to pay for running/fitness gear, entries, etc. AND I scored a comp entry for my fall marathon, so that’s a win.

  4. From a business stand-point there is so much that Oiselle does that I admire. But, I think that when an entity’s primary focus is making money off of selling expensive clothes, it can’t *really* promote these broad noble concepts of sisterhood and woman-power. Just by charging for the privilege and requiring people wear these expensive clothes, Volee is exclusionary. Even the stuff about the IOC, USATF, etc is self-serving. Which is all completely fine – it’s not good or bad. But I do not believe Oiselle is furthering these noble ideas as much as it purports to – it can’t! “Sisterhood” is more marketing than do-gooding – again, there’s nothing wrong with that per se. But if do-gooding is the aim, this is why for-profit companies create charitable foundations: the aims of the for-profit are fundamentally inconsistent with charity. Even the emerging athlete fund is a fund to market for Oiselle more than it is to help the athletes. It does some double-duty and I’m sure it does help the athletes, but again … it’s to further the company and is not charity. If you want to help emerging athletes or promote sisterhood, if those are really important to you, there are more direct ways of doing those things that don’t require doing marketing for an apparel company. Just my two-cents from an outside perspective 🙂

    1. The emerging athlete fund help nearly 20 women who competed at the Olympic Trials, including 17 of the 18 women who ran at the OT Marathon.
      I don’t think Oiselle’s clothes are any more expensive than brands such as Nike. Go into a running shop or sporting goods store, and the prices are comparable.
      And I have to ask: Why can’t a business promote ideas AND sell products? Where is that rule? Charities aren’t the end-all, be-all either. Many big time charities get busted for spending a ton of money on administration and very little on what they claim to do.

      1. Those women would have had the funds from Oiselle regardless. The $25 from a membership goes into the Oiselle bank and then gets moved to another line on the budget sheet which just happens to be labeled “emerging athlete fund”. They put a label on a budget line, and use it to get people to spend membership money. ALL companies who had athletes at the trials have their own “athlete fund” line on their budget sheet, they just don’t advertise that or use the label to gain memberships to something. Every time I buy a pair of shoes from a company, a portion of that goes to the athletes- whether they tell me it does or not.

        1. It adds to what Oiselle can do and give to these hardworking women. A small company won’t have the resources of a larger one to pay out a ton of money for contracts. The Volee members choose to join and add to that.
          As far as purchasing shoes, sure, a tiny portion of that purchase will go to contracts, but let’s be real, it’s going to be tiny. Something like $25 isn’t a lot, but it’s a specific purchase I’m happy to make to help them realize a dream.

          1. Again, I am not knocking the Emerging athlete fund. I am simply stating that ALL companies have athlete funds, YES many of those companies have the ability to give more funds as they have spent far more time in the industry than Oiselle. That doesn’t mean Oiselle wont be a big company one day, but those companies didn’t get big overnight either. They all have budgets and databases to determine how they allocate their funds- labeling it and making it public doesn’t mean that oiselle is the only company that has a specific fund for athletes.

            Sure, every time I buy shoes and clothes from a company, a TINY portion will go to the athletes- But this is also a much bigger company with far higher sales. So that tiny portion adds up especially with established companies. There will be a time where hopefully Oiselle is big enough or have the desire to put their sales towards athletes instead of making it a requirement for the ambassadors.

          1. Pam, what I am saying is that ALL companies have a budget. All companies have percentages of where profits go. To break it down. Hypothetically say a company sells something for $100. That product actually costs $30 to make. That means there are $70 left to be broken down.$10 will go to the factory who made it, leaving $60. $10 is probably allocated for profit loss (theft, returns, damages etc.), $30 probably goes to salaries of employees. $10 goes to reinvest, $5 to marketing and then $5 for athletes. These are all totally made up examples, but what I’m saying is ALL companies have breakdowns of how their sales are allocated. Larger companies don’t NEED to advertise that they have a fund for athletes, because their sales are big enough to support that fund for their athletes. Oiselle NEEDS the ambassadors to donate money because their sales as a newer company and smaller company cannot support everything they want to do. If Nike advertised that they had an emerging athlete fund everyone would laugh- it’s KNOWN that they make enough money and are set up enough to support athletes without asking people to give them more money besides what they spend on products. They still have that athlete fund, but it isn’t broadcasted as such, it’s just another line on their budget.

          2. That is a marketing strategy on Oiselles part- to make people think they are supporting their athletes financially by being open and vocal about it and making you think that other companies don’t. Molly Huddle has been sponsored by Saucony for years, I’m sure she didn’t stay there that long if she wasn’t being treated right and taken care of financially. Same with New Balance Athletes. Even Nike athletes (even though their contracts are full of reduction clauses). Oiselle isn’t supporting their athletes any more than other’s are financially- they’re just putting a label on it to give you a reason to pay to be a part of Volee.

          3. Ok but how do you know they aren’t supporting their athletes any more than others or that its just a marketing strategy? That is my question.

        2. This is not correct. I am the team manager at Oiselle and we use the “Emerging Elite Fund” money that our Volée members contribute $25 of the $100 membership to directly pay for particular expenses that come from 36 Haute Volée members training and racing (this does not include our Professionals – women like Kara, Steph, etc) Things like training shoes, airfare & hotel to the Marathon Trials and Track and Field Trials, coaching fees that some of our Haute Volée pay their coaches which ends up being very expensive for them, etc.etc.
          Kristin Metcalf – Haute Volée Team Manager

          1. I just want to clarify. What Barley says about your accounting practices is incorrect, Kristin? Otherwise, I don’t see a disagreement.

      2. This is completely correct. We used money directly in the “Emerging Elite Fund” to pay for over 15 women’s airfare and hotel cost for the Olympic Trials Marathon. If you do the math – that was a lot of money. – Kristin Metcalf – Haute Volée Team Manager

        1. But that doesn’t change the fact, that other companies do the SAME thing but just don’t put a label on their fund that contributes to athletes.

          1. i’m not saying the label on the fund is wrong, but I’m saying that Oiselle is certainly not the only company that paid for their athletes to compete at the trials. Kristin, you must not be trying to say that is the case.

          2. When did Oiselle ever claim they were the only company contributing to their elite athletes? Obviously this is not the case and Oiselle is not trying to make people think that it is. All they are stating is that $25 from our registration fee goes to help support their emerging elite runners.

    2. So I need to start by saying I don’t know all that much about Oiselle so I really appreciated this post. But the thing that struck me in a negative way was the “pay to play”. I think any time you require payment to join a group – of any kind – you’re excluding and in someway creating an us /them situation. Salty of course said it so much better than I could 🙂

      1. I understand how that could be off-putting. Are there groups out there that offer similar benefits (real or perceived) that are not pay to play? Just asking out of curiosity, I know there are so many groups out there now.

        1. Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town is the one that comes to mind. Although discounted apparel is not typically part of the benefits from that group.

      2. I look at that no differently than paying club dues or membership fees – which I have done and continue to do in other areas as well. Plus, the Emerging Athletes Fund, while there’s some misinfo above, does really matter. Many Volee members cite that as important to them.

