Hello to all apparel lovers in the world!
This is Steve Knerem, I have written a few blogs for IATT such as “Confusing a Monster” and “The 5 Commandments of CROM.” Recently I had the opportunity to meet Jake Nuesser from Fight Chix at WMC fest in Cleveland, Ohio. We hung out for a few hours and we got to know what each other does in the apparel world. Actually the day before WMC fest I think I responded to a tweet from Jake and mention “Conan the Barbarian.” I think it was fate, we were supposed to meet!
So the day of WMC I was walking into Reinberger auditorium and I saw a vehicle roll in the parking lot with the pink and white Fight Chix logo. I stalked Jake for a minute and then introduced myself. That summer day in June I learned that Fight Chix is not only a cool and popular brand for female MMA fighters but Jake and his wife Elisabeth have a stronger purpose/mission which is to empower women world-wide.
Since WMC fest I’ve stayed in touch with Jake and feel it’s best for him to educate all of us about the Fight Chix brand. You can find them at www.fightchix.com
Hey Jake! Well it’s mid-summer and I’m sure you are melting in the sun as much as we are in Cleveland, how are things going for you and Elisabeth in Chicago and what have you been up to?
Things are great. We have been busy with Fight Chix for sure. We have a summer bash event July 23rd and we are hosting a prefight party for Strikeforce’s return to Chicago on the 29th at SpyBar in Chicago. In our free time we spend as much time as possible with our two kids doing summer stuff…catching cool movies, hitting the pool and trips to the lake.
So for those unfamiliar with Fight Chix tell us about the company and what your roll is.
I am the co-founder and handle 99% of the creative work. So that includes the apparel designs, website, video, social media and marketing. Elisabeth handles almost all the day to day business management, works on new business deals, handles all our wholesale accounts and stellar customer service. She has also single handedly worked deals that got us in Spencer’s, MGM stores in Vegas and into retail outlets in Europe and Australia.
After learning about the company I was really excited to read that you and Elisabeth felt you fulfilled a need for women and how events just unfolded before you back in 2006. It’s almost as if it was waiting for someone to reveal this need to the world and that’s where you guys stepped in. Would you say this is true for FC?
Well I was working as an in house designer, Elisabeth was working double time as a hair stylist and bartender and we had just had our son Jase. It’s fair to say we had a lot on our plate. I had educated Elisabeth on Mixed Martial Arts and she fell in love with the back story of the fighters and then the sport. I have a background in martial arts since I was 6 and have trained with fighters from the UFC and taught classes etc.
After a rough night working at the bar Elisabeth and I were talking and watching old fights on TV, and Elisabeth says “I really love the sport, but I hate that there is nothing for girls to wear—it’s all blood and skulls” So I jokingly said “why don’t you make your own clothing line” And that was all Elisabeth needed to start brainstorming a name. She came up with Fight Chix that night—I did a logo a few days later, then a website. We actually started the company as a hobby with the plan of maybe making an extra $100 spending money a month. We started it on Spreadshirt.com and then took the plunge getting a few shirts printed locally then going and selling at a local MMA show. We snowballed from there and now have our first shirt pass the test at Spencer’s with two more testing this month, we are in retail outlets all over the world and we also sell online a t www.fightchix.com
I personally feel FC has great opportunity to make a big impact in the world. Not just for the MMA sport but to women and men. Have you been contacted by women’s groups or shelters of some sort for either support or appreciation for what you do?
We have and we do! We have done several fashion shows this past year to benefit different groups. My wife was a single mom before she met me, so our first show was to benefit the group that aided her when she needed help as a single mom. We have done shows to benefit the Military. We have gotten a lot of support from the troops, so the chance to give back is an honor. Specifically we donated to Fisherhouse.org where 96% of the money donated goes right to troops and their families. We have also done shows that benefited the Children’s Memorial Hospital. We really changed our focus from just MMA when we asked our customers “What does Fight Chix mean to you” and we got flooded with responses from non-MMA fans, who were just strong women who overcame life’s struggles to reach their potential. Everyone has a personal fight, so everyone can relate to being a Fight Chix.
I’m impressed with your company and how it has grown. I would like to talk a bit about the art and design. Fight Chix seems like the message came first and the art fell into place for the company. You did a really nice job with the logo, color selection, tee designs and garment selection. Can you describe your thoughts behind designing the art and choosing the garments?
We really looked at what the market offered and then compared that to what we wanted to offer. All the MMA brands that are out there always made women’s apparel an afterthought. It was a guys design printed on a girl’s blank. And the blank tee was always for a girl that was a size 0 and wanted to show her stomach! Elisabeth is 5’8” so she instinctually wanted a longer cut for the shirt, and this was a huge hit for all the women buying our stuff. From a design standpoint I want to not go down the Affliction road and tried to stick with a mix of type and iconic elements to build the brand but still be catchy to someone who has never seen the brand. People might not know the logo, but would wear a shirt that says “I break hearts and faces” because it makes them feel hot and tough at the same time. So the design was built off the initial logo and the personality of the line—being strong, confident and sexy.
