Local clothing line reimagines athleisure
By Toi Creel
With ranges in styles for men’s clothing from suits and professional clothing to full-on workout clothes and athletic gear, it can be hard to find a middle ground. That was the idea when the founders of Willy California, Charles Nelson and Jeff Sockwell, put together a clothing line.
“We started Willy to keep the modern guy on the go looking good and feeling comfortable all day long. The world is moving faster and the line between work and play is becoming more blurred every day. We recognize this trend and realize that men need a wardrobe that prioritizes versatility and comfort,” Nelson said.
Juggling work meetings, kids’ soccer teams and a desire to be both professional and comfortable they founded Willy.
“We recognized a need for clothes that could go from the gym to the office and then to coach our kids’ soccer games. We set out on a mission to create simple, stylish and comfortable clothes that say ‘well put together’ without a huge price tag,” Sockwell said.
The company itself combines the best of both worlds. It’s an athleisure brand at first glance but seeks to bridge the divide between workout clothes and everyday wear providing a comfortable middle ground of pants and tops that can be paired in multiple ways creating a fully functioning closet.
“We saw an opportunity to create a brand that guys could trust from the early morning workout to the board meeting at noon to dinner at night. We make simple clothes with incredible attention to detail and a focus on comfort for the whole day. We believe that guys aren’t looking for complicated features and flashy logos – they want simple, stylish clothes that feel great and perform when they need to,” Nelson said.
The anti-microbial and moisture-wicking performance fabrics have the comfort of stretch clothing like their athletic polos and standard tees. For those who want to dress it up for more formal occasions, the nicer tee and polos still give off relaxed vibes but take the fit and clothing up a notch for more formal settings.
So what gives Nelson and Sockwell a better understanding of athleisure? They both don’t come from traditional clothing design backgrounds.
“We met at the University of Virginia. You can probably guess what we dressed like. From there, we both got into investment banking. We’re sure you know that uniform, too,” Sockwell said.
Even though their paths went in different directions, the founders both ended up in Los Angeles and they came together to combine their love for clothes.
“It took us three years of development to create our core collection. All our gear is based on extensive research, rigorous testing and obsessive attention to detail. We choose our materials based on performance and feel, sourcing textiles from a handful of mills we trust,” said Nelson.
While the founders were thinking about comfort, they also recognize the impact of the business. The idea for Willy was created in Los Angeles, but the clothes are also made here providing jobs—something very important to the founders.
“Local manufacturing is very important for our country – possibly, now more than ever. But it’s not easy to execute and we have lived through its ups and downs over the last two years. You don’t have to go to Asia or South America to make great, high-quality clothes but you do need to select manufacturing partners carefully and invest in those relationships. In addition to being the right thing for the country, local manufacturing allows Willy to be obsessively focused on every detail. The fact that our warehouse is a few miles from our factory gives us the ability to stop by regularly for quality control checks,” Sockwell said.
While most businesses have faced obstacles from the impacts of COVID-19 and even been forced to close, Willy California has experienced the opposite citing local production as a key factor in their maintaining of customers.
“Suddenly, the typical busy guy is trapped in his house, focused on working out and transitioning his wardrobe to more relaxed, casual clothes for the whole day. Additionally, the fact that all of our factories are local has been key. We never slowed down our order fulfillment and we were able to work closely with our factories to ensure everyone was staying safe in this new environment,” Nelson said.
For more information, visit WillyCalifornia.com.