        Oiselle is extremely inclusive and they very vocally support all women in the sport – not just their own elites or Volee.

        1. I want to make sure there is no misinformation and that all the facts are out there. So, if you could please elaborate christine, I’d really appreciate it!

        2. Christine, I’m sorry you feel there is misinformation. The Emerging athlete fund IS a good thing and it’s great Oiselle supports their athletes- but my point is simply that Oiselle is not the only company that paid for their athletes to go to the trials. Do you think Nike made Shalane pay her way to the trials? What about Kellyn Taylor, Hoka surely paid for her trip as well. ALL of the companies have funds that go to the athletes.

          1. Of course those companies support their athletes – that’s what it means to be a sponsored athlete. Oiselle provides transparency in how the Volee funds are applied to that support. It makes group members like me feel connected in a specific way that is different from wondering if $10 or 10 cents from my latest purchase from a company like Nike or Saucony went to directly to assist athletes I admire and want to support. Seeing the stands filled with a huge section of women and friends who felt personally connected to and invested in the athlete’s success and appearance at the Trials was really unique. It’s not just about moving numbers around on a balance sheet for them.

          2. The difference here is that Shalane and Kellyn are professional athletes with full contracts. The emerging elites that Oiselle supports are athletes who are not (yet) at the same level. There were numerous women who fell into that category at the marathon trials and I would hazard a guess that those who don’t have the backing of a fund like Oiselle’s did pay their own way to the trials.

          3. Christine then why is what I am saying misinformation. Kristin seems to think I am wrong, and you yourself did but then just admitted that of course those companies pay too. SURE Oiselle is more transparent maybe as a smaller company (good marketing tactic to help them grow). But that doesn’t make my point invalid- ALL of the companies have those funds and paid for athletes- Oiselle is not the only company the put up a “lot of money” (Kristin’s words) to get their athletes there. I am not saying in any way the emerging athlete fund is wrong, but that doesn’t make them any more financially special than Saucony, New balance or Nike. That sounds like an amazing experience at the trials, but that doesn’t take away that it’s still a business and Oiselle is still moving numbers around on a balance sheet. That doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of other women or athletes there that didn’t feel personally connected to athletes competing.

          4. Allie definitely a good point. No, not all athletes had financial help getting there. But Oiselle also has all OTQ runners on their Haute Volee team- so technically (from what I understand) they too have contracts. They May not be Shalane sized contracts but it’s still a professional running contract. I will say again and again and again I don’t think the Oiselle fund is a bad thing, but I think it’s misleading to think that other companies don’t have something similar that they just aren’t as public about. For example, Saucony has their hurricane team which is not Molly Huddle level, but they get gear, some money for race entries- and I can’t say for sure but if they were competing in the trials I’d assume some help for travel. Oiselle does a lot of good- but believing that they are the only company that does good things is incredibly false.

          5. Christine- here are the facts, since you don’t think my points are valid—-. Oiselle supports their athletes financially and talks about it publicly. Other companies support their athletes and might not do that as publicly but that doesn’t mean they don’t do it. If we don’t tweet about something, did it really happen?

            I am not saying that they, or you are wrong. I also don’t understand why my points are invalid to you, when nothing I am saying is actually false.

          6. No one said they are the only ones who do good things or who support athletes. People ask why “pay to play,” and for my part I only wanted to explain why the way this particular funding is set up makes some Volee feel it is worthwhile. That’s it. I’ve said nothing to imply that I don’t think other companies do good things.

          7. Then can you please clarify what “misinformation” I was giving above? I wouldn’t want to give incorrect facts (I am not trying to be anti-Oiselle, I’m simply stating that other companies do the same thing as the athlete fund but without calling it that….that is a fact).

          8. All they’re doing is saying what the money is earmarked for. Is it possible that you’re getting caught up on the semantics here?

          9. Yeah, strangely I don’t really think there’s much disagreement on this point. Everyone is kinda saying the same thing just in a different way.

      3. With that logic, every run club that collects dues is “pay to play” and therefore exclusionary. Critiquing the Flock on this basis seems unduly harsh.

        1. Frank, you are correct it is about semantics. THAT is exactly my point. In no way was I saying the emerging athlete fund is a bad thing. I was simply stating that being public and open about what it’s called is transparency and gains them support as it’s a marketing technique whether conscious or not. But when I stated that they are not special or different from other companies for that, I was told I was wrong. The fact is, all of the companies have that- they just don’t all have to broadcast it and ask for head pats and donations because they are bigger more established companies. Oiselle is SO new compared to most of the brands in the industry, it’s going to take them time to get to the point where others can simply fund athletes through their sales and sales alone. But by putting a label on their program, they are encouraging women to pay $100 for a club ($25 to the fund) by reminding them where there money is going. There is NOTHING wrong with that, but for those of us who choose other brands- I know that I am supporting a brand and all of it’s athletes simply through sales, and public support. I don’t need a manifesto or spike bag that I would inevitably donate (I don’t use) in order to feel my money is going to a good cause, I make charitable contributions monthly to a few different places- and I get nothing in return other than the satisfaction of helping out.

          I don’t think that anyone is saying that the “pay to play” is wrong, more that most people find their money could be better spent otherwise or they would get more of “paying to play” for something they get more out of. After re-reading the comments, that really seems to be the case about the $ portion of it all. People find they have other things they could spend their money on. In Fact Tracey even said that she loves Oiselle but would rather spend her money on their actual products…so no one here is being unduly harsh about the fees for the Volee- more simply stating they don’t feel it’s something they would be interested in but still want to support the company. I personally would be far more interested in paying dues for a local run club, than something like Oiselle because I will see the runners from the run club in my city far more than the MAYBE 1-3 times a year I would be able to do something with Oiselle athletes. Some runners may live in an area where there are far more Oiselle athletes, so that might be different for them. No one is claiming fault, but more that they feel they can do more with $100 than they get from Volee.

          1. I can’t speak to what other companies do with their money and all the intricacies of their athlete program. I can only say that I believe Oiselle to be transparent with how the Emerging Fund works (to help mitigate the costs for some of our athletes expenses) and I don’t believe we have ever claimed to be the only company supporting athletes in this kind of way. I do think you have brought up a lot of interesting points. I guess when it comes down to it – different programs resonate with some people and not with others. That’s the beauty of life. We are all a diverse bunch of humans with amazing similarities and differences and having open conversation and dialogue is always a good thing.

    3. I think they actually can and must do both – as a still-growing business, financial success allows them the opportunity and platform to reach out to more women and to have a higher profile in the sport.

      The idea that to stand for values or to promote strong ideals means being selfless and eschewing the need or drive to be financially successful is something that I struggle with. Why not profit from something that also makes you feel good about your work and brings others together? Profit isn’t a dirty word, but is something that takes a long time to achieve – and Oiselle is still growing in that area and is completely transparent about their motivations. What good does it do to have high ideals if your business goes down in flames and you don’t have the resources to support them? I think it’s a win for everyone when it works that way – and that sincere passion is actually part of what makes a great business successful in many cases.

