Issaquah alum bringing swag to UW athletic apparel | Reporter Q and A
By JOSH SUMAN
Issaquah Reporter Sports Reporter
June 7, 2012 · Updated 12:27 PM
Faced with the prospects of creating a product and taking it to market for their business class, University of Washington seniors Josh Brewer and Gil Pennington, an Issaquah graduate, knew they wanted to do something unique.
They did that and more when they created the Swagga Suit. An adult sized, purple one-piece suit with the University of Washington logo embroidered on the front, the Swagga Suit went viral on the internet after photos of former UW basketball and current NBA player Jon Brockman were posted to Facebook, spawning stories and links across national media outlets.
Brewer and Pennington sat down with the Reporter earlier this week to talk about the suit, the response and of course, the swag.
ISSAQUAH REPORTER: When your professor gave the assignment, did you both immediately look at each other and know you wanted to create a giant, purple onesie?
GILLIAN PENNINGTON: It was an evolution of ideas. I threw out the idea of doing UW school gear, totally unrelated to the suit, we were thinking t-shirts and hats. Josh threw out the idea of wouldn't it be cool if we had these thermal long johns.
REPORTER: So Josh, you're to blame?
JOSH BREWER: I have a red long-john one-piece that I've worn camping and has kind of become legendary among my friends. That is where the idea of a one-piece suit came about.
REPORTER: What was the response from your partners in the class and peers?
BREWER: We brought the idea up to our class and everyone was kind of laughing but on board at the same time. We knew the real challenge would be how to market it. It's obviously a fun idea but it can be taken seriously or as a joke or somewhere in between. That was kind of where we needed to make that connection.
PENNINGTON: It isn't the most practical thing, obviously. We thought maybe we should just do t-shirts and everyone in our class said to stay with this. We thought it was too risky and our professor told us that was the whole point of the project and the class.
REPORTER: How about the reaction from other students and fans at sporting events?
PENNINGTON: Most of the reaction we've experienced in person has been really positive, even when our friends tease us or tell us they don't want to hear about it again. We wear them around campus and people always know it's the Swagga Suit. At sporting events people always ask where we got it and say they want to buy one. I think everything we've experienced has been really positive. Even if they think it's a little ridiculous, people get that it is supposed to be fun and for sporting events.
REPORTER: What do opposing fans say?
BREWER: We get a lot of "I hope you don't bring it to our school," but that is only one person, where the other nine may want to know when their school is getting it.
PENNINGTON: Or they will say "I'm so proud to be a Coug," and I just am thinking they know they would buy one if it was in their colors!
REPORTER: The photos of Washington alum and NBA player Jon Brockman were what kind of blew this thing up on the internet. Was it tough getting Brockman on board and when will we see Keith Price in the Swagga Suit?
PENNINGTON: My neighbor is good friends with Jon Brockman and so I asked him if maybe he would be up for trying out the suit and maybe shooting some photos. He said Brockman was a really fun guy and he was totally up for it. We met before a workout when he was on campus and shot the pictures. He was really cool about it and we all had a great time with it.
BREWER: We can't get current players to wear it because of amateurism rules, but a lot of them have been really supportive. There has been some interest from former UW athletes wanting to get involved and we have some more former players with some things in the works.
REPORTER: Have you been surprised by the amount of attention this has gotten, reaching national media?
PENNINGTON: It was definitely a shock. We knew it had potential to take off. We did the photos with Brockman and put them on our Facebook page and then I get an email from Josh with a Yahoo! link. I never thought we would get that kind of national media attention.
REPORTER: So bear with me here…I have a vision of ESPN cameras panning over Lake Washington, luxurious yachts stern-gating with the UW flag flying high, the field coming into focus as the teams take the field and then, a shot of the student-section, with thousands of adult-babies just going nuts…
BREWER: It's funny you mention that. I was actually in class and talking to one of my good friends and I told her that I had that same vision: ESPN cameras showing our student section and it's full of kids jumping up and down in Swagga Suits. She told me I was crazy.
REPORTER: So what is the future of the Swagga Suit?
BREWER: We want to expand to other schools and are in the process of kind of re-branding to do that, so we are moving to Swagga Suit instead of Sweet Washington Athletic Gear. Swag is a buzzword and something fun that our generation can relate to, so we knew that would be a good way to get some exposure initially.
PENNINGTON: We're just really excited with all the opportunities, the growth and potential. We're focusing on the rebranding because we don't want to corner ourselves just in athletic gear or just Washington apparel. Also, people don't necessarily think of clothing when they hear "swag", but by keeping the name "Swagga Suit," we think it retains some of that ability to grab attention. We want to make it accessible for any school or any state around the nation. We're hoping to be around some of the other Pac-12 schools in the fall and we're working our hardest to get there.
Photos: (top) Pennington sporting the suit in front of Alaska Airlines Arena. (middle) Brewer (in suit) at the football team's spring game. (bottom) Former UW basketball player and current NBA player Jon Brockman in the Swagga Suit. All photos courtesy of UW Swagga Suits Facebook.