Ask her how things in the college sweater business are going, and Kristin Williams will tell you that things are crazy. This is not a bad thing for the owner of Varsity Sports Apparel Inc. (VSA). The Plymouth-based company makes custom-fit decorative clothing for sports teams, sports fans, corporations, school groups and performing artists, among others. Williams’s varsity jackets and vintage letterman sweaters are designed on demand, and all of the clothing is custom made in the United States. Williams describes her background as “corporate banker by day, rock star by night.” Banking paid the rent and supported her involvement in the arts. In 2006 Williams and her husband were watching a music award show and Williams noticed that the musicians were wearing varsity jackets. “Drake, Usher, Rhianna—so many of them! I realized that the varsity jacket is the new ‘little black dress’—it’s a staple.” Williams searched the Internet for a company that made personalized vintage jackets and discovered a gap in the market. She started VSA in 2008, and within three years it replaced corporate banking as her full-time job. One of the things that sets VSA apart from competition like Lettermen Sports and Dave’s Sports Shop is that the company is made up first and foremost of designers. “We use customer input and our own creative abilities to put together apparel programs that are unique,” Williams says. “We are not a sporting goods supply store; we only have clothing related items, which keeps overhead down.” Plymouth is an ideal location, with many big schools and a demand for “cool” uniforms. “One of the greatest things here is the women,” Williams says, as VSA designs fashion-forward fan wear cut for a woman’s frame. “Now Mom can wear her bling-bling to watch high school football.” Another feature of the company is their profit-sharing program for high school sports teams, including the Wayzata Trojans, Armstrong Falcons and Cooper Hawks. “If they partner with us for apparel, we create a spirit line and provide a percentage back to their booster organization,” Williams explains. VSA attends games and sells the apparel onsite. “We don’t want our local teams to look like others when it comes to tournament time. We help the girls’ teams look cute; you can play hockey and still look like a girl,” Williams says. “Custom design isn’t necessarily more expensive; we take your vision and make something you are pleased and proud to wear.” Plymouth resident and Reebok sales rep Robert Fallon’s son graduated from the Armstrong High School, a school partner with VSA. When his son went on to play hockey at Yale University, he recommended VSA for spirit wear. Leah Laudert, VSA’s customer service and sales rep, loves building anticipation. “My favorite part is the customers,” she says. “It’s exciting when kids come in to get measured and help plan. When they come back and put it on for first time, it’s all smiles. Being a mom myself, I know how important that is.”While 70 percent of her clientele is local prep teams, the celebrity influence that launched VSA continues today. Williams’s client roster includes many celebrities who found VSA on the Internet. “It’s a small group—when you have one celebrity, they tell their friends, one stylist tells another stylist, and so on,” Williams says. VSA made tour jackets for the Harlem Globetrotters and outfitted both the Dallas Cowboy and Chicago Bears cheerleaders. Broadway costume designer William Ivey Long employed VSA for productions such as Big Fish and Catch Me if You Can to create custom letterman sweaters and jackets. Kathy Griffith, Daniel Radcliffe, Drake, John Travolta, Dr. Dre, Jimmy Kimmel and the cast of Glee are also on the list. “When creative people call on creative people, there is a synergy,” Williams says. “They want someone who can understand their vision.”
VSA Custom Apparel shop outfits Plymouth
A Plymouth-based custom designer makes apparel for sports, stage and screen.