Sponsor focus – Leslie Jordan Apparel

The Leslie Jordan Brand has come a long way since its successful start with Tyvek jackets in 1986. As the Jackets’ popularity grew, it opened the door to the active sports community and the need for affordable performance wear.
Answering the call, Leslie Jordan worked diligently to produce functional apparel for runners, cyclists, triathletes and other active men and women, with moisture management fabrics that stay soft, lightweight and are great to wear.
And her hard work paid off. As an acknowledgement of her noteworthy contribution, Leslie Jordan was inducted into the Running USA Hall of Champions in 2006. This achievement is reserved for those who have enhanced the sport; made it more compelling and rewarding through “dedication, imagination, distinction, courage and selflessness”.
Leslie Jordan has grown into an innovative wholesale manufacturer for performance tees, outerwear, bags and accessories; becoming an Industry Leader for Event Apparel. Whether a Customer is ordering from the Quick Ship Inventory Program or creating something completely custom, Leslie Jordan now covers every detail and color imaginable.

The US Trail Running Conference has been honored to partner with Leslie Jordan Apparel for six successive years. Leslie Jordan is also a switch back corporate member of ATRA (American Trail Running Association), and an Event Standards Program Partner. We thought we would ask Leslie herself a few questions, and here is the result of our interview:

You started providing apparel in 1986. What was it that started you on this journey?
In 1986 I was a runner. I came across a Tyvek Jacket that was made in Italy, and I fell in love. The warmth without weight was ideal to run in and the bright graphics won me over. I started my business manufacturing & selling them in the US and we had a great time custom designing them for everyone from General Mills to the Dream Team. We produced them for running events nationwide including trail runs and road races [some of which we still work with to this day].

How have you seen apparel needs and trends change over the last 30+ years?
The most notable game-changer in running apparel was the development of performance tees. I was already busy manufacturing Tyvek jackets when I learned about the possibility for technical running shirts. I did my research and started producing them before the major brands did.

First it was performance poly with a cotton-feel. Then it was the poly-feel, which exploded across the marketplace, and we worked on perfecting it for many years. Then the desire for the softer cotton finish returned and we developed multiple soft athleisure fabrics and blends. Now we have recycled poly options as well. These days, there’s a different fabric finish for any look or feel a runner might prefer.

You have been a sponsor of the US Trail Running Conference and the Official Apparel Supplier for Trail Race Directors for six successive years. What do you enjoy about supporting and participating in the event, and does anything differentiate trail race apparel requirements from road races?
We love how passionate everyone is about trail running and that all of the race directors participate in trail races.  What an approachable, easy going and supportive group.  It’s also great to see how much everyone cares about the environment.

Trail race apparel requests don’t differ too much from our other customers. People want shirts that don’t snag easily so we have developed several softer fabrics that work well on the trails where runners brush up against vegetation and rough surfaces.  For high elevations and hot weather running we have a variety of fabrics that are lightweight & fast drying, including new recycled poly options.

Breathability is important as well and we get many requests for waterproof yet breathable running jackets.  Hats, layering pieces, race wraps and running belts are also popular. Trail runners are also conscious of keeping the environment clean so we discourage the use of plastic bagging for any apparel or accessories.

The theme for the 2019 US Trail Running Conference is Diversity and Inclusion, trail running for everyone. How has your product line changed to keep in step with a changing population of runners?
We are always listening to what race directors and runners want, including patterns to fit more varied body types. Being a woman owned business we are particularly attuned to women’s  fits and trends. We are one of the few brands who offer completely custom shirt patterns. All runners aren’t the same size or shape, and we want to be part of the forefront of inclusion to help the industry keep growing.  We have sizing from Youth to Adult XXS and up through 4XL.  We have a variety of fabrics & styles to suit a variety of needs.  While some people like running in 100% poly/technical fabrics, others like a more leisure style in a cotton blend.  Gone are the days of all runners in a Unisex cotton tee.

We develop our product line with the guidance of the race directors we partner with to ensure we are meeting their needs. That means always thinking ahead to improve designs and create products that will last a long time. We want runners to enjoy our products and promote the events for years to come. While our tees and jacket are what people think of the most, we also manufacture a full line of accessories and medals.

What is your take on recycled materials?
We’ve been excited about the progression of recycled options for the last decade but found that recycled poly was unaffordable and often counterfeit. Since the finished product appears the same, we discovered that many factories falsely put a recycled label into garments. With continued research we have learned that the only real way to guarantee authenticity is to work with a reputable mill.  We are excited that our mill in China started recently offering recycled poly and has provided us with certification. We have just introduced it to the marketplace: 100% recycled poly that is real, feels amazing & is just as affordable as our premium heather poly fabric.

Can you share the most bizarre request you have received from a client, and how did the end result work out?
Our clients want unique items that are memorable to the participants.  Some of the more unusual products we have made are temporary tattoos, flip-flops, Tyvek karate headbands and Santa suits. All were big hits. One of the more unusual requests we didn’t move forward with was a tech tee with a built-in gun pocket.

Have you added any new product lines outside your core apparel business, and are there any other exciting additions to come?
We add new products every year. As our event partners continue to grow and be creative, so do we. We added medals a couple of years ago, which has been a great creative learning experience for us. We love being able to offer a one-stop shop for races. On the horizon we expect to continue to add more sublimated designs across all of our accessories as well as  more jacket and bag options. This fall we are introducing several new shirt fabrics, including great recycled options and some new modern textures.

 In 30 years what’s changed the most about the industry itself?  And what would you like to see in the future?
In the early days we worked with events once a year but over time event management companies have grown and added events year-round.  So we are now lucky enough to be able to connect more frequently.

It’s also been exciting to see the development of creative and challenging events that attract people who might otherwise not be athletes. Obstacle events & niche themed events have done a lot to make running appealing to a broader audience.  Watching trail running continue to grow year after year has been amazing.

As the industry continues to have an impact on healthy lifestyles, we want to see more people running. We’d also love to see people continue to discuss how runners and races themselves affect the environment, and how we can all do better to make a positive impact.