      There’s no requirement for Volee to wear Oiselle gear exclusively – even at Oiselle events. I feel no compulsion or pressure to market for the company, but I do share info with friends about products I genuinely like or compare notes with others who have similar needs or taste. In reality, I also often talk with other Volee who share a desire to talk less about the clothes and more about our lives in and out of running – and that happens a lot. For me, it’s the balance that works.

      I just spent 10 days at the Trials in Eugene, and I’ll say that if you can have the opportunity to connect in person locally or at a larger-scale event, it is well worth it. We did spend time with many of the elite athletes directly, and I really appreciated how accessible both the team athletes and the Oiselle staff made themselves to all of us. I learned a ton about the sport and felt so excited to support women in competition and to be around “my tribe” all week. The connections and ideas of sisterhood are very real to these women, and it they weren’t the whole thing would explode pretty quickly in a fiery mess of social media hypocrisy-shaming.

      1. I feel the same way! There’s no pressure for me to perform or market for the company. If there were, I’d be out.

      2. I agree with you that company’s should have ideals they promote! My point is simply that above that is the need to make money from selling clothes. Oiselle created its ideals and promotes its ideals with the objective of selling clothes first, not to promote those ideals alone, and it’s clearly working to a large extent. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is something I think is important to understand if considering joining up. Like I said, if you’re primary purpose for considering joining is to help top athletes or promote the sport or whatever, there may be a more direct way of doing that. But, if you really love the clothes and have the bandwidth to assert yourself and get all the team benefits and such, then it sounds like it’s awesome.

        1. I figure I’ve gotta buy clothes to run in anyway, so it’s a win-win to put my money toward stuff I like that’s also made by a company that I respect, and I’ve connected with some pretty cool like-minded women along the way. 🙂

      3. That’s great, and I’m happy for both of you. I think we as women runners have a need to feel like part of a community, and I’m glad that Oiselle has met that need for you.

  5. Something I want to point out is that from a business standpoint, becoming connected to the Volee can be really helpful. The first day I joined, I wrote a blog post about my excitement, and received more hits to my blog that day than I ever have since. I also saw corresponding growth in all of my social media accounts. If I tag a photo with the team hashtags on Instagram, that photo will sometimes receive up to 2x as much engagement as a non-tagged picture.

    My blog is small and very new, and though I didn’t actually join the team for marketing reasons at all, I ended up feeling that this kind of organic exposure alone was worth the price I paid to join the team, and the other benefits I receive – the discounts, the connection to other like-minded women, the team singlet – just hammered it home.

  6. I was a member of the Volee, pre-Flock. They were interactive with me during the “courting phase” of the application process (and very complimentary of my then-blog). I was really excited to be part of a team (I had never run cross country or track, so I wanted very much to feel the team connection with running that I had with other high school sports), but once I was accepted as a member of the team, I never really heard from them again. There were something like 200 women in the group at the time, and the team manager (I think) was probably just overwhelmed with the load to have a personal connection to all of us (the team grew too fast). I didn’t even get my team kit until 3-4mo after acceptance, and barely in time for my big Fall race. At the time, they didn’t really offer any infrastructure for interacting with other members; it was all on us to make those connections and reach out. There were only maybe 3-4 members in my state (1-2 in my city), so in-person meet-ups at races were few and far between. It just didn’t feel like the team I signed up for.

    I started as someone who was really excited about the idea of a female-forward group, but I came to feel like the company’s marketing had shifted towards a more opportunistic feminism vibe. The team had become this machine where you were kind of in a contest for the brand’s attention: whoever posted the most brand-forward selfies on the internet won. And you didn’t win anything other than a retweet. It felt like it had become a pretty unbalanced relationship, and I felt like my time and reputation were worth more than the occasional 40% discount. When the female customer service rep told me, their female customer, that I should just size down when buying their compression bra to support a larger chest, I was disappointed (and then I couldn’t breathe, because duh). You have boobs! You know how these things work! That’s not how any of this works! Coupled with some nasty public comments/behavior from Sally herself (snide comments about other brands, etc.), it just became a brand I didn’t really want to align myself with. Everyone has a different experience with brands; unfortunately, for me, it was a negative one.

    1. I should also mention that towards the end of my time with them, they had started asking their Volee members to scout potential stores for biz growth, including getting contact info for their brand reps, etc. They weren’t forcing us to do it, but the fact that they were asking us to do it at all felt really beyond what I had signed up for. I wasn’t being paid as a sales/biz dev rep. I respect that they’re a newer company in a competitive market, but I didn’t really feel it was appropriate.

    2. This is a very accurate description of of my 5 years of Volee. When I started it was very focused on road racers (I am not one). A lot of competition for brand attention. I don’t connect with Oiselle’s brand of feminism any more and I don’t care for Sally’s public persona. Also was not interested in scouting businesses when asked. Plus I don’t make the money required to constantly buy new running clothes. I’m still waiting for Oiselle’s quality to match their prices, so I wasn’t a good ambassador anyway because I am very selective in what I think is worth buying from the company and I don’t shy away from telling people that. Sports bras (for smaller chests)- yes. Distance shorts- yes. Sweatshirts- no.

  7. Like many things, I’ll put this in the gray area. There are things that I think are great about the company, and there are other things- that I feel do the complete opposite of what they are trying to do. Promoting sisterhood, great- yes we should all be supporting women. But too often do I only see Oiselle supporting Oiselle- or women only supporting women who also paid to be a part of a group. I’m going to cheer for people at races, or interact with women online if I like what they’re saying regardless of their affiliation. It’s like the sorority thing, I simply feel it’s “buying friends” and that doesn’t sit right with me.

    I also felt that Kate’s moment of glory was taken away by her own sponsor. I’m not saying Rule 40 is right, in any way shape or form. I get that the business of it all, there are reasons the rules are there to protect the title sponsors. Are there better ways it could be done, with the athletes getting better compensation and accurate representation- YES. But going on a tirade and violating the rules doesn’t change the rules. The way I see it is Oiselle stepped on Kate to use her as a platform to whine about the way things are. If you can’t make your point without taking other peoples moments away or stepping on others- your point isn’t good enough. On another note though, the whole free bird hashtag and a post about how to support the athletes during the trials- cool why aren’t you focusing on that. Focus on what you can do, or encourage others to do. But again, that is also Oiselle making it about Oiselle and not about Kate. “please share these photos during the Olympics of Kate, but make sure to tag us!”. Sally…if you want to claim that your beef is about Kate and other athletes not getting paid properly, then stop making it about you and your company and stop telling people to worry about tagging you instead of simply celebrating an athletes accomplishments.

    I don’t really have an issue with the emerging athlete fund- because the thing is, all companies allocate funds for their athletes this is just one companies way of wording or putting a label on it. It makes their $100 sisterhood more appealing, because you are helping other athletes realize their dreams. Guess what, every time I buy Saucony shoes, and share photos and retweet athletes results I’m doing the same thing. My Saucony purchases give the company sales and revenue which pays for the products, pays some peoples salaries and also goes towards athletes like Molly Huddle. But, I don’t need a label on a fund for that.Neither does Oiselle or any company. if you want to support athletes who are sponsored…buying the companies products and being loyal does the trick. The companies are going to allocate the funds anyways.

