I can’t imagine that you spend much time wondering what I’m wearing, but, just in case you have ever been so bored as to ponder the question, for the last several months, it’s been these sweatpants.
I love them.
I love them so much that I literally am excited to put them on after a long day – or first thing in the morning when I’m going to be working from home- and was kind of bummed the one day last week when it was so nice that I didn’t need to wear them.
Why do I love them so much? I think it’s because they are so perfectly simple. It’s no secret that I love menswear and simple styling whenever possible. But what I’ve gotten used to in my denim has always been hard to find in my … casual wear (basics? sweats? I’m not using athleisure but am not sure what to call this category that makes up a small portion of my wardrobe but a large portion of what I actually wear!). For whatever reason, women’s brands add so much nonsense to this category – metallic foil graphics, “super soft” fabrics that are inevitably see-through or pill and tear after one washing, flimsy waist bands that get all twisted, etc., etc. Men’s brands keep it simple and I’ve always been envious of my husband’s sweats, which last far longer than mine… but I’m so short that shopping the men’s section doesn’t really make sense in this category, unless I want to get my sweats tailored or risk falling even more than I already do!
The Victor Athletics collection is perfect, in that I feel like I’m wearing incredibly well-made men’s sweats, but they are cut perfectly for me. I’ve worn my sweats a ton and washed them several times and they still look fantastic – they haven’t shrunk, they haven’t pilled, the color hasn’t faded. The collection is made with 100% organic cotton, grown and knit in the US. That fabric is sewn and garment dyed and washed in Tennessee. And then it is sold directly to you, so you don’t have to feel like a sucker for paying over $100 for sweats. Victor sent me these sweats to try on after we introduced by a mutual friend, but I can guarantee I’ll be buying more… though I suspect it will be a long time before I need a new pair.
Victor is the direct-to-consumer brand from the team at Noble Denim. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Victor & Noble are run by four partners: Abby Sutton (CEO), Sam Wessner (Co-Creative Director), Chris Sutton (Co-Creative Director) and Christman Hersha (Director of Operations). Read on to learn more about the brand from Sam & Abby….
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
AS: Books. Being outdoors. The magazine Conscious Company– It is all about companies trying to do good through business and embarrassingly, I cry every time I read it.
SW: The way people choose to express themselves. Whether it be with their style or where they spend their time. Diversity of expression always helps me see that I am not the center of the universe and that other people have a point of view which is worth understanding.
WHERE ARE YOU MOST INSPIRED?
AS: In a bookstore or on a walk.
WHERE DO YOU ESCAPE?
AS: Coast of Oregon.
WHAT MADE YOU START YOUR LINE?
SW: In the spring of 2013 we made similar sweatshirts and T-shirts with our other brand Noble Denim but since Noble is set up to wholesale to other stores we had to price the clothes a lot higher than we would have liked. We started thinking about what it would look like to make similar or better items out of the best materials in the states and sell them direct to the consumer. This was the initial thought behind Victor. We launched Victor via Kickstarter in the spring of 2015.
WHY DID YOU LAUNCH VIA KICKSTARTER?
AS: Kickstarter was perfect for launching Victor Athletics because it allowed early backers to have a sense of ownership in the company. We see the sad state of American clothing today as an issue that belongs to all of us and we want Victor to be a brand where the customer is deeply engaged in helping us making the change. It was a vulnerable thing to be on Kickstarter and it was very uncomfortable to be able to measure our success in a such a public way. But we wanted our backers to feel that we were relying on them to make this happen– because we were, and we still are.. At the end of the day, no matter how amazing our products are, the statistics won’t shift until people see this story as important and as story that belongs to them too. It is the people’s commitment to our factories that will give them work. Kickstarter creates an all or nothing environment where that kind of ownership becomes possible.
WHY DO YOU MAKE YOUR COLLECTION?
SW: We want to raise the standard of our ‘go to’ clothes in our closet. All of us have items in our closet that seem to never go out of style and are always a reliable choice. Unfortunately these basics tend to be mass manufactured and poorly made. We want to make reliable and affordable clothes both in construction and lasting value.
WHY DO YOU MANUFACTURE IN AMERCA?
AS: In 1980, America made 80% of its clothes in the US; today, that number is down to 2%. The more time we’ve spent in these small-town factories, the more we’ve grown to see these “percentages” as people with families to feed, and mortgages to pay. By choosing to employ American factories, we’re prioritizing how the clothes are sewn. We don’t want to just drive costs down per garment, we see our sewers as a part of the team. For us, working with our partner factory in TN opened up our eyes to how big of an issue US Manufacturing is for our country and we want to be a part of changing the trend.
WHY IS AMERICAN MADE IMPORTANT TO YOU?
AS: Transparency: American-made isn’t magically better than clothes made other places. It is possible to make a garment really well and in an ethical way overseas, but it isn’t the norm. Our team is passionate about American-made because we can ensure our supply chain’s integrity, we are personally able to visit the factories, the knitters, and be involved at each step in a way that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else.
HOW DO YOU WORK WITH YOUR PARTNERS?
AS: Chris and I co-founded our original brand, Noble Denim, in 2012. We grew Noble into a partnership of 4 people– Chris, Sam, Christman and I. After working together on Noble for a few years, we launched Victor with that same team. Chris and I still co-run the businesses by leading the overall framework, but the collaborative nature of the brand is really important to us. So I work with my partner in the context of also working with two other business partners.
Specifically for Chris and I as a couple: working together opened up a whole different side of our relationship. I always loved Chris as an individual but co-leading has given us such a nuanced understanding of each other in multiple contexts. I have a front row seat to how talented Chris really is, how hard he works to get things done and to grow into a better Creative Director. He is always learning and his time with the companies has snowballed to give him a different skillset now than he had 4 years ago.
There is so, so much I could say, but the top three things that come to mind about working with Chris:
1. Giving constructive feedback from a place of curiosity.
We report to each other so we’re constantly giving each other constructive criticism. Our roles and perspectives are so different that it is very helpful to approach feedback from a place of curiosity. I remind myself when I’m unsure about something Chris is doing, ‘ I don’t think like Chris does, so it is important for me to ask questions first and then give my thoughts.’ We try to take this posture with each other (and our other team members) so that feedback isn’t based on misunderstanding and doesn’t feel threatening. Once we understand why, we affirm the motivation behind how the other person is trying to do things, and then we coach each other pretty bluntly on what we can do differently in the future. I’ve found that because I feel that Chris has heard my intention and perspective in the feedback process, it actually builds trust between us. Our constant feedback loop has not only improved our leadership but also helped us understand each other on a whole new level because we’re constantly trying to see things from the other person’s perspective.
2. The bond of sharing the vision and sharing the stress.
It is exhilarating to build something together as a couple and envision what it can accomplish in the world. The uncertainty of small business can also feel really all-encompassing. Working with Chris together means that we get each other in both experiences, we both almost take turns being pumped about what we’re creating and being totally stressed out. When we’re in intense seasons, we don’t have to explain it to each other. And that has been really bonding and helpful.
3. The importance of drawing the line between personal and business.
Because we’re constantly giving feedback and living/working in these intense situations, we’re learning it is very important to continue to draw the line between personal and business. Chris and I both love Victor Athletics and Noble Denim. We believe in the principles of Fair Wages, US Made, and Sustainable Materials. We care about our team and good design. We hope that the companies are very successful long term. But it has been important for us to draw the line between our hopes for the companies and who we are as people, as a couple. We are people outside the business. We are married, first. If the companies are ever unhealthy for us, we’ll be done. That is the backbone that makes the rest of it work for us, I think.
(images via Victor Athletics)