Tom Brady’s football career is far from over but he’s already plotting his next chapter — and it’s simply called Brady.
After teasing it last fall, on Wednesday the superstar Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback will finally unveil his men’s apparel brand, a joint venture with Jens Grede of Skims fame that was designed by Public School cofounder Dao-Yi Chow, who serves as creative director.
The L.A.-based Grede has already built three successful fashion brands: His wife Emma Grede’s Good American denim with Khloé Kardashian; Kim Kardashian West’s inclusive lingerie line Skims, and the Frame men’s and women’s contemporary brand with cofounder Erik Torstensson. Revenues between the three brands were expected to reach $500 million in 2021, Grede told WWD in June.
Chow also has had a successful career in fashion. In its heyday Public School New York snagged several CFDA awards as well as the International Woolmark Award in 2015. He and PSNY codesigner Maxwell Osborne also had a two-year stint with DKNY and until recently, Chow was the creative director of Italian heritage sportswear brand Sergio Tacchini.
With this kind of star power behind it, the brand is clearly positioned to make a splash. The collection, which is intended to be worn at the gym and on the street, is centered around technologically advanced fabrics, sustainable materials and practices. It will be sold online on brady-brand.com as well as at Nordstrom, which will launch it on Jan. 19.
Although the line is just dropping now, Brady said the team has actually been working on the collection for more than three years.
“I’ve been around the block, and around the block, and around the block, and I’m still going around the block,” Brady said with a laugh in an exclusive interview. “I’ve been so lucky to have had such a fun career. For me, the benefit was preparing for life after football and doing things that I really love to do.
“I thought about launching an apparel brand for a lot of years and we wanted this one, with Jens and Dao, to be perfect,” Brady said. “So it feels like we’re launching now, but this was conceived three and a half years ago and we wanted to be sure we really nailed it and got it right. I’m closer to the end of my football career but at the same time, [I want to do] things that are fun. It’s just exciting to be a part of something and work with really great people because one thing I’ve learned about sports: it’s really about the team and finding the right people who share the same values and views and bringing something to the market that I think people are really going to love.”
Brady opted to launch the brand with Grede rather than through his longtime sponsor Under Armour. The Baltimore-based sports company is now focusing nearly exclusively on performance sports apparel and its attempt to move into fashion in 2016 with the UAS collection, designed by Tim Coppens, met with limited success and was discontinued after one year. An Under Armour spokesperson said Brady continues to part of the UA family as an ambassador, as he has for 11 years, but said the Brady brand is his personal, off-the-field endeavor and separate from his partnership with the company.
Although the Brady line is not as high-fashion — or as high-priced — as UAS, it effectively blends performance attributes and trend-right silhouettes that work well in a pandemic-fueled world. The first collection features 45 styles in three separate categories: Train, Live and Merch, the latter of which refers to the logo pieces. There are 145 total stock keeping units, and prices range from $20 to $495. Top pieces include lightweight trackpants and shorts, mesh shirts, half-zips, polo shirts, trucker jackets and hoodies.
“I wanted it to be lifestyle-based because we’re all kind of transitioning — you have your red-carpet moments that are super formal — and I still love my Tom Ford suits, there’s no doubt about it — but I think things you can wear to work or to work out in or for everyday life activities like golf or taking our kids to the park or to the grocery store or the dogs on a walk” speak to today’s man, Brady said. “For me, [it’s important to have] a full lifestyle brand that works for every aspect of your life. So much of our work life and our personal lives right now are interchangeable and to go in between and have the same set of really cool, beautiful, confident clothes is really fun. And we wanted to develop it for guys so they didn’t have to overthink it. You should be able to grab pieces and put them together and they should all look great.”
Brady said that he was introduced to Grede by apparel industry veteran Andrew Rosen, former chief executive officer of Theory and an investor and supporter of a myriad of fashion brands, including Rag & Bone, Alice + Olivia and Proenza Schouler.
Brady said that when Rosen heard he was exploring the idea of launching his own label, he immediately made the introduction to Grede.
“He’s such a hard-working guy who has had amazing success in the things that he’s done,” Brady said of Grede. “We met and we just hit it off. We talked about it for a long time and then really started to activate it. It’s amazing — it starts as a vision and then it turns into an idea and the idea turns into actual work and work turns into product and the product turns into a line and the line turns into a business — and now we’re just getting into the business part.”
