Nobull, a CrossFit-oriented footwear label started last year by two former Reebok executives, is layering in apparel.
After exiting Reebok in 2012 as global creative director Michael Schaeffer teamed with Marcus Wilson, former head of brand strategy, to start their own marketing and design agency. That evolved into their own athletic company, which launched footwear in May of last year. The pair was in New York last week to meet with the Midtown company that is developing its women’s apparel. Nobull also relies on 99D, a company in Lawrence, Mass. for its U.S.-made apparel collection. “There’s basically a huge resurgence of bringing apparel manufacturing back to the U.S. There is a rich history of that, obviously, here in New England and up on the West Coast. A lot of young entrepreneurs are coming in and taking over these old mill buildings, which is great,” Schaeffer said. “We are lucky to work with one in Massachusetts and one in Manhattan, which is kind of crazy to think of apparel manufacturing in the heart of Manhattan.”
Having a factory that is a 90-minute drive from Nobull’s Hingham, Mass. home office is a real advantage, Schaeffer said. Noting that 99D also does testing and prototyping for bigger brands that just want to do short runs or work on special constructions, Schaeffer said, “The beauty is that it’s all here. Rather than wait for samples to be shipped from the Far East, we can drive up, make alterations, try them out on the fit model and within a couple of hours having made a huge step forward.”
Female CrossFitters now have the option of buying $52 Nobull sports bras and $58 bonded shorts, with leggings, hoodies, pullovers and other options to follow. Having outgrown the warehouse space adjacent to its Hingham office, the company is using that for more offices, a workout area for employees and wear-testing by Nobull-sponsored athletes and a studio for photography and video. Ten people currently work there and a design team is being built out. Women’s and men’s athletic apparel will be officially launched in March or April. Digitally focused, the brand heard from enough consumers that they should add apparel that Schaeffer acquiesced.
While Nobull’s founders and staff have an affinity for CrossFit, the new apparel can also be worn for other activities. “A lot of CrossFitters run, and do long runs on the weekends. They do obstacle races. They were specific shoes when they weight lift. We’ve started tapping into a very big lifting community that’s really embraced the product. There are definitely some sports that are very connected to CrossFit,” Schaeffer said. “From a creative standpoint, I was fortunate to work with super talented people at Reebok. Having said that, they are having a rough time right now…with the move and everything [from corporate headquarters in Canton, Mass. to a smaller location in Boston.] My position there was great being able to set the vision for the brand [overseeing a team of 180.] I’m very excited about being very hands-on again. I’ve basically gone back to doing a lot of the work myself and I find that very fulfilling. I don’t miss the ability to delegate and to think, ‘Big Picture.’ We do that as here too. The picture’s just not as big picture as Reebok’s.”
Noting that he took some of Reebok’s corporate culture to use at Nobull, Schaeffer said, “We have a gym here too — a much smaller and more humble space. But people can work out at any time of the day. Everything’s very flexible as long as people do their work. We want them to enjoy being here,” he said.