“People want to see behind and the curtain and be involved in the process,” says Keith Nowak, the co-founder of activewear brand Ten Thousand. With that mindset, Nowak, along with co-founder Eugenio Labadie, created a “wear testing” program where customers can be an integral part of product development. The first garment to receive this new beta testing is the Endurance Short, a stripped-down version of Ten Thousand’s cross-training Foundation Short. They feature a zip pocket on the side seam (for a key or card), a slim cut with no hip pockets and a built-in liner made from a merino-polyester-spandex blend. “These shorts are lighter-weight, minimalist shorts designed for long-distance runs and high-sweat activities,” says Labadie.
On their website, a section titled “Labs” details the conception of new products and invites customers to join in a collaborative development process. With a functioning prototype, the brand offers a limited run to the public at a reduced cost. This starts a conversation with the user to refine the product, with Ten Thousand actively culling feedback: How is the fit? Could the pocket placement be different? What about liner construction? “It’s a very different approach to building gear,” says Nowak. By focusing on what the consumer wants, through early field testing, Ten Thousand can make a product that people will keep coming back to.
Nowak and Labadie’s frustration with the seasonal, trend-driven merchandising of big brands (read: changing fit, color), led the duo to decide to start small, focusing on refining a couple products through numerous iterations. Operating on the ethos, “fewer, better products,” Ten Thousand’s product count currently stands at three. “We are building that core lineup of products, and making them better over time,” says Nowak. And it’s that attention to detail and goal of creating a timeless product that has gained Ten Thousand a strong following, that with the introduction of this new short, is bound to continue to grow.