How important is it in choosing a t-shirt garment for an apparel line?
I think it is really important. As we have evolved it has been a balancing act of putting out a killer product but making it cost effective enough to actually make money. Up to this point we have not had any major investors and have run the company on our own blood sweat and tears…so making the product something WE would go out and buy has always been a rule of thumb. The shirts we use have to be a good combo of super soft, flattering cut, and cost effective. The design can be really cool, but especially for women, the shirt has to LOOK GOOD and FEEL GOOD, or it won’t be worn.
It seems like in the apparel industry a company goes either one way or another. Either they brand their logo such as what you did or what Johnny Cupcakes did or they brand themselves with a style. Can you talk to us about your thought on branding?
Its funny how things played out for us, because it was all very instinctual, I knew about branding from being a full time designer. I knew things had to be consistent, the logo had to pop, and the general public had to “get it”. When I sent the logo to Elisabeth, she told me she had visions of our logo in stores, in the sport and other places and was like “YES, THIS IS IT”. So having that reaction to the logo was awesome. We really try to keep the logo or the silhouette in almost all the designs. We will tie catch phrases to the brand too, like “The Sexy Side of MMA” or “Empowering Women Worldwide” to give the brand flavor. We want women to go to their closet, knowing the day is gonna be a tough one, and grab their Fight Chix shirt…and then feel like Wonder Woman! We have actually seen it happen. We have been to local MMA fights and seen women put on our stuff and walk a little taller. We have sponsored athletes and seen their competition look afraid, because they were wearing Fight Chix. Our goal has been for women to wear Fight Chix, and feel like they can take on the world, and also be a part of a movement and hopefully that shows through in our branding.
So instead of asking you to look into a crystal ball and predict your future simply put, what are you and Elisabeth feeling your future could hold? It looks that you are getting the press, the recognition, the fighter, the sales and support. FightChix.com is run very well and you are all over the social networks. What’s the next level for FC?
The next level for us is to keep growing! The sport of mixed martial arts is very young, so there is a lot of room to grow there. We also want to continue to transcend the sport and grow as a lifestyle brand for strong empowered women who are not afraid to be sexy AND strong! We want to increase the number of shirts being carried at Spencer’s. We have a licensing deal in place right now handles both Spencer’s and MGM Casino properties. We want to increase sales on our website and we want to keep our numbers high in all the stores we are currently in. One of the main things we don’t want to do is become over saturated. We limited our licensing deal on purpose, and almost all the shirts you get a Spencer’s will be exclusive to Spencer’s. We do the same with shirts on our website and in our other retail accounts like www.mmawarehouse.com or in the Midwest, Eminent stores.
We also do website exclusives and retail exclusives. Since we are still growing, we want to keep the brand fresh for people who have followed us from the start, but we also want to keep it exciting for anyone who has just discovered us. We have talked about eventually doing our own retail store, or maybe even combining all our talents into one—and having a small MMA style gym and salon with a Fight Chix boutique. A place where you can go and get a killer workout, then get an amazing cut and style, and finally purchase some hot apparel that is a combo of both!
Well I’m very excited to have talked with you about your mission and your artistic decisions for FC. So to leave all the readers with one last question…Do you have some creative favorites you have learned from or like to follow?
I have used GoMedia’s products and love their work. Through them I found IAMTHETREND site and visit it often to see all the awesome work people are creating. I found Johnny Cupcakes through that site, and honestly anyone who isn’t impressed with Johnny is lying! His story is an amazing inspiration.
Recently I came across a brand that hasn’t been released yet, called MMA Bloodlines. Look for it—its SICK! I also love the artistic drawing style you have (check out Steve Knerem’s website people)! I love Rob Dobi, Derek Hess, Angryblue and was really impressed with David Genler at WMC2. Through the history of the brand there is inspiration from creative’s of a different kind. Mask from TapouT was a huge inspiration—not from a creative standpoint, but from his never say die attitude and his belief in his brand the ideals behind it. Bruce Lee, a man that single handedly created a new movie genre and is more popular now, than he was in the early 70s. His personal life philosophy has shaped my life, the ability to adapt to life’s challenges is essential always. My wife inspires me daily, she IS the brand, strong, sexy, empowering.
I always love hearing about people’s story yours is awesome. Keep fighting I’m sure we’ll meet again. It’s been my pleasure. I wish you and Elisabeth all the best and look forward to seeing more FC in stores across the country. Best of luck!
If you want to talk to me personally, hit me up on twitter or search Jacob Nuesser of facebook!