American Made Profile | March 10, 2015
Two Naked Ladies
The beach volleyball team was battling to defeat their arch rival… the dreaded tan line! Twisting and contorting their string bikinis tying them in different ways each day. You know how it is ladies; you pick out the perfect dress, ready to hit the town, one last check in the mirror, oh wait! Your worst nightmare is staring back at you, pasty white strap lines peaking out from your beautiful strapless. One of the team members knew there had to be a solution. Her name was Reilly Starr. She saw an opportunity, but it couldn’t be seized until the day she met Katie Sue Nicklos.
Reilly and Katie Sue are co owners of Naked Sports Gear located in New York City. Reilly is an avid outdoor sport enthusiast, a consummate entrepreneur and a social media maven. She attended George Washington University where she played on the varsity women’s volleyball team and was goalie for the water polo team. She went on to manage communications and public relations for brands like Mitsubishi, IBM and some of the biggest law firms in the world. She’s also the co-founder of an online legal staffing job site, Plum Law jobs. She currently plays on multiple volleyball leagues in New York as well as co-founding AllStar Volleyball, a 501(c)3 organization giving NYC youth a chance to participate in competitive volleyball. Before meeting Katie and discovered her true calling, Reilly says she did a little bit of everything.
Katie Sue Nicklos is a costume designer extraordinaire. She got her bachelors in theatre at McPherson College in Kansas City and her Masters of costume Design from University of Northern Iowa. She is a free lance designer and the business manager of Timberlake Studios in New York City, specializing in stretch dance and active wear. You can see her garments in Broadway plays like The Full Monty, West Side Story, Curtains, La Cage, and grand events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Before meeting Reilly, “I was designing costumes for Burlesque performers.” Katie Sue told me.
“Reilly and I shopped for fabrics together in the
Garment District and when we found this print we
knew we could stop looking! We both fell in love.”
The two met through a mutual friend. Katie Sue said, “When she told me about her idea I thought it amazing, brilliant and creative.” She began to design a prototype for Reilly, a micro-mesh, moisture-wicking fabric that allows you to absorb safe color through the clothing. While creating samples and working on research and development she asked Reilly, “Why don’t we go into this together?” Reilly agreed and Naked Sports Gear was born as well as a budding friendship.
While Katie Sue was in the lab, Reilly began field testing. Reilly went to play beach volleyball wearing the first prototype they called The Naked Sports Bra. She couldn’t get home fast enough after playing all day in the sun and sure enough, when she took the sports bra off she had no tan lines. “We were so excited. We just knew we had a great product.” said Katie Sue.
The twosome continued working copiously, testing more prototypes, building a website and designing graphics. They used kickstarter.com to raise money for the first round of manufacturing. With overwhelming support, positive feedback and media attention the two raised $13,210, well over their $10,000 target.
Naked Sports Gear has had orders from almost every state since launching in May of 2012 from store fronts like Amazon, Ahalife and Carbon38 as well as their own website www.nakedsportsgear.com, increasing their sales by 300% in just one year.
Their micromesh fabric is stretchy, breathable, and light weight (3-6 oz). It doesn’t weigh you down when you’re peddling up hill or diving for the volleyball. There is an elastic band under the bust for support and for modesty a sweetheart style liner, made out of a moisture-wicking dry-tek fabric. It allows you to move easy in yoga poses and stay dry during the hardest stair climb. In addition to the sports bra their tank tops come in sheer mesh or opaque. Both prevent shoulders tan lines but the opaque tank stops sun from penetrating through to the torso. With all this, Naked Sports Gear’s really got you covered, so to speak.
As for looking good, all their garments come in a two color complementary tie-dye pattern that has a distinctive style. People will know right away that you’re wearing NSG. As Katie Sue put it, “Reilly and I shopped for fabrics together in the Garment District and when we found this print we knew we could stop looking! We both fell in love.”
All of Naked Sports Gears products are made in the heart of the garment district in NYC. “We have separate vendors for everything. We have a vendor who makes our patterns, two different manufactures who do all the cutting and putting together and we also have an embroidery garment manufacture.” said Katie Sue. This is not a common practice in today’s American market. An increasing number of companies whose only concern is the bottom line are outsourcing for cheaper labor, materials and supplies to other countries. This has lead to fewer and fewer jobs for Americans as well as weakens the economy.
On the contrary, Katie Sue feels producing in America has actually streamlined their manufacturing process and reduced overhead. They also reduce their environmental impact by doing their own legwork.
“We physically take the garments from one to the next
…saving on shipping since we can walk to
pick up garments when they’re done.”
They like seeing who’s making the products and the working conditions so buying locally was a given. Katie Sue proudly added, “It feels good! It’s good for my community and people’s jobs - seeing people in my life, good workers, and talented people, able to support their families.” Fewer and fewer people are able to make a living in the textile field and more stores are closing. The good news is that there is a movement going on to save the garment industry in NYC. Check out savethegarmentcenter.org for more info.
Originally Naked Sports Gear was made for athletes but Reilly and Katie Sue soon realized that it is for everyone that enjoys the outdoors. “We have interest from all types of people! …I’m originally from Colorado and even farmers there are interested in this product.” Katie Sue went on to say, “Fitness is so in! The industry has really blown up. Once you start taking care of yourself and living a healthy lifestyle, it’s hard to turn back. I really don’t see this industry going anywhere.”
For 2014 Naked Sports Gear will be broadening their line. “We are getting more sports specific.” said Katie Sue. Golf shirts that have mesh fabric across the shoulders, cycling shorts, surfing rash guards, as well as different styles and colors of bras and tanks. Katie Sue added, “We are also slowly being put into the New York City CYC studio, found at www.cycfitness.com. They are new to the New York area so we are very excited to be part of that.”
Katie Sue had this advice for people wanting to start a business, “If someone is looking to get into apparel or the fashion industry I suggest they look at makersrow.com. It is a great stepping off point. There are people listed who can make whatever you need. Reilly and I were not aware of this site when we started, but it is now a great source! But my best advice - Google!! There are plenty of businesses out there that can help and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If one company can’t help they can direct you to someone who can. Everyone wants to help everyone!”
Katie Sue told me that doing something new can be difficult because you never know what’s going to happen next. She added, “Not a bad obstacle to have. Reilly and I treat everything that comes at us as an exciting challenge. Attitude makes all the difference. Everything is always anew! I see our company having endless possibilities. The sky is the limit!”
Thanks to Riley and Katie Sue the epic battle to defeat the dreaded tan line has been won. They have emerged as champions for all women-kind. Katie Sue explained that it was teamwork that got them there, “We each fit a need the other couldn’t fill. We are each others yin and yang. …The first bra we made was a great mix of Reilly and I, we researched and developed it together. We tried bra after bra after bra until we had our winner.” Their success has been more then just profitable, it’s also been meaningful. “I am all about female empowerment and respecting your body no matter what it looks like. I love people comfortable in their own skin. My job, what I do, is another way to assist women to feel good.”
We all have a good idea from time to time but making it happen, that is the hard part. Katie Sue and Reilly’s initiative, determination and optimism are truly inspiring. Reilly saw a gap in the market, Katie Sue saw a chance to create and they both made it a reality. Not just that, they care about women, their community and each other… who says nice gals finish last?
Credits // Author: Wendi Wendt - Photos Provided By: Naked Sports Gear