A fast-growing direct-to-consumer fitness brand will release a line of shoes and apparel Friday that are designed by a group of teens in Boston.
Boston-based NOBULL, a six-year-old online brand, partnered with Artists for Humanity, a Boston nonprofit that connects under-resourced teens with paid jobs in art and design. NOBULL sells apparel and shoes for running, lifting, and cycling enthusiasts, and it has 1 million followers on Instagram.
The Artists for Humanity products look just like any item on the NOBULL website, complete with photos and videos that showcase their functionality. The line features five pairs of training and running sneakers, mostly black and white with a pop of yellow, and four light-weight athletic shirts.
In less than six months, a team of six teens in the organization’s graphic design studio created the line for NOBULL, bringing sketches done on laptops and iPads to life. Kelsey Arbona, design director at Artists for Humanity who worked with the group, said NOBULL gave the teens “a lot of autonomy to explore the vision and what the story was” for the project.
”We wrote all of this language on a white board about what we thought represented NOBULL and what represented us,” Arbona said.
The teens decided to base their designs on a bullseye concept.
“We came up with the design idea of a bullseye because it feels like your goal is in the distance, but sometimes it is close, and there is depth and illusion there as you go through obstacles to reach it,” she said. “Everything we sketched, everything we made, had to speak to that.”
Marcus Wilson, cofounder of NOBULL, said he wanted the partnership to be meaningful, knowing these opportunities are difficult for young, under-resourced teens of color to come by. The company held multiple Zoom sessions with the teen artists so they could network with and learn from the professional team. Wilson hails from Reebok, where he worked as head of brand strategy.
Wilson, who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2004, said proceeds from the sales of these products will go entirely to nonprofits, including Artists For Humanity. NOBULL has been promoting the Friday launch all week, and Wilson said the company’s product drops have sold out within hours in the past.
“We expect this to be very successful,” he said, noting the line might be brought back later in the year to generate more donations.
Wilson said NOBULL’s name and mission is relevant to athletes, but added that “putting in the work and not making excuses goes well beyond the training world.”
“At Artists for Humanity, the work that the teens there are putting in...and when you hear their stories...it is humbling and amazing to me what the teens there have accomplished,” he said.
Artists for Humanity, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in May, was founded to address the lack of arts programs in Boston Public Schools. Beyond exposing teens to the creative business economy, the nonprofit also offers tutoring and college readiness programs. Susan Rodgerson, the founding executive and artistic director of Artists For Humanity, said she hopes the nonprofit will inspire teens to pursue creative careers, and give them an edge by working on professional products at a young age.
“Apparel design is not a very diverse field, so this is one step in the right direction,” she said.
NOBULL, which has shipped products to about 120 countries from its fulfillment center in Franklin, has roughly 70 employees and expects to be closer to 150 by the end of the year.