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New athletic apparel offers comfort with class

The side-stripe clothing designs created by Krass & Co. feature sailboats and sea animals.

Several years ago, Pierson Krass ’14 noticed that consumers had just two options in athletic shorts: what he calls boring, plain Nike styles and “loud” patterned ones.

Krass also observed that his fellow students, both male and female, sacrificed fashion for a more comfortable, athletic look when they attended class.

Krass, a marketing major and entrepreneurship minor, decided to start a company, Krass & Co., that would change the athletic apparel market by offering consumers a new style of athletic apparel.

“This wasn’t just a business venture for me,” says Krass, who describes his own style as preppy. “My personal interests definitely had some influence on it.”

“Comfortable yet classy” is the motto of Krass’s company and it grew out of a more aesthetic approach to athletic clothing. The men’s and women’s shorts boast comfortable material, including a 100-percent polyester and a nylon/spandex blend, a waistband with drawstring, and a side stripe with either a printed design or embroideries. The side-stripe designs include sailboats, lobsters and colorful patterns.

“We pride ourselves on the basis of sophistication in non-sophisticated settings,” Krass says. “The shorts can be worn to the gym or class, or even with a nice button down for a more comfortable, put-together look.”

An assist from the Baker Institute

Krass & Co. has sold well over 10,000 pairs of shorts. The company’s products can be found in more than 100 stores all over the East coast, and they are also selling well online.

Last spring, Krass was the grand prize winner at the annual Thalheimer Student Entrepreneurs Competition held by Lehigh’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation. The competition, part of the institute’s EURKEA! Ventures Series, awards funding to students interested in launching innovative ventures with early-stage business models.

Krass says the Baker Institute has provided him some of the opportunities he’s found at Lehigh. Last year, he took the institute’s LehighSiliconValley course, a 3-credit experiential program that takes students to the “hub of entrepreneurship” in California’s Silicon Valley.

“That trip was the most enjoyable, hands-on experience I’ve had at Lehigh,” Krass says. “I was grateful to work directly with professionals and hear what they had to say.”

The hardest part about starting Krass & Co., Krass says, has been learning to utilize resources to maximize investment. Krass holds everything together from a small internal office, but his design director is in Utah and the company sources from a third-party warehouse.

The value of blunt honesty

Currently, the company sells men and women’s athletic shorts, t-shirts and accessories. Krass plans to expand eventually into a full lifestyle brand, but not until “mastering his top game.

“We are trying to stick to our core products until we can absolutely control our niche,” he says. “Right now, we will keep improving our shorts until we feel that we can confidently move on to different products.”
 
Lehigh’s Greek life has also played a huge part in Krass & Co.’s success. As a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity, Krass was able to bounce ideas off friends, ask sororities for their support with the launch of his women’s line, and observe his peers’ lifestyle for inspiration.

“I lived with fifty ruthlessly blunt friends for two years,” he says. “Their honesty and support acted as a convenient focus group for me.”

Krass is currently taking a leave of absence from Lehigh to relocate to Princeton, N.J. He hopes to advise the Baker Institute and recruit Lehigh grads for new company positions. Eventually, he plans to complete his degree in marketing.

“It’s really nice to see the growth of the brand from its beginnings,” he says. “You know, I made a huge step from just selling the shorts to my friends to spotting a stranger sporting them at some East coast prep school or college. It’s awesome to think that those people wear my shorts and enjoy them.”

You can learn more about Krass & Co. at the company website. Krass himself can be reached at info@krassandco.com.

Story by Jaime DellaPelle '14

Posted on Tuesday, June 03, 2014

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