In an effort to appeal to a growing market of fashion-conscious Brazilian fitness enthusiasts, avid runners Fred Wagner and Alberto Azevedo and triathlete Ricardo Rosset started Brazilian fitness and lifestyle apparel brand The Track & Field Store. The three launched the line 27 years ago after some time “warming up” in the business selling sportswear.
“We were passionate about sports,” company co-founder Wagner told Sourcing Journal. “We felt that fitness apparel needed the strength of technology, the guts and features of activewear combined with fashion, style and the Brazilian twist.”
When asked how the company communicates that “Brazilian twist,” Wagner said, “We think the consumer will see it as part of the DNA of the brand. So when you see and feel the product and its design, you sense it’s different from something that’s manufactured in Southeast Asia. We manufacture 85-90 percent of our products in Brazil, all of them in-house. We are a vertical company, and invest a lot of our margins in developing differentiated products. And not just in design, but in fabrics and in the technology inside of it.”
The company’s products include running tops, shorts, tights, pants, sports bras, swimwear and other styles ranging in price from $50 to $250. Each style incorporates at least one of its many fabric technologies, but the leading three are in the majority of its products.
Thermodry is made from an exclusive polyamide (nylon) fabric from which is created extremely lightweight clothing for greater movement and ease in any physical activity. The construction of the fabric allows water and air to move through the material quickly, helping the apparel dry rapidly. The technology also creates better thermal balance in the body for a more comfortable experience. The products features unique yarns developed to enhance well-being and performance, “smart water” or moisture management and softness that only nylon microfilaments can provide for sports and leisure, and control over the right level of bacteriostatic protection, or odor management, for daily use.
Redtech technology helps improve strength and performance, promoting a new level of interaction between body and fabric and creating better thermal balance in the body. Combined with the company’s proprietary engineered garment designs, the bioactive minerals embedded in the yarn of the fabric are equipped to endure any physical activity. The technology absorbs infrared radiation emitted by the human body and re-emits the absorbed radiation as a far-infrared wave. This wave penetrates the skin and causes body stimulation.
UVTech, like it sounds, offers excellent protection from sunlight, using an exclusive nylon fabric with a SPF of 50. It is used in several products for use in outdoor activities, such as running or surfing, to shield wearers from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. The SPF in our UVTech technology is everlasting, incorporated into the fabric itself, so is protected through many washes.
“Our R&D department works with the different fiber and yarn companies to create new fabrics. There’s a big difference between what you can do as a mass brand and what you can invest as a vertical specialty brand in the areas of new developments,” Wagner said. “We can deliver higher quality, better and different hand and feel. It’s a completely different process. We invest tremendously in our product development to make sure our consumers are not only wearing apparel that looks terrific, but performs well and feels fantastic.”
The privately-held company still owned by the three main partners has managed to grow successfully without requiring equity or debt financing, which enables it to focus on the consumer and not on shareholders.
Over the last few years Track & Field has opened roughly 25 stores per year in Brazil, bringing the total to 123 and helping it become reportedly the largest such brand in the country. Its winning strategy of offering both function and fashion– innovative and trend-right designs made of high-performance yet luxurious fabrics—has resonated with Brazilian consumers. And the company feels it might be a formula for U.S. success as well.
Opening the company’s first U.S. store on Madison Avenue in New York in 2010 helped fine-tune the product and the retail operation in the U.S. The second store, opened on the west side of Los Angeles last December, was equally successful and was quickly followed by its most recent launch, a sleek, 700-square-foot boutique in the upscale South Park Mall in Charlotte, North Carolina last month.
Track & Field has plans to expand across the U.S. in the coming years, and is already committed to opening a store in Miami and one in New York’s financial district. They are also looking at other sites in warm-weather states in the U.S., like Florida, Georgia and Texas, and have plans to open an online shop as well.
On The Track & Field Store’s chances for success in the U.S., Wagner said, “The U.S. market is huge, and we think the American consumer has a lot in common with the Brazilian consumer’s healthy and active lifestyle.”