Don Smith Interview
(Crazee Wear)

It is the premier line of work-out clothing for anyone who goes to a gym.
We are talking of course about Crazee Wear.
Don Smith, founder of Crazee Wear spoke with us about his business.

Q – Don, you are the guy who started Crazee Wear?
A – Yes.

Q – And the company was started in 1987?
A – Correct.

Q – This company was at one time located in California?
A – When we first started it we were actually in Culver City, (California) and from there we went to Venice (California), and from there we went to El Segundo, (California).

Q – And now you’re in Louisiana!
A – Yeah. What happened; when we originally started the company, a fellow by the name of Gary Straydom and I started the company together. We were the original owners. He (Gary) was from South Africa and was a professional bodybuilder. We started the company and then about a year after we started it, I ended up buying him out. Then in 1993, I did real well with the company and I sold it back to him. Then four years ago (2008), he moved to Thailand and I bought it back from him. We played see-saw between the two of us for quite a number of years.

Q – What were you doing before Crazee Wear? Were you a bodybuilder yourself?
A – Yes. I won Mr. America in ’87.

Q – Was it expensive to launch Crazee Wear?
A – Well, what happened is, I had moved to California after winning the ‘America’ and I started doing some acting there. I did several commercials with Pontiac and Taco Bell, Winston cigarettes, different advertisements. I was successful with it and I had a friend who was making some clothes and I started helping him. So, I thought it would be a really great market for clothes that would be comfortable and yet would look good enough to go out and eat after you worked out. Before then it was basically just grey sweats. I started calling different gyms. I thought it was going to be something for bodybuilders and weightlifters to wear. I started calling gyms, introducing myself as the current ‘Mr.America’ and wanted to introduce them to my clothes line, and get a sample packet in their gym. So, they started buying it and it started really going over. And, it just began to snowball and then everybody started buying it. It became a fad at that time. It got really, really huge, quick. I did very well with it.

Q – There was a time when you could buy Crazee Wear clothes were in gyms and GNC stores.
A – You’re right about that.

Q – Now, no GNC, and they’re not in gyms.
A – Now, it’s kind of flipped. Before it was about 95% wholesale and about 5% retail. You didn’t have the Internet back then. Very few people had it and know what it was, back in the 80’s. It was just starting to come around. Since then the market has turned around and we’re getting a lot more goods made in other countries which makes it harder for people like myself who make goods here in the United States, all of our items. So, we don’t sell as much wholesale. Probably 95% retail over the web; they’re call-ins, and about 5% wholesale. It’s completely flopped in the opposite direction.

Q – Who designed the clothes? Did you do that?
A – Yes. My wife and I do that.

Q – You know fabrics and design?
A – I just learned it and got into it. I saw the market and kind of got a knack for it, making things as comfortable as possible and using good quality fabrics and printing the fabrics. We basically still do it all. We start with a rough fabric, we dye it, or we print it and we cut it, and we sew it, package it and send it to the customers. We keep quite a stock to be able to send it. We probably have 200, 000 – 300,000 garments at one time that we have in stock to be able to send out the orders right away.

Q – How did you know what would sell?
A – I guess it’s a step out of faith at first. We know that the solids seem to work really well. People like solids. Other people like really wild stuff and other people like more conservative things. So, we did just a little bit of everything. We always kept it not so loud. I had to do some of ‘em kind of wild and loud. Most of my stuff is conservative in solids, but I do have some wild ones too. I keep that to a minimum. (Laughs).

Q – The wild clothing probably goes over better in the Sunshine states.
A – Like a Florida Beach.

Q – Where are the clothes made? What state?
A – They’re all made in California.

Q – So, you have your own factory?
A – Yes. We actually have contractors that work just for us that do cutting and sewing and packaging. Everything is sent ot us in our Central location here in Louisiana. Then I ship it out from Louisiana.

Q – In terms of competition, do you have any?
A – The only one is a company that’s actually been in business not quite as long as we have. They began making shoes, a company called Atomics. They’re probably just about one of our only competitors left. There used to be quite a few other ones – Platinum Everywhere, California Hardware. All those have gone. We’re the biggest Baggy Pants Company there is as far as Active Wear.

Q – How much can you grow Crazee Wear? How far can Crazee Wear go?
A – At one time we were growing about $400,000 worth of product a day, which is what we were selling which is equivalent to about $20,000 garments we were sending out the door. I’d love to see it like that again. I don’t foresee it, unless the fad comes back. As far as how far it would grow, it could grow back to that again. We sell a lot of other items that we didn’t used to sell. The Baggys were our Big Business. Now we’re selling a lot of the Tank Tops. Our Tank Tops have become really, really popular. A lot of shorts. A lot of other items. So, the combination of the items is good. But, we just don’t have that wholesale business, that we used to have. It’s retail. The retailers are buying.

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