    1. I’ll add to my own comment to say that I don’t think Oiselle is all bad. I think Olive did a great job with this post, highlighting the structure (which I think has been confusing to many over the years with changes) of the company and their brand ambassadors. You know what, at the end of the day if the company encourages women’s running, makes good clothes (I own nothing made by them so I cannot comment) and does foster connections between women than great! I have friends who are on Oiselle and love it, and it works for them. I will never give them crap because of something that brings them joy- there certainly are positive things that have come from an all women’s brand. But I also have the ability to sit back and look at the things that I personally, find don’t mesh with how I see things and why I choose not to apply to be a part of a group.

    2. Oiselle congratulated all the Olympians who made it to Rio at the track and field trials regardless of sponsor.

      1. Yes Lindsay, they did- while standing on top of Kate Grace’s podium taking her moment of glory and using it to further their own agenda.

        1. How was that taking away her moment of glory? They celebrated her AND called out unfair USOC practices starting in the days after (asking Oiselle to take down photos but not other groups) because the USOC didn’t like Oiselle posting pictures to celebrate Kate’s achievement. Why does this have to be one or the other? We can celebrate an awesome moment AND acknowledge what we think is unfair.

          1. Another thought: having a platform like the Olympics allows people who didn’t have a big voice to spread that message further. Nick Symmonds has done this with the World Championships and the Olympics. You have to speak out when the time is ripe, or no one gives a shit. In September, most people won’t care about Rule 40 and the IOC rules anymore.

          2. I think the situation is perceived differently by different people, especially between those inside and those outside the fold. Neither is 100% correct, but I do think there’s value in sharing these different viewpoints. I’m learning a lot!

          3. But the congratulations comes across as disingenuous when it’s cloaked in a veil of complaining about their unfair treatment.

          4. I can tell you with 100% certainty that the congratulations weren’t disingenuous. And that the combination of heartbreak and elation felt by the Oiselle folks with how that 800 meter final went down wasn’t disengenuous. Also, related to Kate and Rule 40 and all that other stuff…if you’ve read Rule 40 you know that it doesn’t kick in until July 27th. The ultimatum to take down photos of the Trials was completely unrelated to that and came out of left field. There were no rules communicated to any companies present that featuring the athletes’ bibs or the signage on the track would be considered copyright infringement prior to delivery of the letter to Oiselle. They weren’t “knowingly breaking the rules” because there was no rule.

          5. I believe USOC came down on Oiselle for trademark infringement, right Allie? Which did seem very strange, like they were looking for something to silence the squeaky wheel.

          6. But that came AFTER the USOC told them to take the congrats down, not immediately when Kate crossed the finish line.
            Should we all be quiet about something because we’re so grateful just to be there? I don’t think so. Should the women of the US Women’s National Team not talk about playing on turf instead of grass and getting paid a lot less during the World Cup or an Olympic year? If we don’t speak up then, when do we?

          7. Salty, yes, it was a “trademark infringement” claim, which is pretty ludicrous. And I have been told anecdotally that there is always a squeaky wheel that gets attention from the powers that be. Another company filled that role in 2012.

          8. Ya know … I kind of feel like if Oiselle wants their logos on team USA athletes they should pony up the same amount of money Nike does. And NBC pays a lot of money for the Olympic and USATF contracts – why should Oiselle get the same access they do for free? Blarg. I wish Sally would quit whining about that stuff and just suck it up. Oiselle is a great little company so far – but that’s just it, SO FAR. They have the potential to grow and grow and grow! I can understand their frustration that it seems like the marketing-rich are getting marketing-richer all the time while the little gal has to bootstrap and scrap her way up the ladder, but that’s just the way business in America works. Nike got into the sports game first and they have a very diversified market between sports, so it’s no wonder they’re at the top.

            Unfair. HA. Life isn’t fair.

            If you want to give money to athletes who need it, try donating $25 to Girls With Sole or Back on My Feet. You’ll even have $75 to buy a fancy shirt from Oiselle.

        2. I think stealing her moment of glory would be up to Kate to say. It was her glory. Not any of ours.

          1. Fair enough, but it’s sad for me to think about the fact that most people will remember Kate’s win as the race where the big collision happened or the race that started the Oiselle media uproar. Instead of the race where the took a chance, finished strong and ran a sub-2:00 half mile like a badass. Much of the publicity surrounding her win talked more about the rest of the race, and her sponsor taking the spotlight fighting the IOC.

  8. Before this article I really had no idea what the appeal was at all to pay $100 for a shirt (does anyone use spike bags? I don’t want that). I have a couple bras from them, the quality is comparable to other stuff, the price is a little high, but I wait around for the sales. But if you love their stuff and buy at full price and want all the discounts, sounds like it’s a great deal. The rest of it … well like Barley said above, just buying their stuff supports their athletes.

    1. Pretty sure I have a closet full of “spike bags,” aka sacks, that I got for free from other races. I’ve got a pair of capris from them (sale), a cute tank, a cute dolman tee, and a sports bra. The two non-running tops are my favorite things. The bra is a bit of a bust. The pads are oddly shaped, but give a lot of cleavage and it’s pretty low cut, so basically my girls are front-and-center. Not quite what I expected from a brand with their philosophical stances. But that one is also preference/user error.

  9. To clarify on a quote that was included in the article, you do not “apply” attend one of the running camps. The attendance is capped based on the facilities available at the camp location (which varies) but there is no application. You express interest and if more people want to go than there is space, a wait list is made. And yes, why wouldn’t one pay to attend a 4 day running camp? To assume that such a thing would be free is really entitled. And I didn’t attend in hopes of glomming onto an elite like a fangirl. If that is why someone wants to attend a camp, that type of behavior and expectation is another issue entirely.

    1. Pam I don’t think anyone is saying that camp would be free and that charging would be a problem. I think Olive simply meant, that there is some exclusivity with the camp as not all birds can attend (whether its size restriction or what not). The post is meant to be informative, and if someone were interested in Oiselle and their camp we wouldn’t want to make it seem like it was included with the $100 fee- simply stating you pay for it as extra cost (as it should be!)

    2. Pam, I was trying to elaborate on the fact that one of the Birds said she didn’t feel like she was part of a team UNTIL she went to camp. But camp is not something that all Flock members automatically get with their membership. Like Barley said, it was meant to be informative only.

  10. Just pondering the concept of a company that empowers women and wondering if said empowerment extends to the Asian garment manufacturing plants where the clothes are (presumably) made? (My Rogas say made in china…) Are workers in that industry not overwhelmingly female? Is there any way in which oiselle works for those women too?

    Again, just pondering. I have no answers and certainly nothing against oiselle, I just think it’s an interesting question since they’re all about empowerment.

    1. Reach out and ask. They are forthcoming. I know some pieces are being made in the USA. But that Made in the USA stamp on any product doesn’t guarantee fair labor practices (or production by American citizens).

