A “Golden” Opportunity: How Activewear Brand Rhone Disrupted Itself Two Years After Launching

A “Golden” Opportunity: How Activewear Brand Rhone Disrupted Itself Two Years After Launching

It’s the odor that launched a revolution …

After just a handful of washes, Nate Checketts’ wife couldn’t bear the stench any longer.

Checketts, who was once employed with the National Football League, would routinely leave the office with workout apparel freebies; the same gear some of the best athletes in the world would wear during training sessions.

“I wore the gear five times and it smelled really bad,” Checketts recalls. “I remember my wife demanding that I throw the gear away because it stunk so bad.”

The crusade against odor-causing bacteria underpins the company Checketts would go on to found, Rhone. Rhone sells premium odor-fighting activewear to ambitious men who ultimately perceive the apparel as extensions of themselves that help them perform at a higher level.

The company grew 500% year-over-year recently and powered 3D customer experiences by blending intelligent ecommerce with physical pop-up stores. Rhone was even recognized by GQ as having the best premium anti-odor technology on the market; topping industry giants like Lululemon.

Still, Checketts and the team weren’t satisfied. They wanted to strike gold, literally. If it works, Rhone will owe a huge debt of gratitude to the nasty diseases that kill our food crops. Here’s why.

The Golden Connection Between Crop Disease and Sweat

They’re invisible killers. Every year, a myriad of diseases gnaw away at the nation’s crops, killing much of the corn, wheat, and soybeans that feed the world. The culprit behind much of this devastation?

Turns out, it’s often the same thing that makes our gym clothes reek: bacteria.

It’s no surprise then that Checketts and a biochemist developing nanoparticle technology designed to neutralize the bacteria killing our farm crops immediately hit it off.

The weapon of choice: gold.

The pair immediately saw a connection and began testing whether the technology being used to ward off crop disease might also be applied to textiles to create an even more effective anti-odor solution than Rhone was already offering.

“There’s nothing else like this on the market,” says Chip Malt, Rhone’s VP of Marketing & Analytics.

Here’s why: nanoparticles tend to bind better to apparel than other types of anti-odor agents. Separately, Rhone’s solution is infused into entire rolls of their activewear fabrics at the production phase and offer spot-free coverage versus competing spray-on solutions. Other spray technologies tend to be applied after a garment is made and can result in missed spots that become prime breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria.

It’s called GoldFusion, and after a battery of tests Rhone found its revolutionary new line of performance activewear that contains real gold particles to:

  • Wick moisture 3X Faster
  • Last 3X Longer
  • Offer Optimal UV Ray Protection
  • Permanently Neutralize & Control Odor Even After 100 Washes

“When we tell people they’re actually wearing real gold their eyes light up,” Malt says. “People love it because they’re wearing something rare and something that actually performs better than anything on the market today.”

The demand for GoldFusion is undeniable: a recent Indiegogo campaign used to pre-sell the technology topped its goal and resulted in a more than $110,000 stamp of approval. Initially, the technology is being applied to two world-class fabrics:

  • Merino Wool: known for its performance and natural feel
  • Polartec Delta: known for its synthetic feel and ability to insulate and cool

How A High Performance Activewear Company Disrupts Itself Two Years After Launching (& Uses Gold To Help You Smell Better)

“We’re adding great technology on top of already great products,” Malt says. “The customers who already love these products now have one more reason to love them and the customers who haven’t tried Rhone yet have one more reason to try us.”

How to Use Your Digital Ears

Rhone may be a company founded, in part, on the sense of smell…

But it’s the company’s ears that have made it a customer favorite and allowed it to pose a significant challenge to the industry behemoths with which it competes.

“We have multiple systems set up to listen to customers,” Malt says. These include:

  • Onsite surveys
  • Reviews
  • Live Chat
  • Upcoming Product Surveys
  • Customer Lifestyle Quizzes

The data derived from listening to customers, especially in the case of the lifestyle quiz, allows the company to better design and market its products. However, the way Rhone listens to customers goes beyond traditional ecommerce tactics.

How A High Performance Activewear Company Disrupts Itself Two Years After Launching (& Uses Gold To Help You Smell Better)

In fact, the company’s size allows it to listen one-on-one.

“We reach out directly to individual customers who are unhappy to find out exactly what’s wrong,” Malt says. “They’re generally very impressed that we actually care about their opinions and tell us they’ve never felt so listened to before.”

Rhone’s narrow focus on the customer experience and innovating with product lines like GoldFusion is powered in part by its ecommerce platform, Shopify Plus, an enterprise ecommerce solution for high volume merchants. Instead of sinking time and treasure into design and development, Rhone relies on Shopify’s out-of-the-box capability and easy integration with third-party applications to power its store and allow employees to focus exclusively on innovation and customer satisfaction.

“That’s another reason why we love Shopify,” Checketts says. “Shopify’s platform gives us huge peace of mind. I know Shopify is going to work and grow with us.”

The ability to focus solely on innovations like GoldFusion is one reason why Rhone is often characterized as a technology company that happens to sell apparel. “We’re really comfortable disrupting ourselves,” Malt says. “We’re constantly looking for what’s going to get us to the next level.”

How A High Performance Activewear Company Disrupts Itself Two Years After Launching (& Uses Gold To Help You Smell Better)

Expect the company’s bet on gold not only to drive future growth but also be a personal source of pride for the brand.

“It’s their life’s work,” Malt says of the biotech company that created the gold particle nanotechnology. “It’s a pat on our back that they trust us to bring their life’s work to market.”

Not only is Rhone solving the stinky activewear problem…

But the company may also be on the verge of solving another major problem plaguing many ecommerce apparel merchants; friction in the conversion process.

Free Gold?

“GoldFusion is the future of our Company,” says Malt.

“We use the best fabrics and technology in the world, so when people get a chance to touch and feel our product, they really understand what we are doing here. As a new brand, we’re always looking for ways to reduce frictions that consumers face when deciding to try new brands.”

To further reduce those frictions, you may soon even be able to try Rhone risk-free …

Despite boasting of an industry low return rate, Rhone is experimenting with ways to do even better. To bridge the gap between purchasing online and in store where shoppers can first try on apparel, Rhone is partnering with Try.com, a service that allows shoppers to try apparel from their favorite merchants for free.

Here’s how it works:

  • Merchants like Rhone offer the button on their site
  • When shopping, customers use the button to check out for free
  • Upon delivery, customers have 7-days to decide what they want to keep or return

Returns are sent back to the retailer and the customer is charged only for what they keep:

How A High Performance Activewear Company Disrupts Itself Two Years After Launching (& Uses Gold To Help You Smell Better)

Rhone is currently testing whether offering a Try Button is effective in de-risking the purchasing decision and embracing returns as an avenue to sell consumers additional items.

“We want to broaden the perspective of our customer and make sure they don’t just see us as their shorts company,” Malt says. “We want them to see us as having much more to offer than just what they ordered in their initial purchase and believe this may be one way to do that.”

It means Rhone’s GoldFusion, which is already odor free, may soon be something you can try risk-free.

“As soon as we conquer one thing we move on to the next,” Malt says. “We’ll never stop looking for ways to improve on our offering and technology”

About the author

Nick Winkler

Nick Winkler is a contributor to the Shopify Plus blog and founder of The Winkler Group, a strategic communications firm that provides content marketing services to the world's best-known brands, businesses, and marketers.

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