After the U.S. women’s national soccer team won the World Cup in 2015, four teammates—Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, and Meghan Klingenberg—started talking about the ways being the best of the best on the field didn’t translate to their off-field and, more so, financial lives.
“We didn’t feel like we were getting paid what we were worth on the field,” Press told Fortune. That led to the entire team reorganizing their Players Association and negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer, with Press and Klingenberg serving as two of the squad’s representatives in negotiations.
But that wasn’t the only thing they reorganized. Though the women could have gone after a number of high-dollar sponsors, the opportunities weren’t always a good fit. So, added Press: “We got the idea that we should bet on ourselves and reclaim that value.“
The four team members came up with the idea to launch their own lifestyle brand, Re-inc, which launched with a gender-neutral streetwear line in June 2019. Back on the field a few weeks later, the newly-minted co-CEOs helped the USWNT won its second consecutive World Cup.
“As female athletes, we wear a lot of street clothes. That’s what we work in, that’s what we’re photographed in, and all of the clothing is made by men and for men, so we didn’t have the sizes or the fit that we liked,” Press said. “We learned a lot about fashion and found that like the higher-end you go, the less size diversity you see.” They wanted to go beyond model sizes and offer clothes that would fit a wider range of people.
“We intentionally wanted to disrupt that male-dominated space and create a line of clothing that was fit for an individual,” said Press.
Re-inc’s first collection, RWB, included a t-shirt that said “Liberté, égalité, défendez.” The first 1,000 liberty, equality, defend shirts—priced at $125 for an oversized version and $75 for the cropped edition—sold out in in less than a week. The collection, all sold through the company’s online store, were designed to work “as a system and you can pull which pieces you want based on your individual masculinity and femininity to find something that’s right for you,” said Press. “If we can create some small change in the way people feel when they’re getting dressed every day to create a new normal, that’s something that really excites us as a company.”
Re-inc’s market space gives them room to grow. Companies from Nike to Carhartt have launched women’s collections, and female-led brands Ambush and Sacai have made waves but aren’t dominant. Streetwear and women’s branding expert Reggie Casagrande, who has worked with companies from Converse to Hello Kitty to Born x Raised, said their approach is perfect for this moment in time, when consumers are looking for clothing that makes a social statement.
“The women’s streetwear space is pretty small. Top streetwear brands out there like Bape, Stussy, and Carhartt don’t have a purpose or ethos, really. So, we are very excited to see a brand of this caliber with such an authentic narrative come to market,” Casagrande told Fortune. “The clothing is very basic, which is where you want to start, and the price points are comparable to other players in the space.”
Casagrande said the women’s standing in the world and positions on civil rights will also bolster the brand. “The fact that they are all women, world champions, and advocates for both women and LGBT rights is extremely important.,” she said. “That is something that will really resonate with zoomers and millennials who care about the bigger picture message and want to support brands that match their values. I think it’s a great beginning.”
The purpose-driven narrative, Press said, is woven into the company name: “redefining business, reimagining products, and reinventing culture.” She said those ideas are helping turn fans of their on-field work into fans of the brand.
“They’re the people that followed soccer but loved something other than soccer about us. It’s what we stand for: women’s rights and human rights,” she said. “Meghan Klingenberg always says this really well: financial liberation is the only way to get to social liberation of minorities and marginalized groups. It’s a for-profit business, but there’s this other element to it that, as we do this, we want to do it the right way, with the right products, the right ideas, the right people. With Re-Inc, instead of fighting for a slice of the pie, we want to create a new pie.”
But, of course, soccer skills don’t translate directly to the apparel industry. “I spent hundreds of hours talking about hemlines, colors, and Pantone—all these things that are very outside of my wheelhouse,” Press said. “Tobin led design, with Pinoe as a close second in terms of the artistic side, and I had a heavy hand in logistics, operations, and communication of those ideas. That included sketching, approving every single sample, and making ⅛-inch modifications.”
They’re still learning about supply chain issues, making sure their production is sustainable and eco-friendly. “That shouldn’t be something that’s special,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to go to a special brand to find clothing that was consciously made. With this next line, we moved to a factory in India that is really well known for its consciousness, from using solar power to not using chemicals when they’re growing the cotton. That should just be normal.”
The new line, “BW,” is due this spring. A painting by Heath, a self-taught artist, hints at the line’s style. Another clothing line and the company’s first lifestyle products will follow later this year. They’ll have to balance that with prepping for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics (though, in the wake of the coronavirus, several countries have started calling for the event’s cancelation) and the upcoming trial for their equal-pay lawsuit against U.S. Soccer.
No matter the challenges, Press said Re-inc isn’t just an add-on in her life. The women are not just the faces of the company, they are the company. “Personally, I always felt football was a vehicle. I know that’s a crazy thing to say when you’re playing at the highest level, but I always craved something more my whole life,” she said.
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