At any major happening this month, Rich Paul has been there. He was at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards with his girlfriend, Adele, when she took home her 16th trophy. He was in attendance in Los Angeles when longtime client and friend LeBron James broke the NBA’s all-time scoring record. Days later, he caught Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona. Now, Paul is creating a moment of his own.
Today, he unveils Klutch Athletics, a new extension of his ongoing partnership with New Balance. Yet although Klutch Athletics was developed in partnership with New Balance, he says it’s not a traditional collaboration. And despite sharing a name with his Klutch Sports Group agency, Paul stresses that it’s a separate endeavor, one that won’t require athletes to sign with both to participate.
“This is a sportswear brand, a real sportswear brand,” Paul told me over Zoom earlier this month. “It’s not a collaboration. It’s a real sportswear brand that’s focusing on training with functionality and style. We are going to really focus on the next generation’s athletes, really listen to the next-generation athlete, and to what they feel like they want to be present in as it pertains to their approach to whatever sport they play.”
The co-branded apparel, which is offered in men’s, women’s, and kid’s sizing and hits stores April 27 at prices ranging from $40 to $120, takes inspiration from New Balance’s signature color, making use of the lightest to darkest shades of grey. There’s also a hint of green on the branding, a detail meant to represent the field of play that sparks an athlete’s love for the game.
“Imagine a young kid. When you were young and your mom let you go outside and play, whatever that first piece of grass you could find, that became your field,” Paul says. “If you were a baseball player, that became Yankee Stadium or the Dodger Stadium. For me, it became the [Cleveland] Brown Stadium, and I thought I was Eric Metcalf running back a punt return.”
Paul and Chris Davis, New Balance’s chief marketing officer and senior VP of merchandising, see the training category as one ripe for disruption.
“I think the training category and brands at large have really lost focus on the sports-centric consumer,” Davis says. He sees the brands’ combination of performance and style as one that will give Klutch Athletics an upper hand, citing the debut collection’s layering system as a key differentiator from other training product currently on the market.
“There’s multiple pieces that can interact and layer with one another depending on the sport, depending on the temperature, and depending on the consumer’s stylistic preference,” Davis says. “Every piece in the collection is designed to integrate with another piece, whether it be from a functional or aesthetic standpoint. All of the logos are purposefully integrated from a layering perspective and the product itself was specifically designed to be layered with one another.”
In its 11-year run, Paul’s Klutch Sports Group has been choosy with its clients, and although signing with the agency won’t be a requirement to represent Klutch Athletics, he says the sportswear brand will also be selective with its signees.
“These are two totally separate companies, so [being with Klutch Sports Group] is not necessarily a shoo-in per se,” Paul says. “We’ll look around and identify all genders, athletes at all levels. At all three levels, whether it’s youth, collegiate, and also professional, but really be very selective with it. We’re in that process now.”
Looking ahead, Paul hints the Klutch Athletics line could evolve into a wider product offering, but for now performance training will be the emphasis.
“Anything in life, you know it’s all about timing,” he says. “Timing, the right people, making sure you’re doing something that comes from a place of authenticity… From an apparel perspective, this is the start. We’re open-minded to other areas, but for right now the focus will be here on this training apparel and then we’ll grow from there.”
Paul’s ever-growing portfolio—and seemingly everywhere-at-once month—has proven over and over again the 41-year-old has a particular knack for timing.