July 7, 2023

Outplay: Redefining Fashion with Inclusive Clothing and Empowerment

Celebrating Inclusivity Through Fashion: The Outplay Journey

In a world where personal expression and comfort are paramount, one clothing brand is making waves by providing inclusive options that empower individuals to be their authentic selves. Outplay, founded by Marialexandra Garcia, has become a beacon of hope for those seeking clothing that goes beyond traditional gender norms and embraces diversity. With a rich history rooted in resilience and a commitment to making a positive impact, Outplay is transforming the fashion industry one garment at a time.

At the core of Outplay's mission is the belief that everyone deserves to feel comfortable and confident in their own skin, regardless of their gender identity or body type. Marialexandra, a former bridal designer, embarked on a journey to create a brand that not only catered to individuals seeking non-traditional wedding attire but also addressed the lack of suitable clothing options for those who wanted to conceal or compress their chests for a more masculine appearance. What started as a line of compression tops for swimwear has now evolved into a comprehensive range of swimwear and sportswear that caters to a diverse customer base.

Marialexandra, The Founder and CEO of Outplay

Chris: Hi, Marialexandra. How are you doing?

Marialexandra: I'm doing well, thank you. And yourself?

Chris: I'm great, thank you for asking. I appreciate you taking the time to join us. We're thrilled to feature your story and delve into the remarkable journey of Outplay. Our readers are eager to gain insights from successful entrepreneurs like yourself. We have a series of questions prepared for our interview, and it will be a relaxed and informal conversation. Are you ready to kick things off?

Marialexandra: Absolutely, I'm ready to dive in.

Chris: Fantastic! Let's start by sharing the story behind your company. Can you walk us through its history, mission, and core values?

Marialexandra: Of course. I've been a fashion designer my entire life, starting from making my first wedding dress at the age of 14. After college, I launched my own business specializing in evening wear and bridal gowns. I pursued that for over ten years. However, after the financial crisis in 2008, selling became extremely difficult. That's when I decided to embark on a more meaningful path. I went through several pivots and eventually created a line called 14, offering jackets, vests, and pants for those who didn't want to wear traditional wedding dresses. I catered to women on their second or third marriage, providing alternatives like pantsuits. Just before marriage equality became law in the United States, I realized there was a demand for non-dress options, particularly for lesbian couples. This led me to explore and design pantsuits for weddings.

So, I delved into the matter and created a line called "14" consisting of jackets, vests, and pants. This was my first venture into selling clothing online, which was quite new at the time, around 2010. To bring 14 to life, extensive research and numerous interviews were conducted. My pattern maker and I met with various groups of people to constantly try on and refine the clothing. During these interactions, I heard distressing stories of individuals resorting to harmful measures to feel comfortable and express their true selves due to the lack of suitable clothing options.

Witnessing these struggles, I felt compelled to find a solution. That's when I developed the first compression tops for swimwear, a previously nonexistent concept in the market. These revolutionary products, known today as "Swimmee" and "Flatsea," served as our initial compression tops for swimwear. Initially, I had a business partner for 14, but she decided to exit the field. Consequently, I closed 14 and launched Outplay. In May 2014, we introduced Outplay with these two tops as a pre-order without any production. Our aim was to test the concept, leveraging our website to conduct the presale. Remarkably, we successfully covered the entire production costs within a month through this presale, even though Kickstarter had just gained popularity and was relatively unknown.

Outplay - We're About Making a Change for the Better.

This success indicated that we had a winning idea. Since then, we have experienced significant growth. Initially, Outplay was primarily intended for individuals seeking to conceal or compress their chests to achieve a more masculine appearance. However, as our company and product range expanded, we realized there are many more people who appreciate and can benefit from our products. Presently, the core objective of Outplay is to offer inclusive clothing options that prioritize comfort and confidence, irrespective of gender or size.

Our overarching mission is to ensure your comfort and confidence, allowing you to present yourself authentically and as you desire to the world. We believe in providing clothing that allows you to be true to yourself without compromising your personal style, all while prioritizing safety. We are aware that certain products in the market may pose risks to your well-being, and we strive to offer a safer alternative.