Brady realizes that, much like sports, carving out a niche in the lifestyle market won’t be easy, but he’s confident the line will succeed.
“It’s very competitive once you get into the market but I feel once you have the right team in place, you can adjust to however you need to adjust in the field. There will be a thousand things that will come up that you have to solve the right way. Just like sports, you’ve got to apply the right solution to it. I feel between what Andrew’s success has been and what Jens has done and the amazing style and design of Dao-Yi makes for a really great team and I know we’re going to do great things for a lot of people.”
He’s pleased with how “authentic” the collection is to his life — and he has a few favorites. “I wanted to make sure it had the right balance of train and live, that’s kind of my life. I love the bomber jacket from our Live line — it’s very chic and very cool — and the Ts are great, they’re a really great dry wicking to chill your body. We have crewnecks and half-zips, cardigans, there’s a really cool 3D knit that we’ve applied — I’m really excited to see it all come to life.”
But which pieces does his wife, Gisele Bündchen, think are the best?
“The best thing about her is that she loves me in everything so it’s hard to get a straight answer out of her,” he said with a laugh. “Rather than [a particular] style, she likes the colors — she loves the olive greens and the slate blues. Men look best a lot of times in the more-traditional colors so we wanted to start the line with [that as well as] some color accents that pop. At the end of the day, it’s pretty stylish and chic.”
Pantone Color Institute created a special Brady blue shade for the collection, which is meant “to embolden the next generation to reach new heights,” according to the companies. The color is being used as one of the “bold and instantly recognizable” hues in the collection.
Chow, an avid runner who completed both the New York City and Chicago marathons last year, embraced the opportunity to work with the star athlete when the opportunity was presented to him by his mentor Rosen last year. “He told me, I need you to clear everything you’re doing.” Rosen didn’t immediately reveal what he was being solicited for except to say that the line was named Brady. Chow didn’t imagine it could be Tom Brady, but trusted Rosen to lead him down the right path.
“From there, everything went super-fast. I’m having a lot of fun doing this,” said Chow, adding that he wear-tests all the products to ensure they are “functional and purposeful.”
Chow said since Day One the collection has been “fabric-led.” The team did a “deep dive” into that end of the market to ensure the offerings were breathable, comfortable and would allow for movement, using the quarterback as the muse.
Brady is known for his holistic approach to health and wellness, his strict diet of natural and whole foods as well as his focus on flexibility and mobility rather than the lifting of heavy weights. Calling Brady’s methods “very non-traditional” and centered around mind, spirit and body, Chow used that as a guide for his designs and employed a mix of natural and technical fabrics to answer the demands of his routine both on and off the field.
“They’re sport silhouettes with elevated fabrics and fits,” the designer said. “Each piece has intentional functionality, there are no superfluous details. It really aligns with how he lives.”
Examples include a hoodie with the Brady name on the chest made from 50 percent recycled and 50 percent organic cotton. The Zero Weight jogger, in contrast, is high-tech, with four-way stretch, and water-resistant, wicking and anti-odor properties. That retails for $145. The Cool Touch short-sleeved T, $75 retail, is made from a recycled polyester that will bring the body temperature down three degrees during workouts, Chow said, and the Durable Comfort pant offers a water-resistant face backed with brushed twill, is wind- and water-resistant and breathable with bells and whistles that include pull cords to cinch the ankles, a non-slip belt, hidden pockets for phones and valuables. A Zero Weight track pant features mesh at the calf so it looks sophisticated but can also work on a run.
The lifestyle offering includes a trucker jacket with porthole snaps, hidden cargo pockets and a faux raglan shoulder along with subtle detailing on the pockets and closures. A bonded knit half-zip boasts a merino wool back for thermoregulation and a two-button polo is made from a Zero Hydro yarn that sheds fewer microplastics. Other hero products include a 3D knit seamless bomber, retail price $350, and a Storm Shifter insulated vest, $250, that is waterproof and created from high-pile fleece.
Many of the pieces have silver reflective details for safety, and the entire line sports a logo that is shaped like a T. Chow said its meaning is open-ended and can be interpreted as the first letter of its namesake’s name, a goalpost or even a referee holding his arms up.
Chow’s isn’t the only one with high expectations for the Brady brand. Grede also believes the line can be a success and make its mark in the crowded activewear/lifestyle market, where everyone from Lululemon to Zegna and Canali are trying to carve a niche.
He said shortly after Rosen introduced him to the quarterback four years ago, they started talking about how Brady could be successful once his football career was over.
