When the going gets Tuff

October 15, 2007

Cowgirl Tuff offers young women modern sportswear with a western twist

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Barrel racer Lisa Bollin began her own cowgirl clothing line because she felt there was a fashion niche that wasn’t being fulfilled.

Sick of the “Howdy Doody” look with snap shirts and tight pants, Bollin designed an upscale western apparel line for women that is more of a mainstream sportswear line with a western twist.

Her core customers are young women in their late teens to early 20s.

“They are young women who like riding horses but don’t like what is being sold in traditional western stores,” Bollin said.

She began selling her line at high jackpot rodeos across the country. It didn’t take her long before she was completely sold out. That’s when Bollin realized she had something going.

“I couldn’t bag it and take their money fast enough,” she said.

Now, Cowgirl Tuff is a wholesale company with more than 800 retail customers selling her product line, including Equestrian Outfitters in Delano.

Although not many people are yet aware of Cowgirl Tuff merchandise around the area unless it has been seen at rodeos, Deb Muckenhirn, co-owner of Equestrian Outfitters, is excited to be selling the line.

What Muckenhirn likes about the clothing is that a woman doesn’t have to be model perfect for the clothes to fit.

Also, she likes how much detail Bollin puts into designing the clothing. “Everything from the stitching to the softness of the fabric,” Muckenhirn said.

She can also appreciate Bollin’s slogan for her clothing line.

“Even though you’ve been bucked, kicked, bit, and stomped, never give up.”

“How true is that for so many people?” Muckenhirn said.

As former president of the Dassel Saddle Club and a member of the Minnesota Rodeo Association, Bollin lives by this slogan. It is also representative of her work in starting a western apparel company.

“The western industry is a ‘good ole boys club,’ and I’m just a gal who kicked down the doors,” she said.

It was hard work, she said, and it took patience and persistence.

The name, Cowgirl Tuff, came from Bollin’s experience raising horses.

“Having horses in Minnesota is tough,” Bollin said.

She remembers times when it’s been so cold she had to break the drinking water for her horses in the wintertime.

Bollin went to school for fashion merchandising and design and has managed two clothing stores at one time.

That experience and her cowgirl ways have all led up to what she has done to this point, Bollin said.

Having a clothing line was the last piece of the pie, she said.

Clothing in the making

First, Bollin will get some ideas by shopping around to see what the latest fashions are.

Then, she selects the fabric, chooses the color, and designs the style and fit. The product is then made overseas and imported to the US.

Other clothing in the line come as “blanks” or without details and then they are embellished and screen printed in Bollin’s Darwin warehouse.

Detailing can include heat pressing, screen printing, and embellishing with Swarovski crystals.

Three popular screen printings are clothing that has the words “Believe,” “Peace,” and “Victory.”

“This is because I believe. And if you believe, you will have peace, which brings victory,” Bollin said.

For more information about Cowgirl Tuff or to find a store, go to www.cowgirltuffco.com.