Currently, we specialize in swimwear and sportswear, including activewear. We are continually expanding our product range to cater to diverse needs. Recently, we introduced a groundbreaking product that took over two years to develop—a unique line made from our own fabric. This versatile line can be worn both in and out of the water, serving as underwear or sportswear. It boasts a lightweight design, offering compression for targeted body parts while ensuring breathability and coolness throughout the day.

By consistently pursuing innovation, we have sustained our growth. Our unwavering mission remains unchanged: to provide clothing that fosters comfort and confidence for everyone.

Chris: That's really cool. I noticed you incorporate a Latin touch, right? The names have a hint of Latin influence.

Marialexandra: Yes, indeed. All our swimwear pieces are named after beaches in Venezuela, while our sportswear items are named after rivers or mountains in Venezuela.

Chris: Okay, that's interesting. What were the major challenges you faced when launching Outplay? Since its launch, what were the biggest obstacles?

Marialexandra: Launching Outplay has been filled with challenges, but more than that, it has been rewarding. One of the biggest hurdles we faced is being 100% self-funded. We don't have any external investors or financial support, while our closest competitor has raised significant funds. We constantly face the need to innovate as we often get copied. We were the pioneers in introducing compression tops for swimwear, and we have faced considerable imitation. However, we continue to innovate despite the financial strain. The garment industry itself is quite expensive, and funding is our primary constraint in pushing forward and staying ahead.

Chris: Are you considering raising funds to address those challenges or do you plan to focus on continuous innovation?

Marialexandra: I don't have immediate plans to raise venture capital funds. However, if I come across the right investor, perhaps an angel investor who genuinely believes in our mission and is not solely driven by financial gains, I would be open to discussing the possibility. The investor would need to have a deep understanding of our work and the patience to grow with us. I am cautious about venture capital money because I don't want Outplay to become solely focused on sales. We are making a real difference in people's lives, and we prioritize the value we provide to our customers over simply acquiring numbers on our books. If we do find an investor, I want them to recognize that growth takes time and our customers are of utmost importance to us.

Chris: I understand. Currently, what is your distribution channel, and what do you consider the best distribution channel for Outplay?

Marialexandra: Let me share our marketing strategy. In the first five years of Outplay, we didn't allocate any budget specifically for marketing. Well, I should correct that. We did sponsor a summer camp for the LGBTQ community two years in a row, and that was the extent of our marketing expenses. Everything else was driven by word of mouth and organic growth, and yet we managed to double our sales every year. It was entirely organic. In the sixth year, we started investing in marketing. We began with Google Ads, which proved to be very effective for us. We also incorporated Facebook Ads and started collaborating with influencers. Currently, we have an affiliate program and primarily work with micro-influencers, which has been quite successful. 

We have a dedicated fan base who passionately shares Outplay with the world, and that has become a strong aspect of our marketing strategy. As for distribution channels, our website is the main platform accounting for almost 100% of our sales. We did experiment with dropshipping Outplay, but it didn't work out as well as we hoped, so we discontinued that. Starting January next year, we will begin wholesaling and participate in our first trade show.

 I had deliberately avoided wholesale after my experience as a bridal designer. In the past, wholesale didn't make sense for us. We would receive orders a year in advance, ship the products nine months later, and then wait 60 to 90 days for payment. We ended up funding everything for over a year, and there are still stores that haven't paid us since 2008. So, I was reluctant to enter the wholesale market again. However, the industry has changed, and I'm cautiously considering venturing into wholesale once more. The hope is to start exploring that side of the business, possibly starting with our first trade show in January.

Chris: I see. It has been a while since you launched your brand. Can you give us an idea of your annual revenue and discuss any key strategies you've implemented to achieve that level? You don't have to provide exact figures, just a range.

Marialexandra: Currently, our annual revenue stands in the high seven figures. However, this year we faced a decline in sales due to some challenges we encountered. We made internal mistakes with the agency we hired and faced production issues, resulting in ongoing consequences. Despite these setbacks, our growth trajectory remains positive, which is crucial for us. The key factor behind our success lies in the profound impact we've made on people's lives. Our customers genuinely recognize and appreciate the value we bring, and word-of-mouth marketing has played a significant role in driving our growth.

