To the Sporty & Rich community,
I hope you’re all safe right now. With the realities of injustice for Black Americans front and center, I know many of you aren’t ok. For a lot of you, you’ve been living with these realities your whole lives and some of us are only beginning to make a concerted effort to do what we should have been doing a long time ago.
I’ve received a lot of feedback and questions over the last two weeks on a bunch of topics, and I owe you my thoughts. I was planning to post this a week ago, but after the protests began, the fight against systemic racism needed to be, and still needs to be, my focus. I’ve wrestled with whether to post this now and ultimately decided that I should address the conversation continuing around Sporty & Rich so I don’t contribute to distraction from the hard work everyone’s doing. After this, I’m going to continue to devote the space on my platform to supporting the movement. I’ll continue to educate myself, donate, demand change from those in power, and encourage others to do the same.
I want to thank you all for sharing your thoughts -- the critical ones, the supportive ones, and everything in between. Above all, I want to say that I’m truly sorry I’ve let some of you down.
At its core, the mission of S&R has always been to inspire, converse and celebrate the things that make us -- anyone and everyone who wants to be part of this -- feel good. It’s meant to be fun, ironic, playful, and uplifting. That’s a big part of what I believe makes S&R connect with people, particularly women and young girls who don’t have many streetwear brands created by women for them.
This is a bit long-winded, so thank you for taking the time to read through.
My Promise on Customer Service
I started S&R while I was working at Complex as a way to spend my time outside of work, without any idea that it would turn into something real. It was an outlet for me to express myself, and I thought, at best, I’d make a few pieces of merch and build a moodboard Instagram account. The name was a playful phrase I came up with (if you’re interested, you can look at this 2015 interview where I talk about the meaning -- sporty in vibe, rich in health and happiness). To my huge surprise, it took off over these past few months -- because of all of you. I’m so grateful to all of you for making it everything it is today.
You are the S&R community, and you deserve nothing but the best in every interaction with me and the brand. That’s a promise I’ve failed to deliver on recently. On April 10th, S&R unexpectedly received a 1200% increase of orders overnight. It was an entirely humbling shock. I was not at all prepared for the volume and made errors in logistics and then in communication, which I truly regret. COVID-related challenges with USPS added to those, and I’m so appreciative of their staff for their hard work to get deliveries out during the toughest of times. I should have expected the challenges and delayed the release, or, at the very least, been much better about communicating with all of you. Most of all, I wish that I had addressed the questions from those of you impacted by the delays differently, and this is a huge lesson learned. My responses were rude and dismissive. You guys have shown me so much love and I didn’t do the same in those moments. I’m so sorry for that.
I’ve been coming to terms with my own limitations in running a business as a solo entrepreneur and it’s clear to me that I need help to do it right. I feel fortunate to have been able to recently hire several team members with operational expertise to ensure an exceptional experience for all of you moving forward. I’m proud to say that out of the four women I have hired, three are women of color, and I’m fully committed to building a diverse and inclusive team as we grow. I’ve also implemented new software systems that will help us be better equipped to handle the business, and moved our fulfillment to a high-volume fulfillment/warehouse centre in California. Going forward, every part of how this brand operates will be better, starting with how I communicate with you.
The essence of S&R is an homage to classic images, vintage sportswear, and to those who inspire me. It started simply as a mood board and has since evolved into a brand -- beyond what I could have ever imagined.
My intention is to riff on iconic symbols like many streetwear brands have done since the beginning, recreating through my lens. Though I’ve posted reference images in the past, the conversation over the past two weeks has made it clear to me that while some sources of inspiration are obvious to everyone -- like the Land Rover logo -- some of them are only known to some, and I’m going to post references more going forward.
And hopefully something fun: I’ve spoken with the New York Health and Racquet Club team in the past and they’ve been positive about my take on their logo. We’ve discussed doing an official collaboration, and I’m hopeful that will come to fruition in the near future.