    2. As Pam said, email them and ask. I can tell you that the factories they work with around the world are generally female-owned, and they have extremely high standards in terms of the work conditions. They have said that there was initial push to make everything in the US, but they faced a few obstacles: first, most of the materials are made overseas and it is logistically much more sensible to produce the end product in a place that is geographically closer to the material source. Second, just because something is made in the US doesn’t mean that the factory has good, safe working conditions and fair pay. Have you been to the LA garment district? But seriously, I encourage you to email and ask if you want more information about this, or about why the emerging athlete fund isn’t a separate entity yet, or anything that’s been discussed in this thread. There is a lot of conjecture and opinion here and I find it is better to ask for facts from the source than to make judgements based on such shaky sources as those.

      1. Thanks Allie & Pam! I was asking a philosophical question about what it means to be a company that empowers women, rather than conjecturing or judging anything. But it’s good to hear they apparently take some steps to ensure fairness and empowerment (maybe? Woman-owned is good, but just as made in the USA doesn’t ensure fair working conditions, unfortunately women can be asshole bosses too…) for the people who make the clothes.

        As for emailing – sure, but it actually surprises me that the information is not readily available on the website. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to know!

  11. I definitely think it’s worth it for me, between the support of elites, free shipping, discounts, and connections to other runners. I feel supported by other team members generally and have loved in person meet ups. I do think that if it keeps expanding, some of the “team” vibe will be lost.

    1. That is great you have found you enjoy it, and find it worth it! I have friends who are, and love it- but many have your same thoughts that if it keeps getting bigger and bigger a lot of the benefits could be lost in the mix as not all athletes could be involved in camps, or the fact that you lose that close knit feeling of a smaller team.

  12. Generally, lots of the questions asked here are good ones – the one thing I have learned is that transparency is important to Oiselle – so rather than make assumptions, just ask. They are responsive.

    Ironically, the funny thing is that many of us who are responding are clarifying because we think it is great and would love other women to experience what we have. So much for being exclusive and keeping people out, I guess. 😉

    1. Yeah, I worry that outsider inquiry or differing viewpoints are seen as attacks or take downs of Oiselle. I think it’s important for our community of serious women runners at-large to have an open honest talk about stuff like this, because sometimes it does feel like there’s an us (Oiselle insiders) vs them (everyone else) thing going on. So I really appreciate you so openly sharing and contributing to the discussion!

    2. Like Salty I appreciate the comments and clarification on things. Being open is definitely a good thing, especially when there are many who feel that the Oiselle sisterhood is very excluding to those who are not a part of it. But part of that whole situation is, people coming here to back Oiselle but also arguing that other points are false even when they are not- simply because it’s a different way of looking at something. I think this is where the disconnect comes in- it doesn’t need to be Oiselle against the world. Not everyone is out to get them or bring them down, in fact I know so many rooting for their success.

  13. This is so fascinating. I am a new member of the Volee — well, I joined a few months back. Mostly what I wanted was a pretty singlet, not gonna lie. Meanwhile, I have it now and have been injured for the last three months, so I’ve never even put it on. That aside, I am… not really unimpressed, but also not impressed. What’s that 10 Things I Hate About You quote? “I know you can be overwhelmed and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?” I’m sort of intimidated/not interested in the sorority feel of the whole thing. THAT SAID, everyone is incredibly, crazy supportive of one another, which is refreshing. But I find myself backing away slowly so often because it’s like… WHOA. It almost feels like the twilight zone. I happen to LIVE in the same town as Lauren Fleshman and her little wings, so naturally, I run into them on the streets. But other than that, the membership hasn’t made me feel any closer to any elites of any sort. I’ve barely ordered anything since joining (because $$$$), so the free shipping isn’t doing me any good. But I do love the singlet and I do love the bag. Was all of this worth $100? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh. No, not in my opinion. I’ve been a runner and blogger and tweeter for YEARS, and I’ve developed my own, strong, amazing circle of running friends and cheerleaders that way — for free. It’s interesting to read everyone’s perspectives on this, though. I love that it’s bringing women together and offering support that lots of people don’t otherwise have in their lives — that is a great thing. But I agree with other comments about how this whole Rio debacle has sort of just … dampened it all for me. There are a lot of moving parts and not all of them are flattering. I remain whelmed.

    1. KL you just very accurately described how I feel! Whelmed!! I like the ideas and concepts but I also know that those things can be done without paying for it (like you, my amazing circle of running friends was created without a team). I understand this might be a good time to make arguments for the change in how the IOC does things, but agree that how some are doing that dampens the Olympic feel right now (add in the whole Russia thing, and my normal ecstatic Olympic mood is just…not the same)

      1. *fist bump*

        Though, probably I’m biased because you are AMONG my amazing circle of running friends. So. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. I admit it just took me far longer than it should have to figure it out. I love you my friend <3 We're kindred spirits. Also, it's been far too long since I've seen you!

  14. I’ll respond here with exactly what I said on FB regarding renewing and the Volee: I don’t really care what other people say about O or the Volee at this point. Unless it’s totally factually wrong then I’m happy to engage and correct or point to a source. I’ll admit I was a skeptical fan a few years ago, [to elaborate, I was tired of brands like Sparkly Soul or Skirt Sports somehow like overly feminizing running? Like why can’t I be kickass and a girl, why do I have to wear a skirt or something sparkly? Oiselle has gone beyond that, see Andrea Duke as a sponsored obstacle race athlete] but now I feel that O has really differentiated itself from other up and coming brands and I support the athletes and the company, and am happy to stay in the Volee simply for a chance to connect with like minded women runners/women advocates, even if I don’t physically get to run with most of them. Basically, if you are a fan of a brand, any brand, and you think that buying some sort of membership or subscription is worth it for whatever reason you want, YOU GO GLEN COCO.

    If you don’t like it, why pass judgment? Track and field doesn’t need any more discord.

      1. To be honest, to me it sounds like this post is judgmental, or maybe just to some extent saying that Oiselle is not all they’ve said they are. “Can Oiselle deliver these unique intangibles? Are Volée members part of a pro-woman, supportive sisterhood, or are those benefits more talk than action?” To me, this post is kind of tearing down what this company says they stand for. I don’t know if you were going for a journalism approach, or reporting on why people don’t like Oiselle… maybe I am focusing too much on the negatives, because I do appreciate that you included the specifics of what the enrollment includes because someone might want to know that for a future team sign-up (which I want to point out really quickly that you conveniently timed this to be posted during a re-enrollment period, which means right now only members are re-enrolling, not new members signing up, so ideally most members know what their experience is like already).

        I saw a post on another blog or FB or something once that broke down the $100, I can’t remember where it was so I’ll summarize it: $100 = 1 race top that could be valued anywhere from $35-$65 + $20 off shorts + $25 to Emerging Athlete Fund + 1 spike bag ($10? $25?) + Free Shipping for a year. That more than equals $100 at the end. I don’t know why people get hung up about the $100. If you want to, pay it, if not, that’s ok to spend your running budget somewhere else.

        Also, I differ on your point that members are brand ambassadors. We are not. Maybe they were in the beginning, but when I joined 2 years ago, being active on social media, advertising the company, wearing Oiselle exclusively, etc, was NOT a requirement and still is not. We happily discuss Lulu shorts, New Balance bras, lots of shoes, etc. There is nothing in the Volee requirements that says you have to be loyal and advertise Oiselle.

