Georgetown undergraduate students Ethan Rosen (MSB ’19), Emmett Orts (SFS ’19) and Francesco Ambrosio (MSB ’19) are offering cheap and accessible athletic clothing through the online clothing startup UApparel, which launched at the beginning of this year.
Rosen and Orts, members of the University’s crew team, founded the company during the summer of 2016, while studying abroad in Taiwan. According to Rosen, the country’s hot, humid weather helped them identify a need for cheaper alternatives to the major athletic retailers that currently dominate the market.
“It’s 100 degrees with humidity, so you’d walk outside, and, basically, you were just drenched in sweat,” Rosen said.
Rosen said the rowers were able to start their business successfully after meeting local Taiwanese manufacturers and establishing a relationship with them.
“We made a good relationship with one of the manufacturers there,” Rosen said. “They really like that we came to their factory and talked with them in person.”
The manufacturers agreed to produce a small line of clothing, which consisted of lightweight athletic shorts. Rosen and Orts remained heavily involved in the process of designing the clothing.
Upon returning to the United States, the rowers partnered with Ambrosio and launched their apparel brand. Ambrosio explained the need to find apparel with was suitable for both exercise and casual wear.
“We’re all student athletes, and we noticed that we had a common problem,” Ambrosio said. “It’s hard to transition from working out to being presentable and ready to go to class or to a meeting. It’s hard to find apparel.”
Rosen and Ambrosio noticed that finding affordable athletic clothing is a challenge, especially as college students on a tight budget. Ambrosio said popular brands like Nike and lululemon were too expensive, despite offering comfortable items.
Besides marketing the brand through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, the students also relied on campus representatives at Brown University, in the United Kingdom, Italy and other colleges across the world, according to Ambrosio.
“I have a bunch of friends in Italy that are doing it, two guys in the U.K. and then there’s a guy at Brown,” Ambrosio said. “We’re trying to get it out there and get people to know it; it’s word of mouth.”
Rosen explained that the company places an emphasis on the functionality of their product and the freedom it provides its wearers.
“We’ve come to realize is it’s less about the shorts and more about the things you can do in the shorts. It’s not about our product: It’s more about the lifestyle it allows you to have,” Rosen said.
Fifty customers placed preorders before launch. Now, orders continue coming in and the company’s clothing stocks continue to increase. Rosen noted that they currently do most business online and through their partnerships with small retailers.
“We have a website. That’s where we do most of our business, and we also do some wholesale to retail stores, smaller-end stores,” Rosen said.
Rosen pointed out that despite its intentions of establishing ties with larger retailers, the firm must overcome its current high production costs.
“We were considering going to a bigger sporting goods store, but it doesn’t make sense right now because our cost is so high, so it makes more sense to sell retail,” Rosen said.
In addition, Rosen said UApparel plans to expand to women’s clothing next fall, while keeping with its signature creative patterns.
“We’ve been approached by a bunch of girls that said they think the patterns work well for men,” Rosen said. “I have a few patterns in mind from previous samples that will look good for girls and I think girls’ shorts is a big market as well in these cool patterns, it could be fun to get into.”
Rosen, Ambrosio and Orts also infused a philanthropic element into their company. UApparel donates some proceeds to the Boys and Girls Club, a nonprofit that aspires to help children in America reach their potential as integral citizens, according to Rosen.
“We donate proceeds to the Boys and Girls Club. That was something Emmett and I did when we were younger,” Rosen said. “Helping those kids, crazy patterns, ties together.”
Ambrosio said that the original goal of helping fellow students remains at the core of the company’s philosophy.
“It’s a small thing, giving students; we felt it was something we needed,” Ambrosio said.“We’re not the only students, so we want to help the students and give them this possibility.”
Christopher Holshouser (MSB ’19) has bought clothing from UApparel and he praised its low prices and versatility.
“It’s finally nice to be able to have men’s athleisure that is both affordable and comfortable, that I can work out in and wear casually,” Holshouser said.
Hoya Staff Writer Alfredo Carrillo Obregon contributed reporting.