Follow the rabbit: rabbit gear is designed by runners, for runners

Earlier this summer I noticed a trend amongst some of the runners I follow on Instagram: everyone, it seemed, was sporting gear from a company called rabbit.

I admit, I was drawn in by the name, the adorable rabbit logo, and the “Born to Run Free” mantra I saw in some of the Instagram posts, but after doing some digging I found I really liked the look of the clothing as well. The collection had a back to basics look, favoring bold solids and functional pieces over the busy patterns and there’s-way-too-much-going-on-here tops that have been popular these past few years.

(I love patterned tights, by the way. But sometimes they are Too Much.)

If I hadn’t been sold on the aesthetics and the logo, rabbit had two more tricks in its hat: it’s a female-led company that manufactures its clothing in the U.S.A. Right here in California, in fact.

Founders Monica DeVreese and Jill Deering are both longtime runners (Monica is a two-time Oklahoma state champion in the mile, Jill was a Division I cross country runner) who pursued careers in the athletic industry. The two met through their local running community in Santa Barbara and decided to join forces to create better apparel options for runners, says David Silverander, rabbit’s vice president of sales and operations.

“Neither of them were happy with any of the running options that were out there,” he says. “They were running in stuff that was more for fashion and not for function. They thought they could do better.”

Deering elaborates: “I just got fed up of wearing bad, uncomfortable running clothes, from brands that I did not want to support. The goal was simple — let’s make amazing running clothes that actually fit runners, that feel good while you are moving, that are not over-complicated or over-designed, in a way that we can be proud of.”

“From a product perspective, it’s really a laser focus on running,” Silverander says. “That’s what we’re making the clothes for, and we want to make them the best possible for [its] particular demands.”

The company launched in April 2016, and has quickly gained a following in the running community. Everything has been designed with the runner in mind. Key pieces include:

  • The Freedom (for women) and Steve McSleeve (for men) tank tops, which have shoulder straps wider than the straps on hydration packs — to prevent chafing.
  • The Hopper and Catch Me if You Can shorts, for women, which feature lightweight, wicking fabric and a wide, flat waistband.
  • Daisy Dukes, for guys who “are willing to wear the shorter shorts.”
  • Fully Loaded and Quadzilla shorts for men who prefer more coverage.
  • EZ Tees — for men and women — basic tees in “the most comfortable fabric you’ve ever felt.”
  • Tank tops made from rabbit’s proprietary rabbitMESH, a lightweight and breathable fabric that feels nearly weightless.
  • Full-length tights, half-zips, and long sleeved shirts for cold weather running.

This summer, rabbit launched its line of trail shorts in response to feedback from runners who requested shorts with more pockets (rabbit’s have seven). A crop top — or Crop Hop — is another new release that has been popular with female runners.

Made in the U.S.A.

At rabbit, making clothes “in a way that we can be proud of” includes manufacturing its clothing in the United States. DeVreese and Deering “wanted to build a company they feel good about and that is sustainable,” says Silverander. He points to better labor practices, less environmental impact, and proximity to the Southern California factory as benefits associated with manufacturing in the United States. Customers, he adds, have responded positively to the decision.

It also means supporting runners and promoting the sport. That’s where the name, rabbit, comes in.

Setting the pace

It’s more than an excuse to use a cute logo, says Silverander. It’s “a reference to the role of a rabbit in a track race.” The rabbit, as a pace setter, is “working for the good of the other runners, helping to propel everyone else to their best performance.” Likewise, “we want to make the best running clothes you can find, and use that as a platform to help grow the sport of running. The rabbit sort of encapsulates all that.”

As part of these efforts, rabbit partners with professional runners and brand ambassadors who not only promote the brand, but provide valuable feedback about the gear. RADrabbits, or Runners and Dreamers, are inspiring athletes from all walks of life.  The next tier of ambassadors, rabbitELITE athletes (including Fresno’s Molly Friel), are elite-level runners. The rabbitPROs represent the company at the highest levels of competition.