        That was a long response, not just to your question, but some other leftover thoughts I had too 🙂

        1. Olive gave a balanced objective assessment that while, maybe not glowing, was overall positive and balanced. Disagreeing with it is completely cool. No problem. Correct her/commenters if we’re wrong on facts. Also no problem there. I think the appearance of a knee-jerk assumption that we’re judging because we see things from the outside of Oiselle differently than you see from the inside (which isn’t necessarily negatively), furthers the idea that Oiselle is not inclusive or promoting of sisterhood beyond its team. We’re not out to get Oiselle. Why would we be? Assuming we’re judging is deepening whatever little fractures exist in our community of serious women runners. Not to be cute, but why can’t we all just get along and talk openly and honestly about stuff even if we disagree?

        2. This is a valid point and similar to the one I made earlier — for me, I’d rather spend that $100 on other Oiselle clothes that I’d wear more often than I would the singlet. It was literally that simple. My running budget isn’t that big!

        3. I actually found it to be pretty pro-Oiselle, for what it’s worth (and further highlights the importance of seeking a different POV – there are as many perspectives as there are people!). They offered quotes from members on both sides of the pro/con aisle, and generally landed in the “seems legit if it’s for you” camp. I had a negative experience with the brand, so I stopped running for them. I don’t judge others for making a different decision based on their experiences/needs. I know awesome people who run for Oiselle, and awesome people who chose to step away. I’ll be the first to say I still buy Nike shoes because they fit me well, even if I have an issue with some of their practices. I have to weigh my frustration with a monopoly against my ability to run injury-free. I think everyone here has tried to present their views respectfully and without conjecture or assumption, and have been happy to accept or admit if they were misunderstood or wrongly understood something.

          I don’t think anyone’s goal here is to dissuade people from joining The Flock. If I had seen this kind of discourse prior to aligning myself with the brand, I might not have made the same choice; however, educating people as to different experiences, or asking questions about something/shining a light on potential issues is important, and shouldn’t be something to become defensive about. The skies are big enough for those seeking to take flight in whatever form feels best.

        4. Hi Anne! Just to clarify: I have many runner friends joining the Flock and many others wondering if they should. I spoke to several members of the Flock (current and former) to get their opinions on whether or not they felt they got their $100 worth out of joining. Is it uniformly positive? No, because I don’t think that would help women runners decide whether it’s right for them. I was merely reporting on what was told to me by Flock members.

          ” Can Oiselle deliver these unique intangibles? Are Volée members part of a pro-woman, supportive sisterhood, or are those benefits more talk than action?” This was the question posed that I sought to answer during the post, and I personally feel like those questions were answered: maybe not in a clear yes or no but by using a variety of opinions.

          To your point “…maybe I am focusing too much on the negatives,” I’d say maybe so. I don’t want to read a fake, overly positive article and I’d assume our readers wouldn’t either.

          1. I appreciate this comment, it made the goal of your post more transparent, thanks. I hope your friends consider it, and another great place to get information to decide is the Oiselle blog, seeing what their staff and athletes stand for in an easily accessible, written way, is helpful to see what the company stands for and if someone wants to align themselves with. Also, we’re all called the Volee, not Flock, not nitpicking just want to make sure that your friends are looking at the right info, like if they go looking for Flock info they won’t find it, but Volee info is available at oiselle.com/team .

  15. I’m confused. Is there a large part of this article that I missed that says “oiselle is terrible, the flock is awful and the athlete fund stinks?” As an outsider to “the flock” who owns one pair of oiselle shorts (which I think are lovely by the way) I thought this article was interesting and informative. It explains what Oiselle is doing, what the flock is and found some members who found it was good and some who found it was bad. I think the article gave you enough information to decide for yourself if this is something for you or not. Did I also miss the part that said “it’s ridiculous and not worth $100?” Again I think it gave you information and opened up the conversation for you to decide if it is worth it for you. No one is passing judgment here. I probably regularly spend $100 on things that other people think is a waste of money, who cares? If it works for you, makes you happy, makes you a better runner or a better person, go for it. If you think it’s not worth it, share your opinion too. Let’s show both sides so people can make an informed decision.

  16. It’s clearly Oiselle is marketing a “sense of belonging” and have a person pay to do marketing is just wrong to me.
    People talk about the sense of support as if paying $100 to a business is the onlyway to go. I used to belong to a local running club. The personal interaction is 1000x better than a like or a congratulatory tweet. It was $20/family BTW. Anyone who has been part of a team or club knows a sense of belonging and that feeling. It’s kinda insulting to suggest that Oiselle’s model is the only way to experience that. But to be part of a club or team you have to put in some work. In today’s world many younger runners don’t want to and it’s easier to pay $100 and “feel” included.
    Also marketing “sisterhood” is just plain wrong. Many real runners, real women do not have an extra $100 to spare and they are excluded. That’s not “sisterhood.”

  17. Can we all pause and re-read the “bottom line” of this post again, please? “Oiselle provides high-end, flattering and functional running apparel and has sought to differentiate themselves from other similar brands like Lululemon and Athleta by promising its brand ambassadors a team, a sisterhood of support, and an affiliation with up-and-coming elite runners.” If that’s negative “judgmental,” it’s the NICEST and most POSITIVE negative judgement I’ve ever seen! Asking questions and looking for information about how a popular brand functions isn’t “judgmental” in the negative sense of the word–not here, at least. As consumers, asking questions is completely necessary! Especially when it comes to the branding/advertising/marketing we’re faced with every day, since those things are inherently designed to feed off our perceptions, emotions, and attachments. That’s personal stuff! And maybe that’s why people have gotten a little “prickly” in this discussion? Maybe it feels like their own personal perceptions, emotions, and attachments are being questioned…? I see good questions being asked about what seems to be a good company…but a company out to make a profit, none the less. No matter how much support a brand gives its followers, we can’t forget that there is still someone (or, an army of someones) on staff at that company getting PAID to figure out how to sell us something. It’s their job to figure out what draws us in, makes us feel warm ‘n fuzzy ‘n strong (and, as a result, willing to sing its praises to other potential spenders.) Yes, Oiselle is also working to form sisterhoods and support athletes and all that good stuff, but they’re trying to sell their products and stay in business! And that’s not bad! It just IS, and it’s important to critique and ask questions about how companies are going about doing that — how are they playing on our emotions and perceptions and desires, as women/runners/consumers? Some companies, like Oiselle, are doing a dang good job of it by drawing fans into a flock and building a community that is meant to be supportive. That’s great! It’s still worth discussing and asking questions about how, exactly, that flock is allowing them to grow their business…and whether we as consumers want to be part of that particular marketing process. Whether you like Oiselle’s methods or not, I think the questions in this post were asked very respectfully.

  18. Thank you for this post! I am also an outsider to the ‘flock’/ Volee and have been curious about it over the years.

    My equation for deciding to support a brand is this:
    Quality + style + durability + price + values + awareness.

