Outfits speak truth
Biola students create biblically-centered clothing line to bring Christ to fitness. | Courtesy of Austin Jones
One January day during intertem of 2015, Trevor Vanriper, senior communications major, visited a nearby 24 Hour Fitness he frequented. As he went about his business, he saw everyone exercising in their own world and noticed he stood just five feet away from the people next to him — people who probably did not know Jesus.
Bringing the gospel into the fitness world
Vanriper, along with three other Biola students, produced their own athletic and lifestyle-wear clothing line called Renewed Strength Fitness in order to bring the gospel into the fitness world, and beyond.
“If one person sees our clothing and asks a question about it, and one person meets Jesus someday, all of the work that we put into this is worth it because it has eternal effects,” said Caleb Grossman, senior biblical and theological studies major and one of the original team members of the company.
The clothing line, which officially launched in January of 2015, features shirts and hats — both baseball caps and beanies — with snippets of verses and specific words to encourage people in the fitness and sports fields, as well as those in everyday circumstances. The company found its name through its motto verse, Isaiah 40:31, and all of the clothing items’ designs reference encouraging Christian phrases or Bible verses, such as 1 John 4:17-19.
“We were really blessed by this idea of, when we came into Christ, that’s when our strength was renewed,” Grossman said. “So we can move forward in our lives from a position of strength, not because we are really strong people, but because God made us strong.”
These students, residents of Hope Hall at the time, created Renewed after they discovered their passion of bringing God into an often self-centered fitness world. All of them would work out together almost every single day, and one day, noticed all the big-name sportswear companies represented in their articles of clothing. They decided, instead of buying into the popular sports brands, they would represent Jesus Christ in the gym by starting a Christian brand of fitness clothing.
“We really focus on having a biblical foundation in anything we put out onto a shirt or a piece of clothing, so we’ve put a lot of thought into the things we give our customers and give to the public, making sure that it’s rooted in Christ first,” said Colton Olson, sophomore business major and member of the team. “That’s something I’ve really enjoyed having as a core foundation of Renewed.”
It started with one T- shirt
They began with one T-shirt by selling it around campus. After receiving positive responses from recipients, the team began designing another batch of T-shirts. Eventually, the company grew larger, mostly through its Instagram account. The items have become popular all across the country and have allowed people from various walks of life to share the gospel through a T-shirt.
“The more we did, the more we grew, and then once we did shirts, we moved into doing hats and other stuff through embroidery,” Vanriper said.
The first article of clothing was a regular T-shirt with a simple logo design. Now the company has expanded to multiple different styles of shirts and sweatshirts with various designs. Most of the designs come from the imagination and talented hands of Olson, but the company also accepts submissions from its many followers on Instagram.
“We ask whoever, and we’re honestly open to whoever wants to help out and pitch in because I figured, this is as much my company as it is their company,” Vanriper said. “It’s God’s company.”
Vanriper became inspired by his mentor, a man who has run Barnabas Clothing for over six years, and has continued to grow his inspiration and commitment to this new company. He has worked hard to watch it expand more and more.
Since the team hopes the non-profit will continue to grow and reach people, they have actively seeking out opportunities to make the company more successful. Consequently, Vanriper and his co-workers have searched for the possibility of a celebrity athlete to become the face of Renewed Fitness Clothing.
Major league clothing
“Because I have connections in baseball, yes, I am pursuing that,” Vanriper said. “I don’t have connections with other sports or athletes yet, but as far as who we’re targeting: all Christians.”
Three weeks ago, they went to Arizona for the baseball spring training to try to meet up with some players and make connections for the company. They got connected with Robbie Ray and Nick Ahmed, two Christian baseball players from the Arizona Diamondbacks, by meeting their kids and wives, who then directed them to Ray and Ahmed.
Despite these grand measures of boldness, the company still holds to its humble roots, hosting the physical shop in Vanriper and Olson’s dorm room. They invite both Biola students and off-campus customers into their room to see the merchandise and establish a community.
“I actually have really enjoyed [having the shop in our room]. It’s been really cool and a way to connect with people,” said Olson. “A lot of people are surprised that we actually have it in our dorm room.”
From comments on Instagram to personal testimonies, the team has heard of the influence their clothes have on people and the opportunities the clothing presents to share the gospel, which reinforces the entire goal of the company.
“I would just say the huge turning point was just hearing some of the feedback that our gear was actually having an impact, and that’s what kind of motivated me,” Vanriper said.