“All of these people have been a great resource for us,” Silverander says. “The pros give us a lot of good feedback. They’re wearing [the clothes] and performing at the highest level. When they say they’re the best shorts they’ve ever worn, that’s a huge vindication for us.”

Clovis’ Kimberly Rose is one of several local runners who was selected to be a RADrabbit for 2017-18. She says she was moved to apply for an ambassadorship position after training and racing in the clothing.

RADrabbit Kimberly Rose

“The clothes fit well, are flattering [and] functional, and they dry quickly,” she says. “The pockets are my favorite. I used to have to get creative in how I held my car key, fuel and other essentials. The amazing color options help you stand out on race day.

“I liked [rabbit] so much I gave away shirts to my running friends in hopes they’d love it too.”

Her favorite piece? Lately she’s been loving the Crop Hop. “As a mother of three, I used to be very conservative and often wore heavy, baggy clothes to race in,” she admits. “This not only raised my temperature, it slowed me down. The crop tops and encouragement from fellow rabbit ambassadors gave me the confidence to shed the extra weight and run free.”

Wear testing rabbit

Close up of the Bunny Hop tank top’s rabbitMESH.

Sometimes Instagram hype turns out to be just hype, fueled by overenthusiastic influencers and pretty filters. But rabbit is the real deal. I’ve been wear testing my rabbit stuff — a pair of shorts and a tank — all summer. It’s become my go-to gear for long runs. Why? Well, the first time I wore my Bunny Hop tank and Hopper shorts, I noticed something: while they provided great coverage, it actually felt like I was running in nothing. The clothes didn’t weigh me down and did a good job of wicking away moisture — that’s crucial if you run in the summer in Fresno. The shirt doesn’t ride up or bunch up around the waistpack I sometimes wear — an annoying problem with some of the lightweight tanks I own. And they were equally comfortable to wear for a 5K race and a weekend long run.

The rabbitMESH reminds me just a bit of the fabric Nike used to use for some of its Dri-FIT tanks and tees — think the Nike Women’s Marathon finisher shirts from 2009 and 2014. I have hung on to those shirts for years precisely because they’re lightweight and wear so well.

Prices are in line with other higher end gear I’ve purchased from Oiselle, Lululemon, and Nike. The Hopper shorts I purchased retail for $52-57. (As of this writing, the website has select colorways on sale for $20-32.) Comparatively, Oiselle’s Roga shorts retail for $48, while Lululemon’s Speed and Run Times shorts retail for $58. Of the three brands, only rabbit is made in the United States.

The Bunny Hop tank, at full price, retails for $40. This is slightly lower than the full retail price of Tracksmith’s Brighton Tank ($48, and my other Holy Grail running tank) and Lululemon’s Swiftly Tech Racerback ($58).

Also, I’ve gotta be honest: That logo is freaking adorable. Both of my sons had special stuffed rabbits when they were babies and toddlers so the animal has a special significance for me. Wearing the rabbit logo reminds me of them, and of those countless miles I pushed them (and their bunnies) in the jogging stroller.

I’ll definitely be purchasing and testing more rabbit gear when our weather cools down — I’ve got my eye on the rabbit logo half-zip — but I’m definitely impressed by the way its warm weather gear wears and performs. It’s evident DeVreese and Deering designed this line with runners in mind.

Silverander says eventually, rabbit will grow to include “everything a runner needs, whether it’s a warmup or for racing.” At the same time, he adds, Deering and DeVreese are intentionally deliberate with rabbit’s growth.

“Jill and Monica want to build a company for the long run,” says Silverander. “The commitment is to the sport; we’re not just in this for ourselves. All of us have gotten a lot out of running, in one way or another. If we can be a part of the force spreading running into more people’s lives, I think that’s a role we’re excited to play.”

Get rabbit

Ready to “run free?” You can order rabbit gear directly from its website, or use its store locator to find a retailer. Follow rabbit on Facebook and Instagram for new releases, photos, and company news.

(Thanks to rabbit and Kimberly Rose for providing some of the photos used for this story.)

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