    I like, generally, the idea of supporting up-and-coming athletes, which is a small factor in my decision to purchase a couple of Oiselle garments a year (mostly on sale). Many brands have some sort of corporate social responsibility arm, or social responsibility mission, and they may use a portion of their profits for this. Or, like Oiselle, they explicitly channel $25 from the fee towards that mission. It’s the difference between a government saying ‘Your income tax payment will fund schools, streetlights, and public transit’ and saying ‘Sales tax on watermelons will go towards resources for public kindergartens’. Neither is better or worse than the other – only the company’s accountants know what makes the most sense for them and what is financially sustainable. I have no problem with this. Given the products’ quality, style (mostly), and durability, I’m happy to buy a couple of things that I was going to buy anyway, and let the company use the profits however it deems fit.

    Ultimately, I decided paying for Flock membership doesn’t make sense to me for two (…and a half) reasons: 1. I don’t want to even have the possibility of *feeling* beholden to a brand, or do unpaid marketing (I won’t even do comped product reviews on my teeny weeny running blog, not that anyone has asked). 2. I’ve managed to develop my own close social networks of running friends without the added structure of a team. 2.5. As a person of color, I don’t feel adequately represented in most online running communities anyway, and what I’ve seen on most running-related social media just reinforces that loneliness. (I say that with a teensy bit of sadness…would it kill you Salties to add a little more chocolate to the spice rotation? :D)

  19. I think we all need to hear this quote, “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson. I joined Volee last year and did not have the best experience. However I spoke up about it and when I was on the fence of joining again my new local leader reached out to me personally. We had a great conversation about my previous experience and it felt great to be heard and not dismissed or put down for my feelings. Just because some may not want to be a part of our community, we should not defend our actions or those of Oiselle, because our actions should be louder. Instead let us embrace our imperfections, and those who may feel excluded and continue to build everyone up. Because of my local leader and the other few I did meet through Volee, I have made the decision to sign up for another year and that was my choice. Let is continue to build each other up and have open hearts.

    1. This is so beautiful. We are here to discuss all viewpoints on the topic and don’t hate or judge anyone. I’m very saddened by the defensive posture a lot of commenters have taken, like assuming anyone not 100% in agreement is looking for a fight. We certainly aren’t with anyone, especially not Oiselle. The community of serious women runners is a small one, so why alienate a huge part of it? But we can’t control what others want to see or read or how they interpret what we say. But I believe sisterhood is being respectful of all good-hearted women and their opinions, which everyone here is even if they don’t all agree. I mean, for our community of women runners to be divided by who does and does not evangelize for a brand is just plain disappointing.

    2. You offer some great thoughts, Diane! I don’t think anyone is trying to say Oiselle is bad here, but it does seem as if there are a lot of people taking it that way. It’s been striking me as completely bizarre all day long, since I actually thought the post we published was very complimentary when compared to my perception of them. It’s so great to hear from people like you who have had awesome, positive experiences through this thing that I had previously perceived very differently! I do understand the people who are involved much better than I did before (good job, Olive!), but I still would not apply – the flock thing is definitely not for me. And yo, if someone wants to take that as a negative judgement, well, I can’t control that, but I can still support her and be friendly anyway. And, well, that’s kinda what we work hard to make Salty Running about: rising above personal differences to come together as serious runners and help each other to the best people we can be. Great quote!

    3. THANK YOU DIANE. Wonderful comment and point made- just because some of us pointing out things we may disagree with, or questions we may have about Oiselle does not mean we are tearing them down or rooting for them to fail. In fact, I would love to see them succeed, but one of the aspects about being newer and smaller in something- is growing pains. That means taking advice from others, critical thinking, and not shutting people down and going on the defensive the instant someone asks a question that might contradict what you think. Oiselle has the potential to do so much (as MANYYYYY of the commentators here stated), but throwing their hands up every time someone doesn’t agree with them isn’t going to help that process. One of their tags is #womanup….well to me, being a strong female means critical thinking for myself and asking questions and not blindly following something because someone tells me to. I would not join ANY club without asking questions and making sure it was a good fit for me, that is not subjected to Oiselle only.

      I think it is amazing that you have found something that you feel benefits you in such ways. I LOVE that Oiselle has local leaders within their ranks so that runners can feel more connected to the brand but also their own area and not just some company with headquarters somewhere else in the country. I could totally see how that would help someone decide they wanted to be a part of something, that in itself would be a selling point for me. LOCAL, relative, more personal!

      1. I applied to be a local leader specifically because I wanted the local, relative, personal aspect of team. Sure, I’ve only been a member since last year, but I’ve definitely felt the love and support that I was looking for in my running. I found community that I hadn’t found in local running clubs. I want to foster and share that and the Volee just happens to be the avenue that works for me. There are certainly some major growing pains and a lot of people wanting to help in any way that they can.

  20. Thank you for this really thoughtful and balanced look at it! I have had nothing but positive personal experiences with Oiselle – I like the quality of their stuff, I like that they take women’s running and competition really seriously, I like that they have flattering stuff that’s not bright neon pink, and their customer service has been excellent and responsive when I have contacted them.

    Not sure that I would pay to join the Volee, mostly because I feel like then I’d end up spending way more money than I should in order to make the free shipping and discounts “worth it.” I also wish there were some way to be able to get involved in the kind of female running community they purport to offer without having to pay money specifically to join — it’s definitely exclusionary, although I’m not sure how much more exclusionary it is than the price of women’s running apparel in general, Oiselle included. And sometimes their overly defensive social media presence has turned me off (not necessarily with the USATF/Nike stuff, because I think they’re totally justified there). But I will absolutely continue to buy their shorts (usually when they’re on sale!).

    Re: the emerging athlete fund discussion above, while Oiselle is certainly not the only running gear company to put money towards this kind of thing, it seems to be able to support more athletes than a company of its size would be able to otherwise. If $25 out of every $100 Volee membership goes towards this (in addition to an undisclosed and much smaller percentage of its other revenue, I assume), that’s a really high percentage! I’m sure that this enables them to support more emerging athletes than they would otherwise be able to (were their emerging athlete funds to come only from their regular sales), which I believe is only a good thing.

    1. Suze, YES that is basically the point I was trying to make about the emerging athlete fund but you articulated it better. Oiselle is a smaller newer company that cannot (by my guess) support athletes with their sales alone, so creating a fund and making it public is a good way for them to encourage support and allow them to do more than they otherwise would be able to. other companies support emerging athletes (Many have pro- sponsorship but then also have lower level and sub-elite programs that help out athletes- See Brooks ID team, See Saucony Hurricanes etc. etc.) but because they are more established and larger companies- they aren’t at a point they need to make it more public for financial support. Does that make sense? In no way was I trying to say Oiselle is wrong for the fund, or asking for input- but simply pointing out that this fact doesn’t make them more “sub-elite” friendly, it just means they are still growing(not a bad thing! they have grown SOOOOOO Much over the years and that is very cool to see!)