While there are aspects beyond our control, we firmly believe in our ability to influence them. That's why we prioritize customer education through our email list. By empowering our customers with knowledge, we enable them to educate their friends and share the Outplay experience. Our customer journey, combined with our unique product offerings, sets us apart. We stay true to our values by deeply caring about where and how our clothing is made, ensuring sustainability and minimizing landfill waste. Our genuine concern for our customers and our unwavering commitment to making a positive impact in their lives resonate in every aspect of what we offer. Ultimately, the most effective form of marketing is rooted in genuine care for your customers and ensuring they know it.

Chris: I understand. We have two more questions from our customers. The next question is, what do you enjoy most about running your own business? And what keeps you motivated?

Marialexandra: Absolutely. One of the most rewarding aspects of running my own business is the constant stream of emails, letters, and messages I receive from my customers. As a business owner, there are days when I feel overwhelmed and just want to give up. There are more of those days than I'd like to admit. But then, I receive an email or a handwritten letter from someone expressing how we have made a difference in their life. These heartfelt messages come from parents, direct customers, and people from all around the world. It's truly incredible. These messages are the driving force that keeps me going, even when things get tough.

Knowing that we have a positive impact on people's lives is what fuels my motivation. Clothing may be seen as superficial and materialistic by some, but it's much more than that. It's a means of self-expression, a way to present oneself to the world. If someone lacks the appropriate clothing to convey their true identity and feelings, it can have profound effects. It can diminish confidence, restrict opportunities, and hinder personal growth.

Clothing holds immense importance in our lives. To those who underestimate its significance, I challenge them to imagine a day without their clothing and observe how it affects their interaction with the world. It becomes evident how crucial clothing truly is. At Outplay, we strive to create garments that empower people to fully embrace and enjoy their lives as they desire. That, to me, is the ultimate achievement.

Chris: That's wonderful. Great insights. Now, onto an important question. What advice would you give to someone embarking on their own business journey?

Marialexandra: First and foremost, it is crucial to thoroughly understand your market. You need to identify your target audience, comprehend their needs, and gain deep insights into the industry you are entering, particularly in the garment industry. Contrary to popular belief, being a fashion designer is not just about drawing all day; it requires a solid grasp of mathematics. So, anyone aspiring to study fashion should not expect to avoid math. As a business owner, you will find yourself dealing with even more mathematical aspects than you anticipated.

When starting a business, it is vital to have a comprehensive understanding of production processes, inventory management, and the associated costs and challenges. The garment industry has numerous intricate elements that can become costly and complicated rapidly, potentially turning into a nightmare. Therefore, it is essential to recognize and comprehend the expenses, complexities, and interdependencies that come with running a garment business.

Chris: That's incredibly valuable advice. Understanding the intricacies and being prepared is crucial for success in the garment industry. Thank you for sharing your insights.That concludes our discussion for today. I want to express my gratitude for your excellent responses. Thank you so much.

Marialexandra: Thank you.

Chris: Happy Friday. I appreciate it.

Marialexandra: Happy Friday. Have a wonderful weekend.

Chris: Goodbye. You too.

Key Takeaways

  1. Embrace Innovation and Adaptability: Marialexandra's journey with Outplay showcases the importance of embracing innovation and adapting to market needs. By recognizing the demand for inclusive clothing options, she successfully pivoted her business and developed unique products to cater to a diverse customer base. The ability to innovate and adapt is essential for long-term success in any industry.

  1. Prioritize Customer Impact: Outplay's focus on customer impact and genuine care sets a valuable example for aspiring entrepreneurs. By prioritizing the well-being and satisfaction of their customers, Outplay has cultivated a dedicated fan base and achieved organic growth through word-of-mouth marketing. Putting customers first and making a positive impact in their lives can be a powerful driver for business growth and success.

Join the Outplay Community: Stay Connected and Embrace Inclusivity

Stay connected and be a part of the vibrant Outplay community by following them on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Join a movement that celebrates diversity, self-expression, and inclusive fashion.

By following Outplay on these social media platforms, you'll gain exclusive access to behind-the-scenes content, updates on their latest collections, and engaging posts that inspire and empower. Connect with like-minded individuals, share your Outplay experiences, and be inspired by the stories of others who have found confidence and comfort through their inclusive clothing options.

Apple advances user security with powerful new data protections

iMessage Contact Key Verification, Security Keys for Apple ID, and Advanced Data Protection for iCloud provide users with important new tools to protect their most sensitive data and communications

Simplify your business finance with Artoh.