I was lucky enough to sit down and talk with Max Ritz of Adrenaline Lacrosse a couple of days back, and I tossed some questions his way, which he answered with Gusto. I love it when someone will sit down and talk truth with you. It’s refreshing!
Adrenaline Lacrosse is bringing the spice to lacrosse apparel this winter, with a California twist. Let’s see what they’ve got in store for us, what they’re planning in the future and how they came up with their designs!
CW: Adrenaline t-shirts obviously pull a little bit from lacrosse and other mainstream sports & lifestyle trends, but they also display hints of art-deco design, surf culture and skate culture. What makes an ideal t-shirt for you?
Max Ritz: I think apparel is all about the fit and feel. Styles, colors, and trends change, but you’re never going to wear an item that doesn’t fit well and feel great. “Look good, feel good; feel good, play good,”, right? Deion Sanders said that. All of our production is now in-house so we’re as involved as humanly possible in creating products that fit nearly every possible customer. There is definitely a lot of crossover between lacrosse and the sports you mentioned above, so making sure we hit a certain look is important; but it’s all about the fit and feel.
You guys started out pretty modestly, but at this point you’re dropping new stuff like casual non-athletic shorts, deep V t-shirts and super soft casual post surf sweatshirts. What spawned this desire to evolve, and where can you go from here?
Max Ritz: A lot of the things we’re able to do now are a direct result of our rapid growth. We’ve been fortunate enough to grow at a very nice tick for the last few years, to where we can now invest more resources in creating great apparel. Meeting demand hasn’t always been easy, but it’s a bittersweet issue and one that will tip in our favor very soon… There are some well known boutique outlets in LA and NYC that we’ve spoken to about the Spring/Summer 2011 line, but nothing that the traditional lacrosse customer would run across.
Segmented lines are important when a brand grows, much like Nike Athletic vs Brand Jordan or Nike SB and Nike 6.0. We’ll soon be offering different lines at different price points to a variety of non-competing outlets, while still offering our traditional lacrosse-based apparel. We’ll keep trying things and we hope customers keep an open mind.
Who is your ideal customer? Does the new line try to increase that market share or are you keeping your focus on lax players only? Is Adrenaline for the player or is it for everyone?
Max Ritz: Adrenaline is for everyone, and that’s evidenced by the diverse crowd wearing our stuff! We’ve had big banks here in LA give our Burrgyles out to their staff; we’ve had women’s-only retailers approach us to carry; we’ve turned down big-box retail opportunities; and we’ve been in dozens of films and TV shows… We pay close attention to our following and what new people are taking interest the brand, but yes, we are absolutely a lacrosse-based brand and super proud of that. We don’t want to be in the ring with Fortune 500 apparel companies, we’d rather fight for a passionate following who want their apparel to match who they are, rather than what’s available or just cheap. We want customers who understand the blend between being super active as an athlete and person, and being conscious of their style, so it fits well that we’re a lacrosse-based brand… Go figure, ha.
How do you source your fabrics? I hate it when I see something online, buy it and then hate the feel of the fabric. How does Adrenaline fight that battle for their consumers?
Max Ritz: Yes!! Thanks for asking, seriously. Customer Satisfaction is absolutely the number one priority for us. We could hit the office tomorrow and find cheaper materials, seek better source costs, market harder, integrate online more efficiently, and probably become a leaner and more profitable company right away… but our brand would suffer instantaneously and in 12 months we’d all be stringing sticks for $15 to pay our mortgages. We are 100% committed to living and breathing our brand, to the point where shortcuts have never been an option. Our sales might suffer because of a higher price point, but we’re looking to create customer lifetime value, not just sales.
I had a kid ask me for an autograph last week (not sure why… (Editor’s Note: because you’re famous! duh!)), but he had nothing for me to sign. I took one of our new Adrln hats off my head, signed it and gave it to him. There’s a good chance that the young kid and his brothers and friends will all become customers, at which point we’ll have the opportunity to prove our product to them – It’s all about creating a brand and an image, then backing it up with great product when a sale takes place. Those stories are what we’re all about.