    2. Good point about the emerging athlete fund!
      I also think they have been instrumental in raising the awareness of the average running-goods consumer about Rule 40 and the rules surrounding athlete sponsors who are not the banner sponsor. I was only vaguely aware of the controversy, before running media covered the USOC reprimand. Sure, the brand has been loud and vocal. (Case in point: logo debacle. Sure, it’s also savvy marketing.) But it’s worked and I’m certainly now aware of it. Sometimes radical action is necessary for incremental change.

  21. Just chiming in to say that the term “Flock” is no longer used by Oiselle and hasn’t been used for well over a year now. Maybe longer.

    1. I see many Oiselle athletes still use the term all of the time- is it because someone else who is non-oiselle uses the term that it’s wrong? Nitpicking?

  22. I’m a serious introvert who loves to run and struggles to make adult friends. I initially joined Oiselle (in 2014) because I’d seen the singlet online and thought the idea of a team sounded cool. Then I was too scared to wear my singlet for over a year for fear of being approached at races. I silently followed the team on social media and one day felt brave enough to type something. I basically shared my fears and had 60 responses within 15 minutes, along with several private Facebook messages. Long story short, the DMV girls came through for me. They met up with me. They ran with me. They include me.
    I was not a sorority girl. I do not believe I had to “pay for my friends”, but since I left my home in western New York for DC, shit’s been hard. I’m thankful for a running group that cares.
    I’m not saying this to start an argument. I was not interviewed for this post, and I probably would have run away from you if you’d tried 😉 but this is what I would have said.
    Side note – the clothes rock. If you have chub rub in the thigh area, get yourself a pair of long rogas. They come on sale whether or not you paid to join the club.

  23. Oiselle Roga shorts are my ABSOLUTE favorite, and whenever I get the “Semi Annual Sale” email in my inbox, you can be sure I’m stocking up. I haven’t found another brand that can make a comparable pair. I also love and admire some Oiselle sponsored athletes, and am always excited to see them race.

    That being said, I think Oiselle Volee is a bit deceiving. They somehow convinced people to pay THEM for Brand Ambassadorship. What?!?! They’re marketing team needs a big fat raise for that!

    Also, another interesting read about this topic: http://lindseyhein.com/20150811-3179/oiselle/

    1. I agree on the Rogas FOR SURE. They don’t make my ass flap in the breeze behind me like other running shorts and I love the pocket on the butt cheek. I’ve read Lindsey’s article and talked with her a bit about this one (But she wasn’t part of the Flock so she’s not one of the mystery birds above).

  24. So, I would like to add a couple of things to this conversation. First of all, that quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson is amazing. As an overly sensitive person who tends to take everything personally, I need to have that tattooed on my forehead.

    Secondly, I joined the Volee for the first time last year, and have chosen not to renew this year. Primarily because I have found my community through my local running store, and am a member of their race team. The last thing I need is another singlet. However, I do appreciate all the women (and men! We have Bro Birds in the Twin Cities!) that I’ve met through my year in the Volee and I look forward to keeping in touch with them and seeing them at races.

    Thirdly, I can understand where people are coming from with their views of Sally as whiny, brash and overly outspoken. But as a feminist (and my degree is in Women’s Studies), I have to ask – if she was a man, would you think the same thing? Or does her behavior seem “unwomanly”? I for one find her to be very inspirational and I appreciate her outspokenness and advocacy for women athletes in the sport of running. And yes – she is a mastermind at marketing. But good on her.

    Finally, the work that she is doing for athletes rights is very real and very needed. Pre and Frank Shorter fought for the same thing in the 1970’s; they just didn’t have Twitter. I work with several professional runners, and the struggle is real. Sally and Lauren and Oiselle are working towards real change that will hopefully only help all professional runners and track and field athletes.

    For what it’s worth, I think the article was great and presented interesting perspectives from both sides. In the end, it’s personal choice to join the Volee. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is. Your mileage may vary.

    (PS – A comments section that includes references to both “10 Things I Hate About You” and “Mean Girls”? LOVE IT!)

    1. I agree with you 100% on the Sally’s personality stuff. A couple of other things: I think running has traditionally been a boring business and it’s unusual to have a big bold voice in this world, too. While I’m not sure I always agree with her positions, I admire that she challenges us to question the status quo, is brash, and also brings flare and a little art into running. Hey, without her we wouldn’t be having this excellent discussion, which has challenged me and been very enlightening and enriching, personally!

  25. I stopped paying attention to Oiselle on social media after the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson. They were on a tear about the USOC or Nike or something and there we were in the middle of a national emergency and Oiselle and all of their athletes were still tweeting about these relatively minor problems that impact a very small group of people. The same thing happened with the small group of Oiselle athletes I still followed after the murder of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. They were still tweeting about Rule 40. Combined with the fact that they don’t seem to have a single pro athlete of color and they have one black model, it just seems that Oiselle (and a lot of the running community but it’s so obvious with the Flock) thinks solidarity is for white women.

    I know people will say we all live in our own bubbles (I don’t believe we have to, or should) but the Oiselle bubble is thick and you have to pay to enter it and for a lot of us we never even see a picture of someone who looks like us inside it.

    As an aside there are A LOT of problems with the Olympics – and these USOC rules are .01% of them. Please have a look at anything by Dave Zirin to learn about the realities of the #roadtorio.

  26. I’m not a Oiselle member, and never imagine becoming one. I have some of their clothing (am wearing one of their bras now actually) and while they’re “nice” I’m not totally fan-girling over the brand (I’ve actually had some issues with durability in the past – seams coming apart, etc). In my local running community there have been several woman who have signed up as “Volee” members in the past year. They have always had a strong social media presence so now there are simply a few more posts and an extra hashtag.

    I don’t see the whole “Volee” thing as anything more than literally buying friends.

  27. Seems to me that it is similar to joining a running club through a local running store, or any kind of running group. Most of those require a membership fee, and you probably get a singlet to race in, and people to run with (which I assume is the point of a any running group). This particular group happens to be out of a running company instead of a local running store/independent club. If that’s not your thing, that’s cool.

  28. Good article. I was on the Volee team for a year. Had a not so pleasant experience a year in and bowed out when I didn’t feel supported because they were upset I couldn’t have their brand plastered all over me for a big media piece that was actually sponsored by another company (even though I was not a sponsored athlete of theirs- more so someone who pimped their product in exchange for a 30% discount). I am friends with many girls on the volee team and respect them deeply and totally understand that they’ve provided a great community of runners for women to meet up with and share the joy in the races and training with. And this is a great thing! But, their brand is not for me. I don’t love the constant bashing of other brands and the overall negative attitude in the leadership is a little much for me. I feel like they are just constantly pissed at everything. (and some things with good reason, but some things, OMG just let it go) Oh and I can’t remember who on this thread brought it up but I totally forgot about when they asked us ambassadors on the team to seek out stores to sell their brand and what not. (totally not comfortable with that and working at a local run specialty store- it’s totally not cool to have ambassadors of a brand who don’t even work for you trying to do that)

  29. Wow some of these comments! Intense. Great article, well written. I myself have debated joining the flock twice now so it was interesting to hear from people who were actually in it and their thoughts. It helped me to solidify my decision–I think I’ll pass on paying $100 for a running club.