Essential workers remain on the front lines of COVID-19 and their safety’s a top priority, which is leading to rising demand (at least anecdotally) for performance footwear. Brunt Workwear, a new direct-to-consumer collection of work boots targeting electricians to warehouse workers, which launched today, is right on time.
The brand, co-founded by former M. Gemi executives Eric Girouard and David Chernow, has been in the works for two years and was on track to launch this fall when they came up against an uncertain economic climate due to COVID-19. “We thought about pausing everything, but [instead we studied] the market [daily] and realized the majority of our customers were deemed essential,” said Girouard who serves as CEO, with Chernow, head of operations. “A lot of them did not miss a beat and needed essential products to do their jobs on a daily basis, it’s a tool. We put the pedal down and said this customer needs us more than ever right now.”
Brunt Workwear is funded by a group of private investors led by a real estate and construction company serving the New York and New Jersey areas. “They have a few thousand workers on job sites every day and it felt like a symbiotic relationship,” said Girouard. “Not only have they helped us develop product, but [workers] on their job sites have been testing the boots.”
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The debut four-style collection of unisex styles retails from $135-$155. The boots feature a proprietary waterproof technology, electrical hazard protection, carbon fiber safety toes and slip-resistant rubber outsoles. For a customized fit, the lightweight boots are designed with an adjustable width-fit system that allows a boot to go from a medium to wide width by removing a second insole. Or, consumers can replace the insoles with their own orthotics. There’s also a 30-day trial so customers can test out the boots for comfort and performance.
According to Girouard, the brand is putting the focus on recent high school graduates to those in their mid-30s. “We’re going after the younger consumer who’s less brand loyal and wants product with technology and innovation built in,” he said, noting his own group of high school friends were part of the original inspiration for the brand.
Growing up in the blue-collar town of Bristol, Conn., Girouard’s father was a roofer, while the younger Girouard operated a landscaping business while still in school. “When I went off to college, all my buddies went directly into the trades,” he said. Knowing he went on to work at M. Gemi, they suggested he shift gears from fashion to performance footwear and design product that suited their needs. ”They asked why I don’t build a brand offering product they could all buy. It was an organic start. The boots are even named after each of my friends.”
To introduce consumers to the brand, the partners are taking to the open road. They are wrapping a trailer with the brand’s logo and heading to different job sites each day to get feedback from workers, and handing out hard hats and branded face masks, items that will also be available for sale online.
Girouard and Chernow, however, are not looking at the trades as just a money-making opportunity. To support trade workers around the country, in February the partners launched a podcast titled Bucket Talk, created to support and educate this community. Independent of the company, the podcast includes two shows a week that include Trading Up, highlighting a top performer from a different trade. A companion segment, Down to Business is hosted by Girourd, and focuses on the business side of the trades, helping to inspire those who are considering establishing their own businesses.
The collection is available for pre-order on Bruntworkwear.com.