Creating new products
is a long process (usually a year), and chock-full of milestones and setbacks along the way. The stakes are incredibly high: One missed deadline can send a shockwave of negative impacts through your business. As a startup, you’re also at quite the disadvantage: The best factories, mills, labs, and distributors are skeptical of new kids on the block—especially at a time of such #supplychain uncertainty. These partners are more risk-averse than ever and need to err on the side of caution (read: stick with industry titans).
Fortunately for Bandit, Ardith Singh, our Chief Design Officer, is an industry titan. In legendary fashion, Ardith was able to convince a top U.S.-based factory fondly referred to as ‘Your favorite brand’s best-kept secret,’ to take a chance on us. They manufacture for some of the most iconic brands on the market today, and we’re very proud to be working with them to make products for you all.
Back to the production calendar. Of all the major milestones, none are more critical or as interesting than wear-testing. On the surface, wear-testing is the process of…getting clothes on backs (and legs and feet) and putting products to the test. Underneath the hood, it’s an intensive research process where dozens of questions, critiques, and observations are recorded in order to drastically improve the end product through a variety of minor—and sometimes major—adjustments.
Through all the back and forth, a proper wear-testing process adds roughly two months to the production timeline. Truth is, we could’ve skipped right past it and dropped new,still decent products much sooner. But that would’ve gone against our vision, values, and ethos—not to mention our personal interests. On day one, we established our Community-Centered Design™ process, which ensures our products, stories, and experiences are created hand-in-hand with runners from NYC and around the world.
PLANTING THE SEED
It all started back in December. We distributed surveys to the community with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of runners’ preferences. We followed that up by hosting two happy hour focus groups at our headquarters—one for women and one for men.
Roughly 50 to 60 runners brought their favorite and least favorite pieces of gear, and we had open discussions about likes, dislikes, and wish lists. Both nights ran past midnight and the insights gleaned informed the direction we went in with all our prototypes.
“The community drove so much value in this process. It wasn’t me in a silo. It all started with the focus group and understanding what people were loving or not loving, and what was missing in the market. We discussed everything from fabric, compression, and shape to where pockets go, how big they should be, drawstring preferences, waistband construction—exposed elastic vs. self-face with power mesh—the rise, everything.” – Ardith
ENTER THE SPEED PROJECT
When Nils Arend, founder of The Speed Project, reached out with an invitation, we immediately looked at our production calendar. The Speed Project is the ultimate wear-testing opportunity for performance products. Death Valley is the driest place in North America and hottest place on Earth (in 1913, a high of 134° F was recorded at Furnace Creek), with temperatures ranging from the mid-40s to 90s over the course of a single day.
Our prototypes weren’t supposed to be ready by then, but luckily for us Ardith pulled every trick in the book and worked her magic to get some of our very first prototypes off the production line in the nick of time: three days before departure, to be exact.
In total, there are 25 prototype permutations being put to the test during TSP. Each product was made in multiple fabrics. For men, a singlet, half-tight, compression shorts, and split shorts; for women, a singlet, split shorts, and three different sports bras. The goal is to zero in on each iteration that works the best across the board.
“The fabrics are quite different from one another, and they’re all amazing in their own right. This process ensures the cream rises to the top.” – Ardith
After each runner on our relay team completes a leg, which they’ll do more than 10 times throughout TSP, we’ll log information about their experience with each product. The legs will be in a variety of distances (from quarter-mile to half-marathon), speeds, and climates, so understanding the nuances of how the product performs across these parameters is key to our analysis.
The wear-testing process doesn’t stop once TSP is over. In fact, the process never ends. We’ll indefinitely test every product to create the most complete picture of performance so we can improve as much as possible, as fast as possible. Tactically, we want to understand where the products break down over time. Does everything keep its shape? Is the thread tension perfect?
We’ll be washing the products over and over again to hasten the answers to some of these questions. That’ll also help us perfect the care instructions. We’re leaving no stone unturned in our pursuit to create incredible running products for you.
Have any ideas, thoughts, questions? We’re dying to hear from you. DM us on IG or reach out directly to Ardith (firstname.lastname@example.org).