In 1980, America made 80 percent of its clothes in the U.S., but now it makes only two percent. Victor Athletics — organic, vintage-inspired athletic wear for men and women at an accessible price — was created to change this trend.
The dream all started when Chris Sutton, Abby Sutton, Christman Hersha and Sam Wessner founded Noble Denim in 2012. “Chris was sewing raw, selvage jean by him and making each pair by hand until he couldn’t keep up with the demand by himself,” says Abby Sutton. “In 2013, we found Danny’s factory in Tennessee and have been partnered with them ever since. Our relationship with them is very important to us.”
Victor was born when their team stepped back and saw a gap. “There were people telling us that they were ready to buy U.S. made clothing at a more accessible price and factories were desperate for the opportunity to grow,” says Sutton.
Their first collection focuses on updated fabrics and silhouettes of vintage inspired, everyday wear – incorporating details found in knits from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s such as elongated cuff, waist ribbing, larger V inserts on the chest and collar ribbing.
“We start with 100 percent organic cotton, grown and knit in the U.S.,” says Sutton. “We also spent a long time with our natural dye house in Tennessee honing in on the texture and color of each garment. So much of what makes each vintage item great is how it feels, and with Victor, we’re able to achieve the vintage aesthetic through natural methods without compromising on fit.”
Today, Cincinnati-based Noble Denim and Victor Athletics are both national brands. Although the guiding philosophy is the same for both companies, each brand approaches it in different ways.
“Going forward, you’ll see even more of an emphasis on the details in our small runs of Noble products and the classic, high-quality basics at Victor – and will not compete with each other,” says Sutton. “Victor will sell all of the products that are easier to buy online and will operate on a fashion schedule, releasing new products each season for men and women.”
Overall, Sutton says, Victor is raising the standard for what it means to be made in America. “We’re paying living wages to the clothes-makers and also giving five percent of after-tax profit back to the factories to be invested in their workers,” he adds. “We’re making highly detailed products and using entirely organic material sourced from the U.S. and Japan – and we are also simplifying online shopping while pricing clothes straight from the factory to you.”
“We’ve always intended for Noble Denim to stay a small batch – but we want to see Victor grow,” says Sutton. “The more orders we get, the more jobs and profit we can push back to our factories. Growth for us means the potential to change the trend and see American manufacturing on the rise again.”
According to Sutton, Cincinnati has been a wealth of support. “We love that our brands are based in Cincinnati and our team as definitely felt the support, especially through things like winning Artwork’s Big Pitch,” he adds. “There has been a renaissance of sorts in OTR and it has been great to see so many small businesses take root and feel the creative culture of the city getting stronger – we’re very grateful to be apart of that.”
As for the future, Victor Athletics will be at the New York Pop Up Flea in May and will be releasing a few summer items on their online store, which will open up in the next few weeks for late-July pre-orders.
“Our Kickstarter campaign may be done, but we are going to need continual support to make Victor long-term,” says Sutton. “We’re hoping that the 1,166 individuals who backed Kickstarter will become life-long fans and share their friends too – because at the end of the day, no matter how amazing our products are, the statistics won’t shift until people see this story as important and as a story that belongs to them too”.
To learn more, or to view their online store, click here.