Jodi Ingham is dressing the NBA and NFL players of your dreams
Clad in black from head to toe, her focus fixed on the sketch in front of her. A pen glides over her tablet, shading the tones of her latest design: the exact garment that you will soon see on the likes of elite male athletes in the NBA and the NFL.
Meet Jodi Ingham, New York City’s creative vision behind REINGE, the new menswear brand taking the professional athlete world by storm. We talked to Jodi about navigating the ins and outs of the fashion and sports worlds — two highly competitive sectors that are largely dominated by males — and why these guys can’t get enough of the REINGE aesthetic she injects into every seam of the brand.
How did you get started in fashion design, and why menswear?
As a kid in Michigan, I spent my free time in my mother’s sewing attic. I’d start early in the day when there was light coming in, but 8 hours later I’d be so immersed in constructing something—anything, really, from whatever materials I found lying around — scraps, linens, etc. — that my parents would come home to find me working in a pitch black room, completely oblivious to the change in light. That was when I was a kid, obviously, but I guess I knew at a young age that I’d find myself in design someday.
When it came to womenswear, as a Midwest tombo” something never felt quite right about the traditional stereotype of classic femininity. My first collection, naturally, was this tough chick, motorcycle-inspired brand with friend and brilliant design partner, Emily Kollars. We loved the sexiness of clean lines and hardware. From there, I guess it was a smooth transition into menswear.
So to bring it full circle, you are now the Head of Product Development and a business partner at REINGE, a menswear brand designed for elite athletes. #girlpower. What is that role like, and is it different from what you expected?
When you care about a concept, it’s impossible to not invest yourself fully. It brings about a noticeable shift in your direction and mindset. I was initially hired as the Head of Product Development, but it was clear early on that I brought a vital and necessary skill set to the table. This, combined with my growing passion for the brand… I think it was just a matter of time before I stepped up as Partner to Founder and CEO Kevin Flammia. It made perfect sense to become involved further than design; the product and the company runs so much deeper.
Tell us about the product and what inspires your work.
The concept of REINGE is highly unique and inspiring on its own. We’re seriously the only brand that outfits body-conscious guys (who work their asses off, literally) with a modern and chic look, straight off the rack. Watching a 6’9” NBA player, or a 5’10” in-shape finance dude try on a jacket that actually fits his tapered frame is energizing and fuels this drive in me to anticipate their next step in life and bring about their next season’s look.
With each collection that Design Assistant Johnny King and I develop at REINGE, an important attribute is this sense of city and texture. We like to incorporate the hard elements of the city with a subtle athletic feel—think steel against concrete or the pulse from the streets. It’s bringing that sense of roughness to a smooth finish—a direct tension. When you establish a color palette of strong but neutral tones, select inspiring images of people and the city, add bold textures and rich fabrics, and then you put it together… and, wow. There’s an unmistakable feeling, a vision that you can actually smell and taste, a tangible quality that takes on a life of its own. From there, it dictates the direction of next season. As a designer, it’s hard to imagine doing this somewhere besides New York, where inspiration is boundless and keeps you on the cutting edge.
You’re definitely on the cutting edge. This is only the beginning, and a lot of professional athletes (guys who have the undivided attention of major brands) are stoked about REINGE. Your designs are very much penetrating a male-dominant industry. What’s that like?
Ha ha, yes. I’m definitely in a world surrounded by guys, so it’s interesting how my whole life has come back to this tomboy quality of being a voice within a group of men. Being from the Midwest, it’s still humbling and overwhelming — this idea of living in NYC and making it as a designer, partnering in a brand that I love, and seeing our designs in real time next to people I’ve spent my life admiring. To have such a voice in this day and age is really promising and progressive, because it’s empowering in a different way. It gives hope for the future, amongst so many issues that we as women still face. For women and men alike, I think it’s important to not only find your stance or angle, but to lead with it. To be successful, you have to show authority and authenticity.
So, guys are obviously buying into this aesthetic. Let’s hear about your personal style and any fashion tips.
Truth be told, when I visit the Midwest I make a point of dominating every thrift store in the area. You can’t imagine what people leave on the rack, either out of confusion for what the item is or maybe not knowing how best to wear it. For my personal style, I go straight to the oversized items. I find a large black top and drape it carelessly off my shoulder, tuck in on one hip for dimension, and it’s effortless over a pair of skinnies with heels. A chain necklace, hard cuff, and simple hoop earrings gives this “balance” of baggy over tight, hard on soft, or revealing but covered—an unmistakable sophistication and sexiness. Oh, and don’t be afraid of mixing in menswear. True modernity is about balance, not boundaries.
Any last words for aspiring design entrepreneurs?
I realized early on that being a designer and building a collection is very much about running a business. You can’t have a clothing brand unless you’re also focused on running it with a business mentality, which can be a struggle for a lot of designers. My advice is to find the right balance in a partner. For me, I was fortunate that my partner, Harvard Business School graduate Kevin Flammia, owns that space and saw the right balance in me, early on.