How did you come up with the well-known Adrenaline logo? The Arms Up celebration is classic lax pop culture. Is it based on anyone or a particular picture?
Max Ritz: Actually, the logo was a project of Scott Hochstadt’s (President, LXM PRO) at University of Maryland a while back. He was an Art History Major and had a professor challenge him to go out and actually create something. He did that with Adrenaline and the company is now doing amazingly well. He’s not involved in the design process anymore, but it’s crazy to see how far the “project” has come from a UMD dorm room some years ago…. that Professor is still teaching there, btw.
Any thoughts to following the American Apparel model and producing in the USA? What are some of the roadblocks companies face and how could the State or Federal Governments level the playing field? What are your thoughts on the American Manufacturing sector?
Max Ritz: Heavy stuff, Connor, I like it… AA has had a lot of (public) issues and actually had to bring on a former CEO of a major corporation just to get itself back on track. We certainly don’t have a super eccentric CEO/Founder like them, but we do have similar issues in manufacturing. Facts are: unless you’re a boutique or luxury brand and your price points meet a certain threshold, you’re gonna have a tough time finding cheap enough production in the US to let you find your medium between overhead and revenue; especially if you’re in a growth sector.
Without getting too philosophical here, I think the issues that exist at the State and Federal Government levels are equally as askew in the job sector. Laborers in countries with high GDP’s traditionally have both cheaper and lower demands in the lifestyle arena as do workers in more developed and prosperous nations. Evidently America is having a tough time competing right now and that will be a major issue if it’s not addressed. I don’t pretend to know much about world trade, but as one of the world’s largest consumers and importers, the US Government needs to take regulatory action in trade or manufacturing to really see fundamental changes in our economy. Whew, that felt like a macro-economics exam!
Since Adrenaline is a lacrosse company, would you ever consider making the jump to gear? Gloves, heads, shafts, etc. I could see Adrenaline doing well right away with all the west coast presence you already have!
Max Ritz: That’s an interesting route, but I think we’d like to do one thing really well before we start doing another thing just Ok. The hard goods space has enough competition without us sticking our nose in there.
If you could only have ONE person in the entire world rep Adrenaline, who would it be? This is the sole person you can use in ad campaigns and they will be the only celeb/athlete wearing your gear… go!
Max Ritz: Jay-Z.
Would I have said the same thing years ago? Probably not, but right now everything he does and creates is gold. Check out a recent WSJ article on Jay-Z and you’ll see what I mean. If you asked me who I thought represents our brand the best, I’d probably say someone that bridges the gap between style and sport, and appeals to the athleticism men dig with the look that women can like too.
I was at an event with Kevin Plank (Under Armor Founder/Chairman/CEO) recently where he talked about Tom Brady being the first athlete of theirs to be truly recognizable across both men’s and women’s demographics and what that symbolized for them as a company from a branding and marketing POV. On a much smaller scale than TB12 and Under Armor, we’ll try to emulate that move next year with some athlete integration.
Have you always been a clothes horse kind of guy? Some of us love a big closet, others are minimalists. Which are you and how do you fit into the spectrum?
Max Ritz: Nah, I keep it simple. I don’t like to throw things away, (when we moved in the 4th grade my Dad trashed multiple boxes of vintage t-shirts, which still hurts) so I have a lot of stuff… But I just wear Nikes or Converse every day; Levi’s every day; and Adrenaline or buttondowns every day. Luckily my work and casual clothes are one and the same, and we live in a nice climate. I’m embarrassed when I tell someone about the clothing line but I am not wearing any of our stuff, so I try to rock it as much as possible.
Favorite 3 pieces from the Winter collection… let’s hear ’em!
Max Ritz: Black Waffle, Deep End Gray and Beachfront. But I think the Tank Tops and the Boardshorts will be monster hits. Ohhh and the Well Done t-shirt is by far the most comfortable tee I’ve ever worn in my life. Okay that was technically 6 items… so what? Sue me, I’m biased.