Known among aspiring modern athletes for detailed attention to technical design, good looks and value, the London-based label has built a big following especially among boxers, runners and community-based Crossfit fans, where fitness is also a way of creating a social circle and is influencing performance design. Started by founder Frankie Thorogood in his bedroom in Hackney over a decade ago when he was the first to produce snoods in the style of those worn by former Manchester United striker Carlos Tevez, the business is forecast to turn over £4 million next year.
TCA’s first collection was designed and tested on runs by Thorogood himself, a marketing graduate whose ambition to combine his love of sport with being an entrepreneur was realised after he was rejected by an advertising agency.
Ahead of the booming demand for activewear and athleisure products so dominant today, the technical compression apparel aiding performance Thorogood created early on remains among the brand’s best sellers.
“Now athleisure isn’t just a trend, consumers are becoming more demanding and ours know we do not take short cuts on quality. We have spent many hours sourcing our fabrics and ensuring they come up to our exacting standards,” he says.
“Our Supreme Legging took 14 months to develop and our recent Underground collection has been designed around the training and lifestyles of athletes who live in their workout gear. Our team spent months working with pro athletes and elite coaches to ensure our products live up to their standards.”
Close observation of pockets, for example, has served TCA very well. Designing ones in its shorts that zip shut with one hand, are of sufficient depth to hold a heavy smartphone, but so well-positioned they don’t sway around or irritate, has led to years of repeat sales and customer loyalty.
Inspired: TCA owner Frankie Thorogood
Today the company, which employs eight, sells its range, from technical tees and hoodies to tank tops, directly online and through Amazon.
It took a million orders in 2019 and has more than 250,000 repeat customers in Germany and the US as well as the UK.
It’s not short of stardust either and its stable of athletes include professional cruiser weight boxer Isaac Chamberlain, UFC batamweight Nathaniel Wood and pro boxer Sohail Ahmad, who counts Dua Lipa among the celebrities he works with.
“They give our team unrivalled insight and inspiration,” says Thorogood. “Boxing is a sport considered to be the ultimate combination of brains and brawn.
“Requiring extreme fitness and intense bravery, traditional, no-nonsense gruelling training is combined with modern conditioning, mental agility and recovery methods. These values inspire both the aesthetic and functional capabilities of our collections.
“Isaac Chamberlain came to us as he loved the kit he was buying through Amazon. His support and introduction to other athletes has helped take the brand to the next level.”
Big hitter: boxers rate TCA
Guts and heart are valued over posturing at TCA. Giving up is never an option
Other appointments have made a big difference too, he explains.
“Working with a former design director of Nike has also deepened our knowledge and led to our women’s collections which I wish we had done sooner.
“International expansion has been driven by our chief operating officer Kris Linton, formerly with Amazon. He has been in charge of everything from forecast sales to shipping and customer service. Now 45 per cent of our customer base is in the US.”
When Thorogood first went to China in 2013, aged 23, to source technical fabrics they were stunned how young he was. Yet the relationships forged then with small suppliers have lasted, enabled accessible prices and since the pandemic have proved their worth many times over.
Popular: TCA’s women’s collections are scoring well
“Covid was painful for everyone at first, but our supply chain, built on loyalty, has held good,” he says. “Unlike bigger competitors we have never cancelled orders and our suppliers have demonstrated their appreciation.
“Our stock has come through and we have kept customers, gained new ones as people realised going for a run isn’t risky and is good for your physical and mental health. We’ve also started talking-point sessions online and a skipping campaign which have worked very well in lockdown.”
Strengthened by the response Thorogood kept to plans for international expansion in Spain and Italy where demand has been well beyond expectations.
Best seller: TCA women’s foundation 2-in1 short (£32)
Men’s Elite Tech shorts (£24)
Taking measured, self-financed steps and accelerating growth in the US and Germany are the plans for the rest of this year.
Business and community are inextricably linked too for Thorogood whose work supporting Miguel’s Boxing Gym in Brixton and with the anti-crime, pro-education Knives Down Gloves Up charity are all part of the brand’s grassroots, purpose-driven social mission.
“Guts and heart are valued over posturing at TCA,” declares Thorogood. “Giving up is never an option.”