Team GB athletics star launches sportswear brand for unsigned athletes
Team GB athletics star Lorraine Ugen has said she started her own sportswear brand in a bid to break the stigma of being an unsigned athlete and inspire others to “grow and succeed in their sport” without sponsorship.
Unsigned is a self-funded brand that Ugen plans to launch next month as the 30-year-old long jumper and occasional sprinter was not chosen by a sponsor, despite competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics and Tokyo 2020.
Ugen, who grew up in Greenwich, south London, hopes the brand can celebrate unsigned athletes and fund its own training and competition costs.
Lorraine Ugen says she wants to break the stigma of being an unsigned athlete with her self-funded sportswear brand (Olu Olamigoke/PA)
“I wanted to launch Unsigned not just for me,” Ugen told the PA news agency.
“I want it to grow enough for me to help out, that’s why I call it Unsigned – I want it to be a statement.
“I want people to be less embarrassed and less shy about it – there are a lot of athletes who are unsigned, we are here (and) we are available.”
Ugen explained that sponsorships are a key source of income for athletes.
“Most of us in athletics, the way we make our money and how we support ourselves comes from getting sponsorships,” she said.
“I think during the pandemic a lot of people got kicked out of their kit sponsors, there was a big change.
Ugen was inspired to start Unsigned when she was dropped by her kit sponsor in 2020 (John Neopolitian/PA)
“There are a lot of athletes who create GoFundMe accounts to support themselves.
“When people see you compete on TV, they automatically assume you’re making millions… I’ve met people on the field who have to have part-time jobs because they don’t make enough money so you can just follow and domain.”
Overwhelmed by injury, Ugen herself was dropped by sportswear brand Spyder in 2020, which she says encouraged her to start her own brand.
“I had the idea (for Unsigned) in advance, but when I was dumped, I was like, ‘You’re going to have to take the initiative now and do what you have to do,’ a- she said.
“I didn’t want to create a GoFundMe account, I wanted to do something a little different.
“Instead of just sending me money on GoFundMe, which is useless, at least if I give you a product, you can help me generate income and at the same time you get something in return .”
It’s something that I want to be able to put back into athletics, give it more commercialization and make fans and supporters feel like I’m helping someone grow and be successful in their sport.
Unsigned will showcase an entire line of activewear, including tracksuits, workout sets, shoes and sweaters.
A TikTok Ugen created and posted to his Twitter saw the athlete sewing and modeling one of the brand’s uniforms, which garnered over 5,000 likes on the platform.
“I even learned little lessons along the way, when this video went viral of me sewing this uniform together — it was too big, stuff like that,” she said.
Ugen’s long-term hope for the brand, which will ship to the UK and US, is that it can help unsigned athletes more as it begins to grow.
“I want to do it on a bigger scale because there are so many talented athletes that are unsigned,” she said.
“It’s something that I want to be able to put back into athletics, give it more commercialization and make fans and supporters feel involved in helping someone grow and be successful in their sport.
As an unsigned and unsponsored athlete this year, I have decided to create my own uniform and brand in order to support my… https://t.co/8ElMnDm3iF
— Lorraine Ugen (@Lorraine Ugen)
“Right now, I’m buying lesser amounts of stuff…I’m just building a line and selling that line to anyone who wants to buy and help support me, and then I’ll put it back into the business.”
Ugen added that she wanted to educate unsigned athletes.
“You’re still worthy, you still have community,” she said.
“I want it to be loud and I want people to talk about it.”