We had the pleasure to sit down with Rachel Feinberg and Breanne Harrison-Pollock, the co-founders of the esports clothing company, Ateyo. In this two-part series, Rachel and Breanne share their motivations, inspirations, and incredible friendship.
Two and a half years ago, both of you became more involved in esports. Why were you so excited about this community?
Rachel: So we were obviously familiar and gamers, but we were very casual. We started going to gaming cafes in Flushing, Queens, and that was definitely how we entered the more competitive scene of gaming, I would say. And we used to spend every weekend, it’s an hour outside of the city, in these gaming cafes, talking to the community. Then we went to TwitchCon and that’s really where we were like, “this is so magical, we’re so excited”. And we really wanted to create amazing apparel for this space.
Breanne: So two and a half years ago, we just fell in love with the space and fell in love with the people. And we realized that there wasn’t any brand making great apparel that really elevated the space in the way we thought it could be. And so, we just kind of started asking a lot of people questions, watching as many streams as possible, attending every event we could get our hands on, kind of figuring out how we could add value to the space.
Were you ever nervous about how your products would be received?
Breanne: I think that we realized that there are so many people who are experts in the space and that this is their passion. While we love this space, we really want to make sure that everyone else’s voices heard as well, not just our own voice. So we spent a lot of time talking to people about what their experiences [were], what they think about the clothing. “Here’s a prototype, please try it on”, so that we were really confident in how we designed this and that there is [a] need for this product, and making sure that the community was involved in the design process.
Rachel: And just to add to that, basically what we would do is – we made different cuffs for sweatshirts or hoodies, and we would take them to the smaller gaming cafes and be like, “what do you think of this? What do you think of this?” And so, while we launched our first product, four months ago now, I would say [that] it’s been a lot of work, iteration, and feedback. I think that those people along the way that have given us feedback have been so instrumental in launching the product you’ve seen so far.
How were some of these gamers’ first reactions to your product?
Rachel: I think, like with everything, there’s like a variety of things. At first, people were unsure about a product that is actually designed to game in. And then some people tried it on and they’re like, “oh my gosh, I never wear sleeves when I game, like, I can actually game in this zip-up”. And so, I think that this variety of feedback is what we use to iterate. We are really excited that people are engaging with the product.
Breanne: We see this amazing reaction when people try the product on for the first time. They feel the fabric and they feel the cut of how we’ve designed the zip-up, and I think that [is when] it all clicks for them, and they really get it. And so, that moment is always so exciting and so much fun for us to see over and over again.
So talking about how things click together, could you tell me how the two of you met?
Breanne: It’s a funny story. So Rachel and I both went to school in New York for fashion design. We actually didn’t meet until our third year of school, when one of our mutual best friends went away and they said, “oh, I have another tiny friend for you guys”. Rachel and I are both pretty petite. And [this friend] said “you guys are the same size. You have to be best friends!” It was a friend set up and I think within one week of meeting each other, we were attached at the hip and we’ve spent basically the last – how many years? – four years at each other’s side.
Rachel: Breanne is way more thoughtful and calm of a person, and I would say I’m way more emotion-driven, and I was like, “oh, we’re going to be best friends, don’t worry!”
Breanne: I thought she was totally nuts! [Laughter]
Rachel: But it all worked out!
After you met each other, how did the brainstorming and development of Ateyo happen?
Breanne: Rachel and I had a previous brand together that we worked on really closely doing luxury handbags and leather goods, which is very different than what we do now. But it allowed us to figure out how we worked together and what was really important to us in a brand. And so when we came across esports, it was this magical moment where we already knew what each other’s strengths were, how we wanted to work together. And we were like, “this is so cool from a design point of view. We can really kind of write some of the rules in this industry and we can make a product that people really care about”. And from our perspective [of] being fashion designers, the product is so fun to create. There hasn’t been a zip-up designed specifically for gaming, and to design what that looks like is such a fun challenge. So I think we decided that this was a fun experiment and road to go down. We’ve just fallen in love with our product and the community and the whole ecosystem.
Part Two of our interview with Breanne and Rachel will be released tomorrow. Look forward to the co-founders discussing their relationship with the esports community, advice for those aspiring to break into the industry, and hopes for the future.