One of the things I’ve always appreciated the most about the fashion entrepreneurs I love and respect is their commitment to quality. That’s an ethos I’ve wanted to make central to S&R from the beginning. Like most small, independent streetwear brands, S&R apparel has been produced on blanks, which are basic pieces we buy from a manufacturer and then add designs, logos, etc, all in the U.S. The quality of those blanks and the production process to create the final products are essential. Until recently, S&R, with no investors or backing, hadn’t been selling in quantities large enough to reach cut and sew minimums and the expense of creating patterns was a roadblock. I’m excited to say that as of this past month, thanks to you, sales reached the level necessary for cut and sew, and I’ve been working with a new factory in Los Angeles (that mills its own fabric in house) to develop this program. This will begin with the Fall 21 season. In the meantime, we’ll look into any issue to make sure quality control is super high. I’m looking forward to sharing progress on cut and sew with you.
Since S&R produces new garments, I have a responsibility to understand and offset the scope of the environmental impact. From the beginning, it’s been a focus of mine to protect the planet that we all call home. As of 2019, we’ve been a member of 1% for the Planet, committing to donate 1% of sales each year to various environmental organizations. More recently, I joined Offset Earth, committing to reduce our CO2 emissions through monetary donations and through the Eden Reforestation Project in Madagascar. I’m continually searching for new, eco-friendly alternatives to traditional clothing production, and I hope I’ll be able to implement some of those solutions later this year. All of our apparel is made in the USA, while our small accessories like hats, exercise equipment, and phone cases are produced overseas. My goal is to one day be 100% USA-made. I’ll continue to focus on offsetting the overall impact and helping raise awareness for environmental issues.
For those who’ve asked questions about the pre-order business model and why we sometimes have leftovers if we only make what’s ordered: In production, you always have to cut an extra 5%-10% over what you need to account for damages along the way, whether through the dye process, printing or embroidery. When we do have leftovers, we primarily use them to exchange sizes or for any quality issues. At the end of each season, we have nothing left to burn or throw away, a common practice in fashion that we hope to help put an end to.
The Wellness Club
I started the wellness club to create something with meaning for people to be part of and to benefit from. I wanted to go beyond clothing only, and use the brand as a vehicle to encourage positive messaging around mental and physical health and wellbeing.
What started out as a passion project and a place to share knowledge on health and wellness soon became a larger platform and there have been times where I got ahead of myself. After many of you rightfully pointed out concerns and asked tough questions a couple of weeks ago, I saw that I didn’t get it right in several ways. I posted insensitively about an important, complex issue due to my ignorance about the lack of access many people have to resources for wellness and nutrition. I’m sorry for that, and thank you to those who called it out. Because of your feedback, I’m becoming better educated on a problem I previously knew little about.
Overall, I strayed too far away from the topics I am most familiar with. I’m not a doctor or a public health expert, and though I've always made that clear, I should leave it to others to weigh in on many topics. For now, I’m going to put a pause on the account until I can figure out a way to make it truly beneficial, with voices from experts in the fields of fitness, nutrition, naturopathy and more.
My Commitment to Inclusion, Advocacy, and Being Kind
In the past week, I’m becoming more aware of my privilege than ever. A lot of the time, people (myself included) immediately turn defensive when they hear that word. But the fact is, if you’re white, you’re born with privilege and we only harm others by trying to look past that or deny it. What you do with your privilege is what matters, and that’s what I’m taking a hard look at for myself. As a half white, half Filipino woman, I have privilege. I also understand what my Asian family and communities experience. I have a platform and a responsibility to use it to support justice for the Black community -- and the cause of equity for all. As I continue to educate myself on injustice, I’m going to work hard to be a positive part of change. In how I treat and interact with others in all settings; in how I use my platform to advocate; in how I make S&R truly inclusive and representative of race and ethnicity, size, and gender identify; in how I create a diverse team; and in how I help to give voice to people that need to be heard. I know that action is the only proof, and I’m going to hold myself accountable. Sporty & Rich is for all. Everyone here is accepted, loved, and heard.
If you’ve been part of S&R, you know that being nice has always been a core part of the brand and what I’ve promoted. I got away from that in recent moments, and this is something I regret. I’m going to do better for all of you.
I want to genuinely thank all of you for being part of this whole thing. Without you, there’d be no Sporty & Rich.