Nike veterans take on Lululemon with ÄKtiiv, a new plant-based brand

  • Äktiiv is expected to launch its first products on Kickstarter on Tuesday.
  • The company’s management includes a 15-year Nike veteran and Jeffrey Jordan, son of Michael Jordan.
  • Äktiiv products are biodegradable and made from plants.

Two Nike veterans, including basketball legend Michael Jordan’s son, Jeffrey Jordan, are launching a durable workout apparel brand that hopes to rival Lululemon.

Portland, Oregon-based startup Äktiiv, which rhymes with black sleeves, is set to launch its first products on Kickstarter on Tuesday. If successful, the campaign money will be used to scale the business, including its marketing.

Äktiiv wants to take on Lululemon and Nike in the market for high-end women’s leggings and sportswear. But there’s a catch: Äktiiv products are biodegradable and made from plants, not petroleum- or plastic-derived materials.

In contrast, sustainable leggings sold by other brands sometimes contain recycled polyester, usually derived from petroleum. Polyester is a staple in footwear and athletic apparel because it’s lightweight, durable, and versatile.

“Oil is the enemy,” said Tim Gobet, a 15-year Nike veteran and co-founder of Äktiiv. “That’s the line we want to put in the sand.”

Äktiiv is the latest startup with Nike DNA to launch, and it’s another sustainable brand determined to steer the sportswear industry away from plastics.

Äktiiv is launching a month-long $25,000 Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday. The company will launch with a bra, leggings, shorts, tank top and short-sleeved top. The leggings will be discounted during the Kickstarter campaign, then priced at $100.

The company’s products are produced in a contracted factory in Shanghai with a proprietary plant-based material made by weaving three types of natural yarns together.

“It looks like nylon or polyester,” Gobet said. “You would never know it’s made from plants.”

Jeffrey Jordan is an investor and advisor to Äktiiv.

Jeffrey Jordan is an investor and advisor to Äktiiv.

Courtesy of Äktiiv

“Reflecting what happened with the food movement”

Gobet worked for Nike for 15 years, including as senior basketball product manager. He also worked on the company’s Nike Pro apparel line, which emphasizes technical performance. Likewise, Äktiiv products are designed to be worn in the gym, not for running errands.

He co-founded the company with Brian Boesen, who previously co-founded Colorado Threads, which makes yoga pants from recycled water bottles, before selling his stake.

Jordan, a seven-year Nike veteran, is an investor and advisor to Äktiiv. He worked in several departments of Nike’s Jordan brand, including digital innovation, before leaving the company in 2020 and co-founding Heir, a digital platform that helps athletes connect with fans.

Jordan and Gobet met while working at Nike about a decade ago and immediately “clicked”, they said.

“Sustainability is something we’ve talked about a lot,” Jordan said. “This type of product simply does not exist.”

Both Gobet and Jordan praised Nike, but said they hoped major apparel and sportswear brands would follow them in increased durability and the elimination of plastic. Brands like Except Collective and Kent have also emerged with the same ethos. Kent, which makes underwear from plastic-free materials, recently secured an investment in “Shark Tank.”

Hitha Herzog, chief retail analyst for Doneger Tobe, said there is consumer demand for more sustainably produced clothing.

“In a way, this sector of the industry mirrors what happened with the food movement,” she said in an email to Insider. “People want to know where their articles are coming from in a real and transparent way.”

Herzog said the biggest challenge for Äktiiv will be its ability to communicate all of its sustainability efforts, not just its materials. She said consumers want to know about everything from factory working conditions to water use, not just the lack of plastic.

Äktiiv will primarily be a direct-to-consumer business, but Gobet and Jordan said they are considering a few retail partnerships. They also plan to expand into men’s products.

“Nike was the best school ever,” Gobet said. “I love Nike. I love Jordan. But I want to innovate. I really believe all of these big brands are going to have to follow where we’re going.”


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