Tees firm launches bespoke sportswear brand

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen visits Imprint Applications in Middlesbrough. Picture by Tom Banks

Middlesbrough-based Imprint Applications is back in the game after launching its own sportswear brand, Tigra – described as “teaminspired, game-ready apparel”.

The range of top-quality bespoke kit is designed, produced and manufactured at the company’s 7,000-sq ft premises on Riverside Park and is suitable for sports as diverse as hockey, football, cricket and basketball.

The ambitious project is the culmination of 14 months of collaboration by the 16-strong Imprint team, headed by creative director Ashley Robinson and sales and marketing executive Mark Holt, who has a background in sports apparel.

“In the past, a lot of sports companies have bought in from China and Eastern Europe, but the problem is lead times,” says Mark.

“With six-to-eight weeks for delivery, potential problems with customs and issues with returning incorrect orders, we knew we wanted to retain control of the whole process, so we’re proud to say our kits are manufactured right here in this Middlesbrough building.

“We buy the raw, blank fabric and it’s designed, printed, cut, sewn, quality controlled and packaged here. If you wear it for sport, we can provide it!”

Within the first few weeks of its summer launch, Tigra landed orders from Guisborough Rugby Club and the Teesside Lions basketball team, who opted for a unique design with the bridges of Teesside running through their T-shirts, topped by a watercolour lion.

While that might sound expensive, Tigra is unique in that even a complex design will be the same price as a simple one.

Mark explains: “All you need to do is book an appointment with one of our in-house designers who will sketch your ideas and bring them to life. It’s simple, all one price and tailored to your exact needs.”

That Tigra managed to launch at all this year, given the havoc that Covid wreaked, was down to the quick thinking of the Imprint team.

“We’d moved to our new premises the first week in March and the plan was to get everything set up and launch Tigra in April,” recalls Mark. “Then Covid hit, which stopped us in our tracks.

“We’d taken delivery of some very expensive equipment to manufacture the kits and the problem was that if they didn’t run they would seize up and cost thousands to get going again.”

Imprint came up with the idea of using the machines to produce bespoke face coverings. These proved hugely lucrative and were snapped up by the likes of Wimbledon and Burnley football clubs and rugby stars Saracens and, closer to home, Middlesbrough Council and Tees Business.

“The masks became our calling card,” says Mark.

“But we didn’t want to be seen as profiteering from the pandemic, so the first thing we did was contact Teesside Philanthropic Foundation to arrange a percentage of the profits to go back into the community.

“We’re proud Boro people here at Imprint and we felt it was only right to give back from our success.”

A cheque for £5,000 is due to be handed over to the Middlesbrough charity soon, and Imprint has pledged to carry on its commitment to the area with further donations in the future.

Ultimately, of course, the profits from the face coverings have allowed Imprint to invest more in Tigra – and their plans are big!

“Our dream is to provide the kit for Middlesbrough FC,” reveals Mark

“The current suppliers have a year-and-a-half left on their contract, but we are confident that by then Tigra will be big enough and strong enough to quote for that contract.

“It would really be something to shout about if MFC’s kit was manufactured in Middlesbrough by Middlesbrough people. There wouldn’t be anything better than that.”

For further details, visit tigrasportswear.com or imprintapplications.com.