Arielle Knutson, CEO of Oiselle


In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Arielle Knutson, CEO of women’s running apparel company Oiselle. Taking the reins of the women-owned brand this year, Arielle discusses elevating the status quo for women’s performance gear, its sponsorship of Olympic hopefuls, and why sisterhood is one of Oiselle’s core pillars.

Tell us about Oiselle.

Arielle Knutson: Oiselle is a Seattle-based, running apparel company by women, for women, that has always loved to go fast and take chances.

We make running apparel for female athletes of all ages, paces, and places and bring together a community of women who love to move, run, and fly. Our mission is threefold: Make great product, improve the sport, and build the sisterhood.

If we know one thing here at Oiselle, it’s that running is transformational. The confidence, strength, and community that comes with our sport truly changes women’s lives. We hold an unwavering belief in the power of sport, and also in the power that empowered women have to change the world.

There are a slew of apparel brands that sell running clothes with women in mind, but there are very few that are woman runner-founded, woman runner-led, and woman runner-designed. We believe that gives us the edge in creating running apparel and a running community for women.

It also gives us the ability to see what’s intrinsically wrong with many other traditional brand models and work proactively to change the narrative and the status quo for female athletes.

What led you to pursue this opportunity?

AK: Oiselle was founded by Sally Bergeson in 2007. A runner herself, she was fed up with unflattering, uncomfortable, poofy running shorts. So, she became obsessed with designing a solution.

The result: Oiselle was born, and with it a smooth-waisted, first-of-its-kind running short, the Roga — “run and yoga”. The right fit for complementary sports, the two exercises demand technical, functional, comfortable yet aesthetically pleasing styles.

Around that time, it started becoming apparent that running was a mainstream sport, and the community had some major inequities for women. For one, the big running brands weren’t willing to write equitable sponsorship contracts for professional female runners, who were often docked pay for pregnancy and postpartum healthcare needs.

We questioned why these sponsorships were centered only around podiums and not around the whole athlete and person. We were determined to make a change in professional and community running by putting the woman first.

Over a decade later, we continue to design and innovate with the feeling of freedom and flight in mind and strive to improve the details—in apparel, sport, and community—that make a big difference to women who run.

How big can this get?

AK: Running is an interesting sport because, as simple as it might seem to lace up your shoes and go, there are still a lot of barriers, particularly for women.

A runner has to have the appropriate apparel (shoes, shorts, a shirt, and a sports bra for girls and women), but they also need to have a host of other things.

They need to have a safe place to run, and if they’re running outside, they need to know where they’re going and have a route to run that has shade, water, sidewalks, and not too much traffic.

They have to have the time to dedicate to themselves, and they have to be comfortable with moving their body out in the world.

They have to want to run, or want to try running, and often that means knowing others who run or seeing folks they can personally identify with and relate to in the sport.

And that’s just scratching the surface in terms of hurdles. For being a simple sport, access, inclusivity, confidence, and comfort are still big challenges for participation and retention.

But Oiselle isn’t just an apparel brand — we’re a running brand that exists to grow and improve the running community. While the running industry is strong, we have continued work to do as a leading voice and as a brand to unlock the full potential of women’s running.

How do you reach your core customer?

AK: Since day one, our mission has been to create a powerful community for all runners, from beginners to professionals, from the roads to the trails to the track.

We’ve strived to connect runners of all ages, backgrounds, and paces through the common thread of running. And serving our core customer naturally stems from the drive to build a community that’s powerful because of its inclusivity and diverse perspectives, yet also its shared values.

Oiselle sponsors an elite team, the Haute Volée, which is dedicated to helping runners reach their full athletic potential in training and racing. We also back notable retired professional runners Lauren Fleshman and Kara Goucher, who continue to be strong advocates for women and the sport of running.

Heading into the Olympic year, we also have a new group of athletes called The Underbirds: an elite group of women who have continued to chase their Olympic dreams despite being overlooked by traditional sponsorship models.

We aim to provide these women with financial and athletic support but also help them build their personal brands through authentic storytelling initiatives to support their long-term professional running aspirations. This program is an excellent representation of Oiselle values in action — supporting big, bold dreams from the overlooked and underrepresented.

Our largest and longest-standing community is our diverse team of runners called the Volée. Women join the Volée for many reasons: to be part of a running community, get training inspiration, connect with a diverse group of strong and empowering women, meet a local run buddy, support girls in sport, help elite athletes thrive in their athletic pursuits, engage in activism, and the list goes on!

Fun fact: The Volée program is how I found out about the brand back in 2011, and joining led to decade-plus-long friendships, career opportunities (like finding my previous role at Nuun Hydration), and tremendous inspiration as an endurance athlete myself.

When we think about who Oiselle is for, it’s a really simple answer: It’s for women who want to run.

What’s next on the roadmap?

AK: The future is so bright for Oiselle, and for our community as well. With the Paris Olympics in sight, the eyes on running—including track and field—will increase dramatically, so it’s an especially important season for our brand and sport.

You can expect Oiselle to not only cheer on women who make the Olympic team but also the hopefuls who are pushing to see what they’re capable of. Notably, these individuals have equally inspiring, and often more relatable, stories about their “why” in the sport.

From a product standpoint, you can expect to see Oiselle continue to innovate in functional design. From watch windows to plentiful pockets to key details like reflective safety features, there’s no one who understands women who run like women who run.

We invite you, or the runner in your life, to come fly with us! Our community of runners is an incredibly passionate, supportive, and welcoming group — and when movement meets community, magic happens!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers?

AK: I may be new to the team at Oiselle but not to the brand or mission. I’ve been a longtime friend, fan, and follower of Oiselle, and for years have been wowed by the community built and the positive impact made.

What’s particularly exciting to me is that while Oiselle was an early voice for women and inclusivity in sport, over the years so many brands in running have joined together to demand and create change. Oiselle was early at the helm, a pioneer in using our voice for good, but now we have an army of peer brands big and small who are on this journey with us.

That said, we’re nowhere near the finish line; there’s much more work to be done. But it’s incredibly exciting, inspiring, and motivating to be a part of a team that’s already had so much positive impact, yet is just getting started.

Related content from Fitt Insider:

Issue No. 257: Changing the Game

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