“I said it would be very difficult,” Grede said. But difficult or not, he sees Brady as the Michael Jordan of football and the opportunities for his future success as limitless.
“What excited me about creating a brand together with Tom is his own values of hard work, excellence and longevity, which is so applicable to a brand. I can’t think of anything more American than his story. He came into the league as the number 199 draft pick and he worked for every inch of his success. If that isn’t a brand, I don’t know what is.”
Although he was deep in the launch of Skims at the time they first connected and didn’t think he could handle another high-profile launch, Grede said it didn’t take him long to wake up and say: “How can I not do it?”
Together they came up with the motto for the line — Lifeletics: Life is a Sport — which they trademarked.
He said after the initial launch, the plan is to do a drop a month and eventually expand into other categories as they work to “build a full brand, one activity at a time.” Although the first collection is relatively small, it was built with intent, Grede said, centered around fabrications and innovations. “Tom had so many ideas about what he wanted to create. He knows we don’t need more things, we need the right things and this is not about adding, it’s about replacing.”
Grede credited Chow with executing a collection that effectively blends innovation and style. “He combined Tom’s experience in professional sports with silhouettes that we want to wear today.”
Nordstrom, as the only physical retailer to sell the brand, is also eager to get Brady in front of its customers. Shea Jensen, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s ready-to-wear and women’s, said the line will be carried at four stores: Tampa — “for obvious reasons,” she said — as well as Natick, Mass., near Foxborough where Brady spent the vast majority of his career with the New England Patriots; The Grove in Los Angeles, and the men’s store in New York City.
“There’s a lot of excitement in the men’s space right now and a lot of anticipation as we launch the brand,” she said. In addition to the brick-and-mortar stores, the collection will be offered online and marketed through emails and on the store’s website. It will become the “centerpiece of our offering in the sportswear and athleisure section. Increasingly, versatility has become a key part of a man’s world, [and the Brady collection of] technical product balanced with the lifestyle of a modern man” fills that void.
To introduce the collection, Brady picked a group of 10 NCAA and newly drafted athletes to appear in the campaign. They include Shedeur Sanders, son of legendary football player Deion Sanders, and Cade McNamara of Brady’s alma mater, the University of Michigan — the school’s first quarterback to beat Ohio State in 10 years — as well as Jermaine Samuels, a basketball player from Villanova University; Julian Reese, a basketball player from the University of Maryland; tennis player Andrew Fenty from University of Michigan; football player George Pickens from the University of Georgia; football player Grayson McCall from Coastal Carolina University; baseball player Henry Davis of the Pittsburgh Pirates; hockey player Jack St. Ivany from Boston College, and tennis player Patrick Zahraj from UCLA. They were chosen because they embody Brady’s principles to be the best while “inspiring fearlessness, resilience and confidence toward achieving peak performance,” according to the brand.
“They’re the next generation of athletes and I feel like this is a next-generation brand,” Brady said of the thinking behind the selection. “So we decided to start with a group of young, aspiring athletes — that’s where I started. A lot of these kids live off scholarship checks and they train for 30 to 40 hours a week for their sport and if we can provide a cool endorsement to them, I thought they would really love it. We were pretty selective with who we chose. Cade and Andrew from the University of Michigan were obviously great choices in my opinion, but I wanted a cool, diverse group of kids and athletes from a lot of different sports. Everyone was super fun to work with, just a lot of cool people. It’s going to keep growing and we’ll keep adding people and I have no doubt that a lot of people are really going to love what they see.”
Even so, Brady doesn’t plan on getting into the sponsorship business like other professional athletes have done now that college athletes can now cash in on their names and likenesses. “I don’t plan on getting into the agency business, it’s not the role I best feel I can play,” he said.
Instead, he seeks to inspire young people in other ways. “These young athletes ask me a lot of questions about what they can do and how they can make the most of their careers. I’ve tried to help in that way for a long time, and if they have any questions, I’m always happy to answer.”
But for now, it’s the Brady collection that is dominating his time off the field.
That’s not to say that he isn’t 100 percent focused on bringing the Buccaneers back to the Super Bowl again this year.
“I’m working my butt off to get there. We have our challenges like every team but I feel like every week that goes by, we’re getting a little better. It’s such a week-to-week league, and I like our chances, we’ve got a competitive group of guys. We’ve put ourselves in a decent position. Now we just have to take advantage of it.”