There is no doubt Chicagoans have pride in their city. It’s evident in the popularity of the city’s flag. Now, a group of friends have created a new line of shorts that allow runners and athletes of all kind to show off their civic pride any time they want.
The appropriately named Chi Chi Sport was created like most new concepts, because of demand and an open market. Native Texans Arleigh Andrews and Lauren Hendrickson moved up to Chicago after college. Both were looking for an opportunity to live and work in a city as vibrant as Chicago and soon after wanted to show their love of the windy city. Being from Texas, where the state flag is easily found on nearly any kind of apparel, the two friends started looking for a pair of running shorts with the iconic city flag on them. Along with their friend and Hendrickson’s coworker, Eileen Walsh, the three checked every outlet they could to no avail. It was there that the idea was born, simple enough, why not make their own shorts with the flag on them?
All three of the Chi Chi founders aren’t shy about their feelings toward the city of Chicago. Hendrickson said she moved up here immediately after college knowing that she wanted to live in a big city. Andrews came shortly after, moving to the city before even securing a job because she knew she wanted to live in Chicago. After graduating from Notre Dame Walsh wasn’t sure if she wanted to return to the Chicagoland area or venture out somewhere else but in the end her love of Chicago prevailed.
Unlike most ideas that fade with time, the three women became more convinced with each summer day that their idea would be a hit. Quickly becoming protective of their idea, they began the process of creating the business. Despite none of them having an apparel background–Hendrickson works as a consultant at the same company where Walsh is an accountant and Andrews is a kindergarten teacher–they set out researching what all would be needed to work towards their goal.
“We had to find every detail, we had to do that. It was kind of weird to think about. Six months ago we turned into a little sweatshop measuring and testing everything,” Hendrickson said.
Starting from the ground floor the three began looking into their manufacturing options. While they looked into every last aspect of manufacturing, there was also the business of carving out their company’s face. In what should be no surprise to most runners, Andrews said she would work on possible names and logos all while going out on runs. Eventually they landed on Chi Chi Sport, a mix of Chicago pride and fashion forward verbiage.
Andrews said she thinks the attention to detail makes the shorts that much better. “It makes the final product that much cooler because we are literally invested in every pair,” she said.
Making sure they were able to create something that the athletic world could embrace was at the forefront of the new company’s mindset. All three of them represent a different segment of the endurance community, giving them a unique view on everything that would be needed. While Andrews said she stays with mostly fun runs and local 5Ks both Walsh and Hendrickson have jumped into the long distance events. Hendrickson tests her athletic ability with a mix of half marathons and triathlons, completing the Chicago Triathlon last year. Walsh, who ran track growing up in the southwest suburbs, said her family convinced her to start running cross country, she took to it immediately and has now run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon twice and has qualified for Boston 2015.
Between their running background and being just a few years removed from college, the three fit perfectly into their target demographic. There is no reason runners in every race or simply training along the Lakfront Path shouldn’t be wearing their shorts with the flag across them. Their marketing started slowly. After the manufacturing began they started telling their friends and family about the new concept. The three expected those close to them to respond positively, but they said they are now starting to hear from extended groups who are interested in the shorts. Andrews said a coworker of hers bought the shorts for her fiancé and recorded him excitedly checking them out and discovering the always important pockets. Walsh told a friend of the shorts early in the process and said he has been asking since their inception when he could get his own pair.
It’s been a process, the three women said, that has lasted the better part of 18 months. But now with a fully functioning website and available products, they are ready to truly open business.
The most important decisions, obviously, came in the actual designing of the shorts. They now feature a few different options to fit a number of athletic events. The first pair they decided on was a women’s running shorts. Named the Mag Miler, the shorts feature the blue bars and red stars of the flag horizontally across the sweat wicking fabric. They followed the women’s pair with a men’s pair named the Lake Effect, made with similar fabric and design to their women’s counterpart but with a 7 inch inseam. Finally, the three decided to make a version basketball version of their shorts. Unlike the running design, the longer basketball shorts have the flag going down the outer thigh on each side. With a nod to the on court success of a number of Chicago athletes the shorts are named the MVP. Both pairs of running shorts cost $30, while the basketball shorts are $35.
The women are fast on the move to get their shorts into the hands of costumers. They have already been in talks with a number of apparel stores and sell them online. Additionally, they have partnered with CARA for their launch. Chi Chi Sport has already begun selling the shorts to the public and has heard demand from a few surprising markets. Walsh said they have had requests from a number of Chicago natives who no longer live in the area but still want to show off their city pride. They have also started getting requests from friends in other states asking for their flags on shorts, but they assure that they are just focusing on the windy city.
“I feel like Chicago is Midwestern pride the same way that Texas is southern pride with your Texas flag or shorts,” Andrews said. “People even who haven’t lived in Chicago love Chicago and want to be here or have good memories.