Morpho, a French brand of snowshoes, won Ispo’s BrandNew Awards for its women’s sailing pants, developed under the company’s accessory brand Sailing for Women. The sailing apparel market is a relatively difficult one, with very few players, because the clothing is highly technical. Morpho’s sailing gear has padding in areas that are particularly sensitive for women: thighs, hips and buttocks. The design is lightweight, ergonomic and of course, waterproof.

Jean-Marie Mechelany, owner of the two-pronged company, is often found sailing on Lake Geneva near his head office in Thonon-les-Bains. His regular outings helped him to come up with the idea of creating a technical brand of sailing apparel exclusively for women, after seeing how they developed severe bruising on sailing expeditions because of inadequate protection. He says there is a real market opportunity for women’s sailing gear. Only Musto, Helly Hansen and Aigle are present in the segment, but these brands develop only a limited number of styles each year for women.

Mechelany, who was general manager at Killy 15 years ago and sales manager at Lacroix skis after that, developed his own Morpho snowshoe business when Lacroix hit troubled waters nine years ago. It was the succession of several bad winters that led Morpho more recently to seek solace in the complementary summer business of sailing.

The company’s snowshoes are sold in 30 countries and enjoy strong reputation in Finland and Austria. It sold 18,000 pairs of snowshoes – a record number – in 2006, at prices ranging between €60 for children and €190 for adult’s technical items. Krimmer Outdoor System, former German distributor of TSL, has substituted its offer of snowshoes with those of Morpho.

Since last summer, when it launched its new women’s sailing products, the company has entered into discussions with retailers in France (La Rochelle and overseas in La Trinité), in the Czech Republic, in Norway and in the Benelux countries.