Bikers rev up apparel venture in Scott’s Addition

Smith and Saunders

Laura Smith and Scott Saunders are launching an apparel company for motorcyclists. Photos by Michael Thompson.

A new biker gear startup is settling down in Scott’s Addition.

Worse for Wear, a women’s motorcycle apparel company, has staked a claim on the popular neighborhood’s southern border at 3012 W. Broad St. Owners Laura Smith and Scott Saunders purchased the 5,000-square-foot property from Arthur Worley in April for $390,000 and are currently renovating the three-story building.

The company’s main initial product is abrasion-resistant jeans, and the company is currently ramping up production and hopes to begin selling the jeans in the spring.

“The idea is that the jeans will look like everyday jeans but they’re protecting you in case of a crash,” Smith said.

Smith, a former designer for Adobe, designed the jeans and has been riding motorcycles since 1997. She said the idea for Worse for Wear stemmed in part from the small number of choices she found for protective riding gear for women.

“The market we’re targeting is really niche,” she said. “That group of riders is extremely underserved as far as apparel that is both safe and fashionable.”

Saunders, a VCU grad originally from Hanover County, will continue working in software development, while Smith will do Worse for Wear full time. The couple recently relocated to Richmond from Austin, Texas.

Smith and Saunders recently purchased the building.

Smith and Saunders recently purchased the building at 3012 W. Broad St.

They eventually plan to live on the third floor of the West Broad Street property, which Essex Bank helped finance. Nathan Hughes of Sperity Real Estate Ventures represented them in the deal.

Michael Pellis is the architect for the renovations on the building, which dates to 1922. Smith and Saunders are doing their own construction.

In addition to making the space their home, Smith and Saunders will have offices for Worse for Wear and for lease. The space may also have an added hum if Worse for Wear can do its cutting and sewing on the premises.

“We’re looking into special use permits and zoning to do the manufacturing in this building,” Smith said. “We purchased this building specifically because we know we can do some kind of mixed use.”

Smith, who learned to sew when she was 13, said Worse for Wear is getting its fabric from a mill in Spain, zippers from California, and a Texas company is helping make the patterns. The company bought 10 sewing machines from Wolff-Fording & Co., an apparel maker in Shockoe Bottom.

Worse for Wear will sell its goods on its website and will look to eventually get wholesale accounts and add more products to its offerings like abrasion-resistant dress pants and jackets.

“I would love to have another five employees this time next year,” Smith said. “In the world of apparel, women’s denim jeans are one of the most complicated pieces of apparel you could choose to make. I figure if we can get this right, it’s only going to be easier from here on out.”

Saunders and Smith are getting married next month. The groom-to-be is a longtime rider like Smith. He said Worse for Wear is an attempt to live out their passion.

“I really wanted to get back into making things,” Saunders said. “We both dreamed of making things and living in the same building where we were making things.”

Worse for Wear joins at least one other company in town catering to motorcycle apparel shoppers. Renegade Classics opened last year on West Broad Street in Merchants Walk Shopping Center.

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