We Interview Rhone's CEO Nate Checketts

 Nate Checketts Co-Founder, CEO Rhone

Nate Checketts Co-Founder, CEO Rhone

Rhone launched a men's activewear brand in 2014 in a crowded space, with well-financed, and established players. Many in and around the apparel category, I included, would have been uneasy about launching. 

Well, that's true. I think the reason that you or other people wouldn't likely go into the space is that you have far more experience then I had when considering this. That's one of the things I say to potential entrepreneurs,  don't be afraid because if you knew how hard or complicated it is, you'd probably never start.

I guess most disruption comes from the outside. Or at least that's my view. Every industry has its challenges and incumbents, and people that exist in those industries or ecosystems tend to be afraid because they're aware of the difficulties. 

If you're outside the segment, you tend to skip over the challenges and just get started. They build momentum and learn how to work around the obstacles. A fresh perspective. So I think our lack of industry experience may have allowed us to find creative ways and a different approach. 

Some brands in the space have fallen out of favor because they begin to look like each other. 

No question, we did have an idea of how we saw the products it came out of what we saw as two large clusters at apparel companies. Two criteria, one based on the percentage of sales of men versus women, and we thought Nike, Reebok, Under Armour and Adidas were all playing within a plus or minus 5% of each other.

And then we saw this secondary cluster which was about a 160% price index with somewhere between 0-15% of their sales to men, with high-performance women's athleisure wear. And that would be the Lululemon's of the world. 

There was no male counterpart to that so decided to spend our efforts in building a men-specific premium product, and tell a story that men can relate to creating a brand that was theirs. A brand that would belong to them and spoke to them.  And we felt there was nothing like what we wanted to create, and that could propel us through some of the challenges we faced. 

So a dedicated brand where the men's line isn't an ancillary business. Men want a specialized product with a story they can relate. Especially when it comes to paying a premium, they want products designed to perform for them.

This is why we decided early on to name our products after inspirational male icons like Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, and Walt Whitman, and why each product includes an inspirational quote from that figure on the inside of the hemline or waistband.

Meant to be a discovery as you wore it, thoughtfulness in the product and a little reminder that you're a guy and these are great men you may try to emulate. Maybe stand a little taller and be a little stronger that day message, versus a typical activewear brand that may use a professional athlete that may or may not be an outstanding citizen. 

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We thought the brand could stand by itself and move away from the endorsement format. It just doesn't seem like you need it. 

We agree especially for a more sophisticated consumer. You realize early on in life you're not going to play professional sports, so you begin being motivated by others. 

How do you handle product design, do you work with outside designers or is it executed in-house?

We do design our products in-house, and it's a challenge but if we're going to create a level of differentiation and put our touch on everything we need to create the products it in-house. The product is unique, could you walk us through the differentiators, design, fit, and durability?

Rhone uses the highest quality fabrics and the most innovative materials and technology available to create a product that we feel is unparalleled. By incorporating elements like Gold & Silver into our garments for powerful anti-microbial and anti-odorant protection, to breathable mesh venting panels in the underarms of our performance tops, to chafe-free flat-lock seaming, every detail is taken into consideration.

This painstaking attention to detail results in superior fit, form and function and products that stand up in the gym and excel during transitional times. 

In layman’s terms, please give us a brief on your GoldFusion technology and its performance.

GoldFusion is a revolutionary technology that infuses gold particles into Rhone's highest performance fabrics for a softer, safer, faster-drying, longer-lasting, odor-neutralizing activewear garment. Rhone is the only apparel company in the world offering this proprietary technology. 

We've noticed that you don’t appear to be chasing celebrity or athlete endorsements, and the product isn't a walking billboard for the logo. Is this by design? 

Since inception, we’ve made a conscious decision to focus on remarkable individuals to be our ambassadors. Often they are not professional athletes or well-known celebrities but incredible men leading extraordinary lives. This isn’t to say that famous men aren’t wearing Rhone; they’re just choosing to do so organically and without payment or influence from us. For example, Matthew McConaughey was recently seen running in our product. 

We genuinely believe that our clothing should embody what it means to be an inspired and a modern man while leading a healthy lifestyle. 

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How do you envision the line evolving over the next couple of years?

We are continually working to source the highest quality fabrics, identifying the best performing technologies, and improving upon fit to ensure we are always offering our customer best in class product. In the next couple of years, we will continue to expand our offering to provide performance-driven products that can take our guy from his commute to the office, to the gym.

We will also be focused on our own retail rollout and bringing Rhone to customers across the country.

In addition to your site, www.rhone.com where can the product be purchased? 

Currently, Rhone is available in all Equinox locations, at select REI and Bloomingdale's locations, as well as Peloton Studios, and close to 150 specialty stores and gyms.

Looking ahead a bit, what excites you the most?

We believe that Rhone will be the next billion-dollar brand in active apparel, which not only excites us but pushes us to be better and do better every day. In the meantime, we plan to build out our own retail business while continuing to provide the best men's activewear on the market.