A longtime Under Armour executive has snagged a top job at Brunt Workwear, a Boston-based footwear and apparel brand targeted to construction workers and tradespeople.
Kevin Eskridge, an 11-year veteran of Under Armour who served as chief product officer from 2017 to 2020, has been named president of Brunt. In this role, Eskridge will oversee the company’s product development, merchandising, sourcing and global retail expansion.
Eric Girouard, founder and chief executive officer of Brunt, said of Eskridge: “Not only does he have an incredible track record of building high-growth teams, but more importantly, he understands how to create a strong connection with customers through innovative, thoughtfully designed products [that] are so important to the community we serve. Kevin has the exact combination of product and commercial experience, as well as a palpable passion for our category, to help us transform Brunt into a leader, and there is no limit on how far we can go together.”
Girouard said because he didn’t come from a product and merchandising background, he recognized that “we needed high horsepower” in order to spur further growth — and Eskridge fit the bill. “It was a no-brainer,” he said.
Eskridge held a number of roles at Under Armour, including president of sport performance, senior vice president of global merchandising and planning, and he also served as the first managing director of Under Armour in China. In Eskridge’s first role at Under Armour, he worked in the tactical, hunting and outdoor categories. He left the athletics brand in August 2020, shortly after Patrik Frisk took over as CEO and started making managerial changes. Eskridge began his career at Gap Inc., and also was a vice president at Armani Exchange.
He had a one-year non-compete with Under Armour and had worked in “non-industry related consulting work,” he said. After that ended, he was introduced to Girouard, and he saw the potential in the brand.
“The success that Brunt has achieved in a short amount of time is impressive,” Eskridge said. “All the ingredients to become an established leader in the industry are here: a passionate and loyal customer base, a product that is innovative and problem-solving, and a founder with an unwavering mission to build a best-in-class brand. Brunt has a massive runway, and I look forward to continuing the great work started by this incredible team.”
Although Brunt is much smaller than Under Armour, Eskridge said that’s part of what drew him to the brand. “You build a pyramid one brick at a time,” he said, adding that he worked on Under Armour Outdoor “in the early days,” and went to China when the company had one store doing $2 million. “I’ve always loved the growth and brand development phase.”
Eskridge joins Brunt at a pivotal time as the brand aims to triple its staff in key categories including product management and design, channel diversification and life cycle digital marketing this year. The company recently expanded into apparel and raised a $20 million Series B round with participation from growth-equity firm Stripes and real estate developer TF Cornerstone, among others. It has 15 full-time employees, Girouard said, four more than it started the year with.
The direct-to-consumer brand was created a little more than two years ago by former M.Gemi executives Girouard and David Chernow who launched with just four styles of work boots, but has since expanded into more models as well as socks and apparel. Its tag line is “The Tools You Wear” and it offers affordable prices, such as its bestselling Marin model that retails for $135 or the DiStasio for $175. Six months after its launch, Brunt added apparel and accessories, such as work jackets and pants.
The company declined to provide a volume figure, but said that in 2021, Brunt exceeded its 2021 forecast by 80 percent, thanks in part to a sales surge of 119 percent between the first half and second half of the year.
Girouard believes the brand has found success against such household names as Carhartt and Dickies because it offers customers an alternative. “Our brand has experienced viral growth because of how well it resonates with the modern construction worker,” he has said. “We look different, speak different and act very differently than the heritage workwear brands.“ Its growth plan is to explore additional distribution channels as well as the international market. “We would love to be a global brand,” he said.
That’s where Eskridge’s expertise comes in. The first move outside U.S. borders is expected to be Canada and the company is also interested in exploring South America, Australia and Asia, where Eskridge said he has “a lot of experience and contacts.” In addition, Girouard said the “roadmap for the future” includes “doing a deep dive into every viable channel,” including selling through other digital retailers, entering the wholesale market, opening its own stores and even working with boot trucks.