Sadly, Karen Skålvoll died in 2021. We continue to share her story as an inspiration to others.
That’s the call to action of a new ad campaign from global athletic clothing brand Grrrl that features Alpha 1 patient and adaptive athlete Karen Skålvoll.
Skålvoll, who competes in strength and endurance competitions, uses assistive oxygen due to her rare lung disease, Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. She said she felt honored to be included in Grrrl’s campaign, which features athletes of all sizes, sweating, determined, unsmiling.
“Another wall blasted through for people under oxygen therapy: first commercial for a global clothing company,” Skålvoll wrote on her Instagram page.
She grew up in Norway and now travels all over the world, pulling planes, lifting Atlas stones and taking on a 12-mile-long obstacle course called the Spartan Beast. Eyes fixed, the Grrrl campaign shows Skålvoll pushing through a training exercise. Other athletes strap on boxing gloves, skate in a roller derby, lift barbells overhead and surf.
Grrrl CEO Kortney Olson says her company aims to embrace a broad spectrum of athletes, including those who need adaptive technology, like Skålvoll.
“Representation of ability, color, size, and gender identity are the main focal points for our campaigns. The world is full of people living with some type of adaptation and therefore, need to be represented,” said Olson, an American-born body builder who was Australia’s first female arm-wrestling champion.
Grrrl eschews traditional sizing in favor of sizes named after female athletes, including Olson. Customers can choose a size based on the body type that most matches their own. In that welcoming array of sizes, customers can buy leggings in graffiti or watermelon prints and T-shirts bearing messages like “I Am Enough” and “Prove Them Wrong.”
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A writer for Forbes has called Grrrl a “billion dollar brand in waiting that’s adding activism to athleisure.” The activism actually came before the clothing, Olson said. The clothing followed a successful weekend retreat for teen girls called “Kamp Konfidence.”
“We taught girls the five habits, lessons, and principles that lead to the development of self love,” she said. “By the end of the weekend, we had a group of teenage girls who felt empowered, confident, and had a group of new, real life best friends.”
Two years later, Olson rolled that vision out globally in the form of a clothing line, she said. The online retailer sells its workout gear in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.
“The clothing is just the flag we fly,” Olson said.