Sportswear Company Blends Style, Sun Protection By Tara Kirkpatrick No matter how much sunscreen the Naughton family slathered on every weekend, it was never enough for the active, fair-skinned group. “We would all just burn,” said Beth Naughton, an avid tennis player and mother of two. “I figured a shirt would be the best option, but most shirts are aimed at a much older demographic.” She often talked about the problem with good friends – Tucson skin cancer surgeon Dr. Michael Huether and his wife, Amy. Natives of South Dakota, the Huethers also loved outdoor sports and had six, fair-skinned children – three of whom competed in regular golf tournaments. “We have personally tried many different sun protective shirts over the years,” said Michael Huether. “Although they offered adequate sun protection, they were uncomfortable and didn’t allow for heat to escape when working out. Also, the styles we tried were unflattering.” In a classic story of necessity breeding invention, Uvida Sportswear was born, and after less than a year on the market, it’s beginning to thrive. Uvida’s chic UV-protective shirts are sold in country clubs, clothing boutiques and dermatologists’ offices throughout Southern Arizona, and – perhaps soon – throughout the entire sun-worshipping country. “Sun protection is really the main thing we can do to minimize our risk of developing skin cancer,” said Huether, whose surgical practice focuses entirely on skin cancer treatment. Indeed, roughly 1.4 million U.S. cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, he said. “The best sun-protective clothing is not effective if people won’t wear it because of how it makes them look or if it’s uncomfortably hot.”
With that in mind, the four friends – and now business partners – pursued their new venture. Amy Huether, a lawyer, provided legal assistance while Frank Naughton, owner of Naughton’s Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, became the financial mind behind Uvida. They set Beth Naughton – who honed her product sales and marketing skills at Weiser Lock and Abbott Laboratories – to develop a shirt that would meet their demands. She studied fabrics, met with seamstresses and researched manufacturers that might deliver the right combination. “I spent a great deal of time measuring 20 girlfriends of all different body shapes and sizes,” Naughton added. “What did they like? What did they not like? That’s how we developed the fit for the shirt. We wanted it to be stylish and to make you look good.” Naughton then went one step further. Her tennis team at Tucson Country Club had qualified for national competition, so her teammates spent the entire summer practicing in the prototypes. “We practiced from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the hot sun,” she said. “Some players would wear these skimpy tank tops and they actually got hotter in them. The long-sleeved shirts kept us cool.” The result of two years of exhaustive research – as modeled by Naughton’s friends on Uvida’s website, www.uvidasportswear.com – is a lightweight, drywicking line of sportswear available for women in bold colors, including pink, purple and green, alongside the traditional black and white. Manufactured in California, the shirt blends nylon, polyester and spandex. Each Uvida shirt has distinct features, including elongated sleeves that reach the knuckles and chafe-resistant flat seams that contour all shapes and sizes for a stylish fit.
“There is enough stretch, so if you are swinging a racket or a golf club, you have room,” Beth Naughton said. Most importantly, the line provides a UPF or ultraviolet protection factor of 50+ and reflects 98 percent of the sun’s rays. The claim was meticulously tested at New York’s Vartest Laboratories with UV light meters to confirm its protection, she said. Uvida’s manufacturing strategy was U.S.-driven. “When we were looking at making and sewing it, we looked overseas and even Colombia, but I really felt like I wanted to keep it in the United States. That was challenging, but I was able to work hard to get price competitive with garments that are made in China and Vietnam.” Uvida crew-neck shirts retail for $65 and the zip-front version is $70. The shirts have been a success at destinations including La Paloma Country Club, where the pro shop just renewed an order for the newly launched shirts. “They are going over well in our tennis and golf community,” said Samantha Gephart, La Paloma’s merchandising manager. “Our members really like the fun colors, but specifically the sun protection,” Gephart added. “As women, in some athletic clothes, we don’t even want to leave the house because they are too tight. These are really light and fit to your skin.” Dr. James Schwartz sells Uvida in his Tucson dermatology practice. “The shirts are selling well,” he said. “We are getting great feedback from the people who have bought them.” Tennis player Jenn Staples recently outfitted two of her Tucson Racquet Club teams in the Uvida shirts as part of their uniform. “They look good on everyone,” she said. “Plus, it’s great to support a local business. The fact that it’s made in the USA is even better.”
Summer 2014 > > > BizTucson 27
Tucson region's business magazine, Summer 2014 issue.