Did you know that Black people, including Black women, in the U.S. are significantly more likely to start a business than their White counterparts? Of course, the systemic oppression and underfunding of Black businesses has kept many minority-owned entrepreneurs from reaching the top brass of the corporate world, but some people in every field have overcome all adversity to introduce their ideals and practices to the mainstream.
Here are five of the most noted Black-owned athletic wear companies. Products showcasing the diversity and remarkable experiences that shape Black entrepreneurs everywhere across the nation:-
1) Roam Loud
After a lifetime of work by Toyin Omisore, the apparel company ROAM LOUD is now recognized as a prestigious brand of premium activewear and athleisure apparel. According to its ‘Wanderer in Chief’, the company was founded to “Create a lifestyle where brown skin is at the forefront and not an afterthought”.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Omisore was inspired to start the company by her Liberian maternal grandmother, Cynthia Grey Horton, whom she met through the stories of her mother. Every piece of apparel sold by the company hence honors the life of Horton, showcasing the family values behind many Black enterprises, and promotes a lifestyle “On our own terms” and “Outside the lines”.
The Athleisure brand ‘EleVen’ was founded by the all-time best tennis sportswoman Venus Williams, elder sister of Serena. A luxury wear company specializing in “Flirty hues of lavender, holographic white, and a classic 90s houndstooth”, all inspired by professional tennis clothing. The company’s name is a play on the founder’s first name ‘Venus’. Founded by a Black celebrity who made it through her hard-won talent, the number in question signifies a ‘better than best’ (11/10) approach to life.
Based in Boston, the performance streetwear company PYNRS (pronounced ‘Pioneers’) is the result of a collective community effort by predominantly Black owners. Its high-performance wear is made with recycled fabric sourced from Italy. The brand prides itself in its inclusiveness, with its wide range of shapes and sizes looking to celebrate ‘everyBODY’. The company organizes and participates in community events around Boston.
4) Zoezi Sport
Founded by a Kenyan-American immigrant, ZOEZI offers sportswear products ranging from men’s track suits and kid’s work outfits, to women’s swimwear with international delivery. The brand name ‘Zoezi’ derives from a Swahili word meaning ‘exercise’. All of the brand’s apparel lays a strong emphasis on the importance of exercise with style and comfort.
The company’s founder Yvonne Bulimo was born in Kenya and received much of her education in the States. After graduating from the prestigious Historically Black Howard University, Bulimo spend many years establishing a public health NGO in her home country, and hosting a popular educational TV show, before moving into fitness and sports with the help of small business platform LegalZoom. Bulimo stays in touch with both her American and Kenyan friends and supporters, hence the global focus of the company.
5) Vertical Activewear
In contrast to mainstream clothing brands, Vertical focuses exclusively on offering a high-quality product manufactured with eco-conscious and ethical business practices. All of Vertical’s products are produced on-demand and in-house, helping the company and its customers to combat overproduction and lower the wastage endemic in capitalist-consumerist culture. Its Black founders strongly support a slow-fashion ethos and prioritize practicality and sustainability.
The raw material all comes from recycled sources and all the clothing of the company features the 4-way stretch, fitting all body sizes perfectly. Even after all this, its products are priced competitively and delivery does not take very long after an order is placed.
Featured image: Eleven/Venus Williams