Podcast Theatre is recorded at Betabrand’s retail store, which is next to the brand’s headquarters on Valencia Street.
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Listeners of ZDoggMD; Damania looks on during the recording.
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The space can hold up to 100 guests.
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Dr. Zubin Damania, host of ZDoggMD.
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Betabrand’s Valencia Street headquarters packed the house with friends and fans as Housewifery podcasters Rachel Jacobs and Naomi Laguana took the stage to dish on parenting woes; friendship triggers; laundry; and their husbands, who sat flush in the front row. Podcast Theatre is the latest community-building experiment for which the quirky fashion retailer and crowdsourcing platform has become known—well before its Dress Pant Yoga Pants went viral in 2014 (it recently sold its millionth pair).
“We have a history of creating store promotions that are inherently social,” says Betabrand founder and CEO Chris Lindland. Cryptic billboards around town alerting drivers to return a lost cobra to the Betabrand store and a Santa the Hutt window display offering holiday photos with a grotesque Santa both garnered media buzz. And then there was Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (punctuation intended). The company’s take on big-city fashion shows featured a catwalk of shebots and drones showcasing the latest in high-tech fashion—programmable LED T-shirts, 3D-printed bras and other tech couture—essentially poking fun at an industry intent on telling you what to wear versus Betabrand’s approach: letting you decide.
The San Francisco clothing company, which started as an e-commerce-only operation, has wooed a global online community of anti-fashionistas who vote on everything from prints to pockets of digital 3D renderings and CGI mockups before Betabrand commits to making a product. Each crowdsourced and -funded idea takes its style cues from comfort-leaning Bay Area techies (Zuckerberg-inspired Executive Pinstripe Hoodies, Bike to Work Wear, Disco Hoodies a la Burning Man…). Marketing theatrics have become the brand’s M.O. online and IRL since it launched in 2009.
“Podcasts are booming,” says Lindland, who was a comedy writer before venturing into C-level management of a fashion house built on seemingly ridiculous/brilliant ideas. The Suitsy, a business suit onesie; the Caperon, half cape, half apron; and Gay Jeans, dark-wash denim that reveal rainbow-color yarn with each wash are just a few hits. “In many ways, podcasts are the anti-Twitter because they invite you to stop, listen and think,” adds Lindland. “They too build communities of very-engaged fans, so it’s a natural media for Betabrand to be involved in.”
Bridging the future of retail with the future of radio makes sense for a brand that can credit technology for its $35 million success. Events like Podcast Theatre also lure new customers—who may otherwise dismiss Betabrand as too young or too out there—into the store, a strategic move as retailers struggle to reinvent themselves in the digital age. “I’ve never shopped at Betabrand,” says San Francisco mom Jessica Sisto, who popped by the Housewifery show in March and who worked at the Gap for seven years. “I love the crowdsource idea. I love that it’s innovative. I saw a handbag and I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s a really nice bag.’ I’m going to give it a second chance. I love that they did this.”
Watch, listen and participate with favorite or new-to-you podcasts on topics from punk music to meditation comedy to Muni every Thursday night (the event is free; there’s wine)—“hopefully through 2095, at which [time] pants will cease to exist and so will Betabrand,” says Lindland. 780 Valencia St.
Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco
Photography by: Photo Courtesy of: Penni Gladstone