[caption id="attachment_343612" align="alignnone" width="770"] Micahel DeGrave and Tony Knapton
Leadership: Michael DeGrave and Tony Knapton
Headquarters: 9625 S. 54th St., Franklin
What it does: Baseball lifestyle apparel
Next goals: Develop apparel line with Adidas
When baseball players travel for games, they often get from one place to another on a chartered Coach bus.
Franklin-based baseball apparel company Routine Baseball played off the colorful designs of those bus seats for a new shoe it created with sporting goods giant Adidas. The limited edition trainers, for indoor turf fields and workouts, sold out within 48 hours.
“We flew out to Portland, got to pitch it to (Adidas) and everyone really gravitated towards it,” said Tony Knapton, Routine co-founder. “Anybody who’s played baseball, that bus seat pattern is very recognizable.”
A total of 1,000 units were sold on the limited edition run, and a second collaboration shoe and an apparel line are already in the works.
“The first run was to kind of see how people were going to react with both brands teaming up,” said Michael DeGrave, Routine co-founder.
It was a big win for the online apparel retailer, which has experienced a 14.6 percent bump in year-over-year sales since the collaboration launched in December. And other companies are knocking on the door.
DeGrave and Knapton founded Routine in 2011 because off the diamond, the pair found themselves wearing West Coast skate apparel since there was no stylish baseball streetwear.
Routine started with five T-shirts. By 2012, the company was outgrowing DeGrave’s basement and in 2014, it moved into its third commercial facility, the 16,000-square-foot warehouse and offices it occupies today in Franklin.
The company now sells about 150 products, from T-shirts to hats, jackets to pants, for both men and women. The products are contract manufactured in China and the U.S., and distributed from Franklin. Some apparel items display stylized versions of the Routine logo, others baseball jokes.
A licensing agreement Routine secured in August with the Major League Baseball Players Association gave it the rights to use player faces on its apparel, which it does with tongue-in-cheek spoofs and nicknames. A couple of shirts poke fun at player bromances: a “Bryzzo” shirt for Chicago Cubs stars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and an image of Houston Astros players Jose Altuve and Justin Verlander hugging.
For Milwaukee, Routine partnered with Eric Thames to create a “Korean homers” tee, a nod to his time playing in Korea. The Thames shirt will be sold in the Brewers team store this season.
Working directly with a player on the design for a shirt can pay off, DeGrave said. Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals was an early fan, and the company got him interested just by tweeting at him to check it out.
“Once he started wearing it, that gave us immediate legitimacy,” Knapton said.
The pair attributes the collaborations to its work on growing the Routine brand online. Routine has 95,000 Twitter followers, a testament to its cult following.