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The End of Scrubs: An Interview with George Brown & Uli Becker

April 7, 2020

Long-time friends and colleagues, George Brown and Uli Becker (former CEO of Reebok) met 25 years ago while working for sports apparel giant, Adidas. Now as co-founders of Aegle Gear, they are raising the bar to meet the demands of the modern healthcare worker. 

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Why the healthcare industry?

Advancement in healthcare apparel is much needed. At Aegle Gear,  we believe healthcare professionals deserve world-class gear. There is much evidence to show that the market will be growing for years to come. The healthcare industry employs 1-in-8 workers in the US. It is a massive audience that has been using uniforms that have been virtually unchanged for over 35 years. Additionally, it is a dedicated workforce that often stays with the same employer for their entire career, we felt it was important to build a brand dedicated to the needs of these important workers.

How do you draw the connection between healthcare occupations and athletes?

When you compare professional athletes to the healthcare professional there are so many similarities. They work as a team, and a head surgeon might lead her staff similarly to how a quarterback may lead their team. Often both work under stressful situations, such as variable climates that can be very cold or very hot. Both are required to manipulate their bodies in various positions in order to complete their jobs. Both can be very rough on their uniforms, whether it be staining the fabric or stressing the fabric – inferior fabrics will not hold up. Additionally, uniforms identify who you are, in both verticals they must look good while being comfortable.

What makes Aegle Gear different from traditional scrubs?

While designing Aegle Gear we first focused on the fabric, we wanted a textile that could be long-lasting and comfortable. In addition to this, the fabric needed to be antimicrobial to assist in protecting against the transmission of disease where nearly 100,000 people die in US hospitals from an infection transmitted in the hospital. We tested our fabric thru 100 industrial washes (about 2 years of regular use) while still removing 99.99% of contaminants. Additionally, we added a liquid-resistant coating (Durable Water Repellency) to help repel those “oops” moments that every healthcare worker encounters at one time or another where body fluids would normally be absorbed by their scrubs. All the while the fabric is breathable, durable & protective. Beyond the fabric, when building our collection, we started with a base layer in order to control the climate and support muscles, easing the suffering of long periods of standing. Our designs followed the rule in sporting goods where form follows function, adding articulation in the stress areas is one simple feature that enhances comfort during exaggerated movement. Not all features were inspired by sports such as the raised collar on our men’s and women’s tops, the collar works to protect the wearer from germs carried on stethoscopes that are commonly kept around the neck. We build our products with an abundance of pockets so that the healthcare worker can carry all the tools they need to perform their tasks, our pockets include an ORG system to properly organize these items. Traditional and even many designer scrubs are simple with a focus on color while simply covering the body of the healthcare worker so they look uniform, while not considering their protection or utility.

What were some of the biggest design challenges you faced?

We spent about 18 months building our fabric, I (George) wanted only the best in performance and protection, so it had to meet stringent testing. We also introduced a higher price point to this industry that has largely only known commodity priced scrubs, and it will take time to earn the trust and respect of healthcare workers for them to feel the value of great scrubs. If our reviews and repeat customers are an indicator of this success we are well on our way.

What makes Aegle Gear different from traditional scrubs?

I (Uli) view traditional scrubs as a commodity. Aegle Gear wants to provide professional gear for the professional healthcare worker. Just as an athlete wants to wear functional gear to perform at their best, we want to take scrubs from a body-covering to performance gear. While designing Aegle Gear we first focused on the fabric, and we wanted a textile that could be long-lasting and comfortable. In addition to this, the fabric needed to be antimicrobial to assist in protecting against the transmission of disease where nearly 100,000 people die in US hospitals from an infection transmitted in the hospital.

We tested our fabric thru 100 industrial washes (about two years of regular use) while still removing 99.99% of contaminants. Additionally, we added a liquid-resistant coating (Durable Water Repellency)  to help repel those “oops” moments that every healthcare worker encounters at one time or another where their scrubs would normally absorb body fluids. All the while the fabric is breathable, durable & protective.

What were some of the most significant design challenges you faced?

We spent about 18 months building our fabric, I wanted only the best in performance and protection, so it had to meet stringent testing. We also introduced a higher price point to this industry that has mostly only known commodity priced scrubs, and it will take time to earn the trust and respect of healthcare workers for them to feel the value of great scrubs. If our reviews and repeat customers are an indicator of this success, we are well on our way.

There appears to be a layering system involved here? Is this a direct nod to athletic kits available in today’s market?

Absolutely! Brands like Patagonia pioneered this decades ago, knowing that gear works as a system. You must be comfortable at your core to perform at your peak. We built our base garments knowing that at first we would sell few, and would have to help educate the healthcare worker about the importance of this. So far, I (George) have been pleasantly pleased with the interest we have received in these garments.

What inspired the name and branding of Aegle Gear?

A good friend and mentor of mine (Uli) is Peter Moore, a sports industry icon. We challenged him on how we should brand this new venture. He came back with proposals that have their roots in Greek mythology. Almost in analogy to Nike, we picked Aegle as our spearhead, “the goddess of radiant health”. The “gear” portion of our name, comes from a concept that helped Adidas turn around in the early 90s. Equipment was the gear that grows on you the longer you owned it, and we wanted to create exactly that for healthcare. Thus, Aegle Gear was born. And no, we’re not worried if pronunciation doesn’t always come easy.

It’s part of the story.

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You can buy Aegle Gear online here.

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