When Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson thinks of his late father, the same memory always comes to mind: “He used to always tell me, ‘Son, it’s not the day you are born or the day you die that’s important—it’s the hashmark in between that measures your significance. Who did you impact with that hashmark measures the legacy of a man or a woman,’” Wilson recalls.
He lives out this lesson in everything he does, whether on the field or with philanthropic organizations like Feeding America his Why Not You Foundation. Most recently, however, it’s inspired him, wife and Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Ciara and former Lululemon CEO Christine Day to cofound: The House of LR&C.
The fashion house, which launched on Tuesday, is named for “love, respect and care,” as well as “love, Russell and Ciara.” Their goal is “democratizing fashion” by making the traditionally exclusive industry more accessible, especially to young consumers. The House of LR&C comprises Wilson’s existing men’s apparel line, Good Man Brand—which, since launching in 2016, has seen over 300% revenue growth—and their new inclusive, sustainable streetwear brand, Human Nation. In the spirit of accessibility, Human Nation will be available at Kohl’s starting on December 27 and at Nordstrom in early 2021. The fashion house will also boast a women’s line, set to launch in mid-2021. This isn’t the couple’s first time starting up. Wilson, once the NFL’s highest-paid player, is also the founder of brand management firm West2East Empire, and Ciara launched her own record label, Beauty Marks Entertainment. Between the two, they have secured endorsements and ambassadorships with Nike, Microsoft, Equinox, Pandora, Bose and more including Wilson’s Good Man Brand. When it comes to day-to-day operations, though, Day will be running the show.
“Being a brand that can speak to the consumer is really important in times like this…A recession doesn’t scare me if you have the right story and right time.”
“Being a brand that can speak to the consumer is really important in times like this,” says Day. “I took over Lululemon at the point of a financial crisis and had to find a way to resonate with consumers and as a result, we were one of the best stories during that time period. So a recession doesn’t scare me if you have the right story and right time.” A veteran of the retail industry—who, in addition to scaling companies including Starbucks, has founded her own in Performance Kitchen, a food startup for which Wilson has been a brand ambassador—Day met the couple in 2014. But it wasn’t until 18 months ago that they decided to build a business together. “As it hit us with everything going on in America, it was critical for us as two African American business owners to really make a difference and be forward thinkers and leaders—not just in sports and music, but also in fashion and the things we really generally care and also wear,” says Wilson.
Under Day’s leadership, they enlisted the help of sustainability, product and marketing experts to differentiate the brand, and adopted a technology called Flowcode, which was introduced to the team by DTX Company founder and CEO Tim Armstrong. The technology leverages modernized QR codes to help brands instantly connect and share content with customers at a fraction of the cost of paid media. “Great brands are a direct reflection of the people who create them,” says Armstrong. “The House of LR&C is a bold step forward for innovative DTC brand building and our team at Flowcode.”
The team also created a confidential research community of more than 500 participants, all of whom belong to The House of LR&C’s target demographic: Gen-Z, which represents about 20 percent, or over 67 million of the U.S. population.
The most racially and ethnically diverse generation, 90% believe companies must act to help social and environmental issues and 75% say they would research to see if companies are being honest when they take stands on issues, according to the 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Gen Z Purpose Study.
“Gen Z are redefining the role that consumer brands play in society by demanding a certain level of social, political and environmental activism from them,” says Virna Sekuj, strategic insights manager at GlobalWebIndex. “The idea of ‘neutrality’ doesn’t cut it anymore because the issues that are important to them transcend normal debate.”
“We’re living in a different time when people want to be heard. People are being way more vocal and expressive in this environment, and really finding their true selves by how they express what they get involved with.”
As a registered Public Benefits Corp with a pending B Corp, The House of LR&C has committed to delivering on the tangible social and environmental sustainability goals developed by the United Nations. The company will also donate 3% of every purchase to Wilson’s Why Not You Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to children’s education and health, as well as fighting poverty.
“We’re living in a different time when people want to be heard,” says Ciara. “People are being way more vocal and expressive in this environment, and really finding their true selves by how they express what they get involved with.”
The launch of the house comes at an unprecedented time for businesses, especially retailers, which have faced store closures and declining revenues amid the pandemic. At the same time, e-commerce sales have skyrocketed, rising 44.5% in the second quarter compared with the same period in 2019, according to the Commerce Department. E-commerce spending on Black Friday rose nearly 22% to hit a new record, spending $9 billion online, according to data from Adobe Analytics.
The economic environment has also helped accelerate the cofounders’ desire to pay it forward. “One of the core principles of giving back is that when times are tough, it’s even more of a reason to serve and give back more—that’s why we thought the House of LR&C can have a real impact on the world,” says Wilson. “It’s exciting that when you think about democratizing fashion, we’re giving people the opportunity to be a part of the journey with us—from empowering the community to being able to give back with us and be on that journey as well,” says Ciara.
The future of retail is very uncertain, but perhaps the power of Wilson’s and Ciara’s “why not you” philosophy has made their innumerable successes, including a new retail concept amidst a pandemic, reality. “Russell and I share the same belief that everything you need to thrive and become your ultimate self is within you,” says Ciara.
“When I first met Russell upon his transferring to the University of Wisconsin to play his final collegiate football season, I was struck by the strength of belief he had in himself,” says personal mentor of over a decade Kenny Dichter, the founder and CEO of private aviation company Wheels Up. “I remember that day like it was yesterday. Russell let me know he was going to be a Super Bowl champion quarterback and that he was going to be on the Forbes list one day,” he says. “One down, one to go.”