If you don’t recognize the company’s name, you have almost certainly seen EG-PRO’s products. From football fields to actual battlefields, and for college athletes and major league players, EG-PRO manufactures blank apparel for some of the most famous and celebrated institutions in the world.
How did a company that was officially founded in July 2014 manage to end up with gear in over 50 countries in just over four years? In a nutshell: innovative technology that seems straight out of the future, some lessons from Roman history, and more than a little elbow grease.
Performance and Style
With proper training, athletes can engineer their bodies to perform amazing feats. But what if the clothes they wore could be engineered to be just as superior as their well-trained bodies? Vince Winters, President of EG-PRO, believes that astonishing athletes require astonishing performance gear. Technologically and stylistically, it is imperative for EG-PRO to create apparel that performs like an extension of one’s self.
What does that mean for the end-buyer? Well, it means they’re getting a product that various branches of the military and government, the pro leagues, and other major entities are comfortable wearing because it is totally next-level.
Here’s Vince’s explanation: “Take for instance a tactical product the company is developing for the military and first responders called “Hydro-PRO”. What we did was engineer a polypropylene fiber by crimping the yarns, just like your sister’s hair in the ‘80s. Then, we re-knit it as a double knit with polyester fiber. You’ve got polypropylene fibers on the inside and a polyester mesh layer on the outside. Now, when you wear it and sweat, your moisture will touch the polypropylene and it will be sucked to the exterior mesh layer. The interior remains bone dry. We’re producing this fabric in Black, Navy, OD Green and Light Grey. It will be worn as a base layer for extreme athletes and first responders. Think of it as a sump pump for the human body. There are guys out there wearing $70 Under Armour shirts and we can produce it a lot more affordable and a lot better. Let’s say around $9 to the buyer.”
Sounds really technical, right? Don’t worry. It’s not the EG-PRO mantra to create something that is ONLY functional.
In addition to EG-PRO, Vince is the creator of an apparel brand called, you guessed it, Elbowgrease. The brand is becoming a fan-favorite of influencers and the fashion-forward. It’s produced right alongside the EG-PRO line, though it maintains its own streetwear-savvy identity, heavily influenced by footwear trends.
“I always look for the newest color trends in footwear. Footwear drives the market.” Vince says. “Elbowgrease is great from an education standpoint too. We’re showing people what ‘elbow grease’ means. Our streetwear has a real performance edge.”
Elbowgrease, independently, is a masterpiece blend of fashion and function infused into “street-leisure” collections. But what it should really exhibit for those looking for a blanks provider is the potential that those blank pieces are capable of. Apply a design element, like printing or embroidery, and you see the blanks turn into art.
Too often, an athlete is given an ultimatum: look good or feel good. Check out your Instagram feed and you’ll see your favorite sports icons promoting gear in some inspired fabrics (Can you really run a 10k in a velvet tracksuit?). It seems that for years, fashion has been trying to look more like athletic gear. Then there’s the alternative: the boring, uninspired gear that is practical but completely void of style. EG-PRO has flipped the switch by making technologically advanced performance gear that is actually fashionable.
A History of Hard Work
If you’ve ever encountered a task that has tested your patience to the core of your being, then you may have been encouraged, by yourself or others, by the adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It’s a popular phrase that has stood the test of time. However, if you want a bit of wisdom from the man who actually built Rome, you might consider a favorite motto of Augustus Caesar, “Labor Omnia Vincit.” Made immortal by the poet Virgil, the motto translates to “Hard work conquers all”, and it is also the motto of Elbowgrease, as well as the inspiration for the company’s name.
The “EG” in EG-PRO stands for the idiom “elbow grease”, and it’s the first sign you get that you’re dealing with a company that thrives on hard work. As Augustus built Rome, arguably the most storied of ancient cities, through hard work and endurance, the owners of EG-PRO seek to build a company that personifies form and function.
Vince Winters is no stranger to turning hard work into solid results. He spent the 25 years prior to founding EG-PRO as a designer, bringing in billions of dollars (yes, BILLIONS) in retail sales for companies like Starter, Nike, Knights Apparel (NBA), Wal-Mart (Ocean Pacific), Hanes (Champion), and Iconix Brand Group.
