Why Olympic Weightlifter Mattie Rogers Started an Inclusive, Gender-Less Clothing Brand
Mattie Rogers always wanted to start an apparel company.
But not just any kind of company.
“I didn’t want to jump in and actually do it unless I felt like I could add something that wasn’t already being done. There are a million and a half active apparel brands, so I wasn’t going to do this if that’s all that I have to offer,” said 27-year-old Rogers, who competed for the United States in weightlifting at the 2020 Olympics last summer in Tokyo, Japan.
So Rogers sat on the idea for a while, and eventually came up with a vision for her company.
“It basically came down to I wanted to be as inclusive as I could in every sense of the word. I knew right off the bat I wanted to be fully size inclusive, because that was the biggest gap I could identify,” she said, adding that she also wanted “to go about placing genders on clothing a little differently.”
The result was VIICAYA, a size-inclusive apparel company without gender labels, that Rogers launched a year ago, just one month before she placed sixth in the world at the Olympics.
Remind me: Though an elite weightlifter now, Rogers found her sport through CrossFit, which she started in Florida when she was a young teenager. She competed in CrossFit for a year before switching her attention 100 percent to weightlifting.
- Since then, Rogers has gone on to win silver twice at the World Weightlifting Championships, and most recently she won a gold medal in the women’s 76 kg event at the 2022 Pan American Weightlifting Championships. She also holds American records in the snatch, clean and jerk and total.
The details: On top of being size-inclusive, what sets Vicaya apart, Rogers explained, is that none of their clothes follow usual gender or sizing norms.
- “I decided to be gender-less, which just means that I don’t assign a gender to the clothing, so those who may not identify as male or female in the associated styles won’t have to feel like they’re put into a box,” Rogers explained.
- Further, Rogers and her team created their own size chart, where they “made up our own sizes completely,” she said, the goal being to “encourage people to measure themselves and have to find their size instead of being attached to, ‘Ok, I’m a size small,’ or ‘I’m a size large.’”
The big picture: Rogers might be one of the best lifters in the world, but she’s anything from being a tunnel-visioned athlete. In fact, her proudest moments in her sport have nothing to do with the medals she has won or the records she has set.
- “I’m most proud of, not any specific record or winnings or anything like that, but more really learning about myself. I have severe anxiety, and learning how to, not overcome or conquer it, because that just doesn’t happen, but learning how to work with that and instead of trying to fight it, go with it and become friends with it (is what I’m most proud of),” she explained.
- Rogers is equally humble when it comes to VIICAYA. Although she would love her brand to grow beyond its current niche market in the weightlifting community, if it stays small, that’s OK, too, Rogers said. Because it’s about so much more than that to her.
“I didn’t start it to become some huge thing…If I were in this for money, I would have stopped probably six months ago. I’m doing it because I really am passionate about it. I really feel like what I’m doing is good, and I’m making products that wouldn’t otherwise be on the market,” she said.