By: Anna Boyd
Photos by: Christine Zhang
Though trends change and personal style varies, one thing remains constant: we all want clothing that is fashionable, functional, and affordable. It was with this simple idea in mind that Georgetown student Ethan Rosen (MSB ‘19) created his male athleisure brand, U Apparel. Having been an athlete for as long as he can remember, and a Georgetown rower until a recent injury, attaining this trifecta was especially important to him.
“As a rower, I would go to Chinese class immediately after morning practice, but felt so embarrassed showing up in my spandex. It just didn’t feel right. So I started to search for alternatives; Nike is functional but not fashionable, Lululemon is fashionable but not affordable, and shorts like Chubbies are affordable but not functional. I wanted something that could do it all. Fast forward a few months to studying abroad in Taiwan when I was once again sweating through my shorts and I knew things had to change. So I went to a manufacturer and we started working on our first line of shorts.”
Since launching U Apparel just a few, short months ago, Ethan is already starting to see results. Not only is the business becoming viable, but in only the past 3 months of sales the brand has earned more revenue than in its first 5 months combined. Not to mention the orders it has produced for rowing teams around the world such as the New York Athletic Club Rowing team, Georgetown Rowing, and even the Angolan Olympic team. However, Ethan maintains that the most tangible feeling of success has come from interacting with happy customers.
“It was the coolest feeling to be at a regatta and see all of these people walking around in my shorts and actually loving them. We haven’t had a return in over 800 shorts sold, which is pretty amazing, and it just shows how much people love the brand and how supportive they are. That’s what keeps me going. It’s not even necessarily the business aspect of it, but the idea that even if it’s in the smallest way, I’m helping people feel better every day– it’s pretty awesome.”
However, success has not come without difficulty. As a student and an entrepreneur, Ethan’s life has become a constant balancing act between homework and short shipments, early morning workouts and late night phone calls to manufacturers in Taiwan. “It’s all very conflicting, but this idea of making a brand is so important to me, it’s usually my first priority. Though it’s still something I haven’t figured out.”
Doubts aside, his biggest piece of advice to budding entrepreneurs is “to just go out and do it.”
“People suggested all these preliminary steps just to start my company, and although research to find a viable market is obviously important, if you really believe in something you shouldn’t be so cautious. If I had spent all that time doing market research there would be five other companies that would’ve sprung up with the same idea– and I know that because similar companies have popped up even since I started mine. So I think more waiting means the more opportunities you miss and you should just go out and do it. Selling these shorts without even knowing if it was gonna work is one of the best decisions I ever made.”
So what’s next for U Apparel? In addition to their new line of shorts, Ethan is excited to branch out into uncharted clothing territory with tech-enhanced athletic shirts. “The new shirts have technology in them so that when you sweat the pattern from below comes out and the fabric actually becomes cooler so it cools you down.”
Plus if you’re like Ethan and exclusively wear U apparel shorts, but are worried about weathering the winter, you might be in luck as he is considering creating lined joggers next season.
“I’ve been wearing my shorts for the past three and a half months straight, and I would say that from going out on a date with a girl to going out, I’m always so comfortable. I actually tried to wear boxers with my chubbies shorts the other day and it was so constraining. I would rather wear a dirty pair of my own shorts than wear boxers in regular shorts again. So clearly I need to create a winter option too.”
Whether you’re getting a workout in or going out on the town, check out U Apparel for clothing that fits your lifestyle.