Origin Launches Made in USA Athletic Wear

Origin expanded its Made in the USA fashion manufacturing mission by branching out beyond blue jeans and boots and into clothing made for stretching and sweating.

Earlier this month the company committed to bringing back American garment manufacturing released the Origin RTX line of men’s shorts, tops and hoodies. Origin founder and CEO Pete Roberts told Sourcing Journal the new line is meant to compete with the likes of Nike and Adidas. RTX, short for Roll, Train, Execute, speaks to fitness as a lifestyle for a population that increasingly interweaves exercise with all aspects of social, professional and family life, he added.

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“It’s a product built to move throughout life,” Roberts said.

RTX shorts, made primarily from recycled polyester, start at $68 and two of the collection’s three tops, priced similarly, have already sold out. Roberts said he’s able to keep prices competitive by being not just DTC, but by shipping orders out of the company’s 170,000-square-foot cut-and-sew factory in North Carolina, which houses the product development and innovation team as well. Origin purchased Asheboro’s Wells Hosiery & Apparel and Fox Apparel factories last year to increase apparel output in North Carolina and set up a domestic denim wash house.

“We wanted to build a best-in-class training line with best-in-class textiles and fabrics,” Roberts said. “Some of the textiles are wicking, some are water repellent, depending on the activity. We’re trying to compete with fits and cuts and performance and everything.”

Roberts believes his company is alone in sourcing and manufacturing lightweight athletic apparel entirely in the U.S., a blockchain-backed distinction that comes with its own set of challenges.

“Most textiles are made in Asia, and even if someone is cutting and sewing those in America, they’re normally brought in from Asia,” Roberts said. “That knowledge base over there is stronger than it is in the U.S., so we had to learn about textiles again in America because that knowledge has been offshored, sent away. There’s a few people in pockets of the country who have that knowledge, so we had to find them, bring them in-house, learn, make mistakes, innovate—it took a lot to develop these textiles.”

Roberts said Origin spent five years searching for the right material blends for the jujitsu-compatible Nogi [as in no-gi] shorts—all to no avail. Then, he began poaching talent from other companies, including Under Armour’s Travis Gessley, who is now Origin’s VP of product, and former Under Armour COO Kip Fulks to be his strategic advisor and partner and things began to turn around.

“They had more connections than I had, and they brought some textiles to life that were perfect for what we wanted to do,” Roberts said. “It was more of a lack of knowledge of where to look within the supply chain, because it is so fragile.”

Origin discovered that making a line of athletic wear was nearly the complete inverse of designing a gi, which in jiu jitsu is used by one’s opponent for grip and leverage.

“Usually when you’re going to wear a garment that’s covering your arms and legs you don’t want to be restricted when you’re training in it, but at the same time, because your opponent is ripping at your fabric, you can’t actually make it stretch either,” Roberts said. “So, when you think about the cut of a garment, how are you going to allow this to wrap around the person’s body so that their biomechanics are really solid? Our fits and cuts, the seam lines, sew lines—all that stuff we took into consideration from the learnings of combat sports.”

The $68 Nogi shorts, available in 6- and 8-inch lengths, are designed specifically for combat sports with two inseams and four-way stretch. They are also treated with DWR, a water repelling treatment designed to keep a sparring partner’s sweat off one’s own garment. The RTX training short is priced at $72, has pockets, and is made with antimicrobial silver to keep it dry when working out. That technology is also present in the RTX line of tops, which Roberts says allows the wearer to “wear it for a week straight and not smell.”

The Origin RTX training shorts.
The Origin RTX training shorts.

Origin won’t name its specific suppliers but said it worked with a “multitude” of domestic players with expertise in chemistry, yarns, textiles and prints to jointly “engineer” the RTX performance fabrics.

With boots and jeans, customers tend to have a built-in understanding that those products will break-in and improve over time, but as Roberts found, that is not the case with lightweight athletic apparel.

“With training, the expectation is, you’re going to get it, it’s going to fit you great, it’s going to make you look good and it’s going to perform day after day,” Roberts said. “You’re working with lighter weight, stretch materials, so just making sure that the construction is there is really important, and that the performance is there.”

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