After 25 years as a designer and manager and VP of a laundry list of iconic brands, Vince noticed that it wasn’t the creators making the big money, but the sellers. In 2014, Vince had an opportunity to work with a partner in China and create his own brand. He flew to China, toured the factories, fabric mills, dye houses, and the pair worked up the initial partnership idea on the back of a menu in a tea shop. Vince took a week to contemplate the deal, quit his job as a VP, and finalize the partnership for EG-PRO’s parent company, Jettco International, Inc. (named after both his son, Jett, and his partner’s son, Cody).
With his partner specializing in polyester and poly-blends, and Vince specializing in functional, fashionable design, the pair soon got to work on creating dependable brands, which evolved into EG-PRO and Elbowgrease.
“One of the biggest things we’re proud about is that we are completely vertical,” Vince says. “We own our factories in China and Africa, we own the fabric mills, we own the dye houses, the cut/sew factories and we own our screen-print/embroidery factories. We even own the land they all sit on. This means that we are able to really focus on creating elevated fabrics that are comparable to pedigreed brands like Lululemon. And because we own everything, our buyers get these premiere EG-PRO blanks in core and novelty proprietary fabrics at a fraction of the cost.”
“The vertical approach to fashion means that EG-PRO can also maintain the consistent quality that is lost to so many inferior competitors. Quality is important. Consistency is important,” Vince says. “You’re not going to get any white prints on red tees that turn pink with EG-PRO. Our production is gained from 20 years of manufacturing experience and know-how.”
EG-PRO has to maintain superior quality-control and consistency in order to maintain the professional relationships that drive the company. While EG-PRO has probably signed just as many non-disclosure agreements as Lebron has signed autographs, Vince was able to share one example where vertical ownership and quality consistency lead to a huge deal.
When the University of Michigan decided to start doing university-wide “Maize-Outs”, wherein the entire student body would dress up in matching shades of the school’s maize color (often for football games), they soon found that some of their disparate lines of clothing actually showed variations of maize. What they needed was something consistent across various products.
EG-PRO was able to guarantee 50-60 thousand units of the exact shade of maize the university wanted. At this point, EG-PRO has created 9 different blank styles for the University of Michigan, including quarter-zips, hoodies, polos, and t-shirts for release in Spring 2019.
“A lot of the big companies, they’ll say, ‘If you can get 25-cents cheaper, go to Bangladesh to increase the margin structure.’ Shame on customers for coming back to them,” Vince says. “Not that we haven’t made mistakes. We learn from issues. We’re still learning.”
There’s another quality concern that arises in his business. Vince isn’t blind to the stigma that can be associated with international businesses. “No sweatshops!” he says. “We’re Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) approved, blue-chip compliant, and on any given week we have tons of quality control people come through to check our production.”
Vince has also brought on the kind of team that personifies his dedication to EG-PRO. “I have to give a shout out to our national sales manager, Bob Sweeney. He pulled himself out of retirement to be part of our company. This is a guy who has an old-school mentality of embracing hard work with determination. I’ve been able to learn from him and to lean on him a lot when he’s out there in the field. We rely on a combination of youth and mentoring to help drive our business forward with marketing members as young as 19 and executives in their late 70’s.”
In fact, it sounds like Vince’s entire team is fired up about EG-PRO. And there are a lot of reasons to be motivated about the future. “We’re the new kids on the block and it makes it really exciting for us as disruptors in a saturated market filled with behemoths,” he says. “We added 16 new styles and five new performance fabrics to the line for 2019 and that’s just for starters!”
EG-PRO’s blanks are an empty canvas. They are a lot like Vince must have been when he decided to dedicate his life to both his love of sports and his love of design. The possibilities are endless. Somewhere out there on this planet we call home, there is a soldier who is just a little bit more comfortable in an EG-PRO shirt. Likewise, there’s a young college basketball player who’s feeling more flexible in a pair of EG-PRO shorts. These are pieces that were designed to propel people toward their goals and to compel them to greatness.
Let’s return to Augustus. It is alleged that at one point he stated, “I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.” Vince Winters has already followed Augustus’ advice in regard to hard work. It really makes you wonder what kind of impact EG-PRO can have on the world. What streets of marble will host the athletes made legends, in part, by EG-PRO’s superior performance gear?
If you’re interested in learning more about EG-PRO Performance Gear, you can search for them in SAGE Online, SAGE Web, and SAGE Mobile using SAGE# 51456. You can also visit the egpro.com and elbowgrease.com websites to see their new arrivals.