When someone says the world loyal, what do you think of? Friends? Relationships? Sports? If you’re like me, loyalty is everything. It’s an important indicator on who a person really is if they can be loyal to you. One way of loyalty that many people never stray is the loyalty to their favourite sports teams. My dad has been a die hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan since I was a little girl and he’s never cheered as loud, or as long, for any other NHL team. My brother is a New England Patriots fan and I’ve had my fair share of days listening to him scream at the television like he’s coaching from the sidelines. A love of sports runs through my family as I am a huge Toronto Raptors fan. Thanks to a friend talking about them, I re-invested myself in the sport of basketball which I’ve always loved. It’s an incredible feeling to watch a team come together with the same goal and not making it about their own personal wins, yet the team’s overall win. When this kind of compassion and feeling of loyalty can carry over into fashion, you know I’m on board.
LOYAL to a TEE is a clothing brand that is built on the knowledge that loyalty is the core of everything and created for those who proud of what they represent. Co-founders Ryan and Jason share a mutual love of basketball and have been fans of the sport for years. When we crossed paths on Twitter earlier this year, I was taken by their initiative to look at the relationship between fashion and sports differently. Just like you can ask any fashion folk who their favourite designer is and expect a lengthy reply, any sports fan could do the same when posed with the question of who their favourite athlete is. LOYAL to a TEE aims to bring supporters together and they do that by creating a bond with their customers that turns them into family. I had the chance to ask Ryan and Jason a few questions about LOYAL to a TEE, their new women’s collection, and what’s in store for 2015.
1) Tell us about yourselves.
LOYAL to a TEE was founded by the two of us, Jason & Ryan, back in June 2014. We grew up together in the west end of the Greater Toronto Area and have been best friends for 20 years now. We grew up with a shared love and passion for sports and fashion.
LOYAL to a TEE is an up-and-coming sports apparel brand. We believe loyalty is the ultimate currency. It’s at the core of what forms crews, hoods, friends, and families. We design for those who are proud of what they represent and want to make a statement.
Think of a city, a team, or a player. When you wear one of our tees, you’re showing loyalty to what it represents. We want to unite fans and supporters around the world.
2) Why are you diehard basketball fans in comparison to other sports?
We fell in love with basketball because it’s action-packed with ebbs and flows that really change throughout the game. There is so much excitement as there’s always something going on and emotions run high during close games. Having played basketball growing up, we recognize and appreciate the level of athleticism these athletes have and is quite a sight to watch them display their talent on the hardwood floor. Our love for basketball grew even more when the Toronto Raptors came into existence during 1995-96 season after attending many games at the Skydome!
3) How did you decide to start a clothing company?
It was an easy decision for us to start up LOYAL to a TEE. We’ve been to sports apparel shops whether it’s at a game or at a retail mall and often left disappointed with the designs out there for fans. For $30-40, you get a low-quality shirt that doesn’t fit and its design is just a team logo. We felt like there was a need to create something that fans can wear proudly because it fits, it is high quality, and has a unique design. Our goal is to blend the boundaries between fashion and sports apparel.
Since our launch in mid-October, we’ve had tremendous success. In fact, beyond what we expected! We’ve provided shirts out to a few NBA players & personalities including Leo Rautins, Jack Armstrong, Matt Devlin, Greivis Vasquez, James Johnson and a few others such as Raptors DJ 4Korners. One of our best moments to date is meeting Akil Augustine and Duane Watson from The Hangout to get them our tees to wear on their weekly show, which airs on NBA TV Canada.
4) What made you branch out to create your first women’s collection?
In the world of sports apparel, female fans are often left wearing oversized men’s clothing because they don’t have a choice. If our goal is blending fashion and sports apparel together, then we definitely couldn’t ignore the importance of women! Women in particular want clothes that fit and look fashionable, so we knew we had to create something for them to wear proudly.
We launched our women’s collection in early December and it has been so well-received. Women are buying gifts for their significant others or friends…and we are noticing that they are picking up a little something for themselves now too!
5) Who is your favourite basketball player?
Ryan: When I started getting into basketball, I was called the Mini Mighty Mouse named after real The Mighty Mouse himself Damon Stoudamire. Given my short stature growing up and my style of play (small quick point guard that gets into the lane), it was an easy comparison. He was my favourite player growing up, starting from the moment he played his first game as a Toronto Raptor!
Jason: Arguably the greatest of all time to ever play the game, Michael Jordan. He made his comeback to the Chicago Bulls shortly after I started watching basketball and he immediately became my favourite player. His extreme competitiveness along with flare and finesse that he brings to the game made him exciting to watch. Every time he touches the ball, you can just sense that something special is about to happen.
6) What does loyal to a tee mean to you?
It starts from the common saying “loyal to a fault”, which essentially means an individual is so loyal to something or someone that they remain loyal even to their own detriment. We find that fans are often loyal to a player, city, or team regardless of their performance – almost to a level of unconditional love. These fans want to make a statement and show that loyalty in any way possible, and we decided a tee-shirt is a great way to do so. That is why we swapped out fault and replaced it with TEE. At the end of the day, LOYAL to a TEE is a brand that helps fans stand out from the crowd and make a statement.
7) What’s in store for LOYAL to a TEE in 2015?
We’re 10 weeks into launch and we have much more to do. 2015 will be a huge year for us as we build on our current success. We’ve met some incredible people already and will build on those relationships as we expand our collections to include more markets, more variety of apparel, and find more opportunities to get our collections in front of the masses. We’re incredibly excited – we hope you guys stay connected with us via our website or social media to hear about our new developments! (@LOYALtoaTEE on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook)