Sporty & Rich is continuing its impressive growth with a category expansion.
The four-year-old loungewear brand founded by Emily Oberg is launching its first swimwear collection on Monday, marking the brand’s latest category expansion. Sporty & Rich first made a foray into swimwear with a collaboration with Solid & Striped last year.
The first Sporty & Rich swimwear collection includes bikinis and one-piece bathing suits in a color palette of brown, off-white and green. Both styles include a high-cut bottom and strappy tops.
The collection also offers pieces like T-shirts, shorts, button-up shirts, crewnecks and hats that are meant to match the swimwear.
“I make things that I want to wear and that I feel maybe I can’t find, or things that I’ve found, but I want to make better,” Oberg said about her design process. “Everything is pretty simple. I would never do any fashion pieces — nothing risky or too inventive. It’s a lot of uniform dressing and just lots of basics and staples that I would want to have in my wardrobe now and also 10 years from now.”
The Sporty & Rich swimwear collection comes as the brand continues its growth trajectory, according to the company. Sporty & Rich said it saw sales increase from $400,000 in 2019 to $4 million in 2020, thanks to the boom in loungewear as people stayed home during the COVID-19 pandemic and looked for comfortable clothing options. The following year, the brand generated sales of $12 million and is projecting $20 million to $24 million in sales this year.
“People have always been wearing [loungewear] since before it became popular [during the pandemic],” Oberg said. “I don’t think sweatsuits and comfy clothes will ever not be worn. There’s a time and a place for it.”
While Oberg experienced unprecedented growth amid the pandemic, she stated the fast pace almost destroyed her brand as she struggled to keep up with the demand.
“Sometimes the growth can kill a brand,” she said. “That happens often and before COVID[-19], we were pretty small. Our sales weren’t anything special, but then with COVID[-19] it expanded and the growth almost killed us. I would say we were on the brink of that, but we quickly figured it out.”
Oberg sustained her business by growing her team and setting up systems to operate more smoothly, like building a customer service team and using a new logistics center and factory.
These changes also came about at a time of controversy for the founder and her label. The brand initially came under fire at the beginning of the pandemic for an insensitive Instagram post comparing the costs of fast food items to “real food” — items like an apple, instant oatmeal or a bag of lettuce — with the caption, “You Don’t Need to Be Rich to Be Healthy.” Many called out the brand, which has since deleted the post, for elitism.
Oberg was also called out for allegedly making insensitive comments and laughing at racially insensitive jokes on a podcast.
“I mean, I am a female, Asian minority founder myself so it’s not like I’ve never faced discrimination myself, so I’m very much aware and have dealt with these things firsthand,” Oberg said in response to a question about the controversies. “It’s not like I need to consciously not be a racist person because I just think that’s embedded in me and it’s how I was born. I feel like some of these other founders had to go out of their way and read all of these books on how to not be racist, but for me, that’s never been an issue in who I am. Being more sensitive to the fact that not everyone has access to healthy food — which was one of the main points, and working out or taking supplements even — I would say [I was] not privy to, but I think I wasn’t being sensitive enough to people. Especially with the wellness site — writing all of this health advice and not realizing that a lot of people can’t even do what we’re saying. So I think in that sense, the content is more for everyone now, where it’s like, we have a lot of articles on how to be healthy for essentially minimal resources, and these are things you can do when you have zero budget. And in terms of the brand in general, I would say it’s pretty accessible, the price point is on the lower end compared to other streetwear brands.”
Sporty & Rich sells T-shirts for $60, sweatshirts for between $150 and $185, and sports bras for $85.
Oberg explained that hiring more staff members and implementing new systems has helped rectify these missteps in the years since the controversy.
Going forward, Oberg is releasing a Sporty & Rich coffee book and has her sights set on opening a storefront.
“It’s important to have a real-life point of connection for people to discover the world and lifestyle of the brand,” she said. “You can only connect with people so much online. Online is still going to be an important focus, but I think it will be nice to create maybe a bigger and stronger sense of community, so a store helps with that.”