Triple Nikel is more than a veteran-owned clothing line. Its unique threads have their own look, deviating from what we typically see. It’s an advocacy and inclusivity-driven brand which just got even bigger with their recent launch in Kohl’s across the country.
Founded by Ruben Ayala, Curtez Riggs, Rod Graham and Christopher McPhee – all Army veterans – the business name has a special and historical significance. In an earlier interview with WATM, Ayala talks about its significance.
“The idea came to me from our forefathers. All of the founders in the company, we all started as paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was the only Airborne unit that People of Color could serve in when the Army was segregated,” Ayala explained. A test unit during World War II, they went by the nickname ‘Triple Nickels.’ “It was only fitting to create a company that amplified stories of those who came before us.”
In the years since its founding, Triple Nikel has gone on to see enormous success and popularity among the military community. In 2022, the veterans announced their line had been picked up by Kohl’s.
“The launch was an organic evolution between Kohl’s and Triple Nikel. It was a classic Rocky story where one of the largest retail stores in America provided a young up-and-coming clothing brand an opportunity to tell its story to thousands of people,” Ayala shared. “The amount of work that it took to organize, plan and fulfill the initial order was tremendous. We made the conscious decision to do the work ourselves and became subject matter experts in product fulfillment. This by the way, is not normal!”
After working tirelessly to make it happen, seeing the results of their efforts was like a dream.
“The first time I walked into Kohl’s and saw our apparel I was shocked. The really cool part was how Kohl’s used our Alwyn Cashe shirt for their lead Veterans Day model,” Ayala added. The Cashe graphic tee pays homage to the first African American to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War – posthumously. “Everyone who came into the store and saw the Veterans Day display had an opportunity to see Sergeant First Class Cashe. It was a true triumph. It was a validation that Triple Nikel is doing the right thing and having positive effects at a nationwide level.”
How did the veterans celebrate this monumental success? More work.
“Honestly, the celebration was minimal. We did not have a big party or anything like that,” McPhee laughed. “However, we received messages of congrats from our family and close friends. We gave each other high-fives and went back to work. Distributing 26,000+ apparel items to 600 stores across America is a big deal. So, we celebrated during the moment and humbly admired our work. Then, we opted to direct our energy towards executing our business objectives for 2023 and beyond.”
From the beginning, Triple Nickel was determined to avoid utilizing the stigmatized visuals on their clothing. The guys were adamant there was no disrespect meant toward popular veteran-owned apparel companies, but they were firm in wanting a different approach. It’s paid off and the future for this unique company is bright.
“For the future, we look forward to fulfilling another purchase order for Kohl’s and hopefully increasing our store distribution from 600 to 1200 stores. The 600-store distribution project was challenging. However, we gained a wealth of knowledge and cataloged a list of lessons learned that we are implementing in 2023 to refine our processes,” McPhee explained. “Hopefully, our 2022 partnership with Kohl’s will spark B2B relationships with other major retail stores like Target, Scheels or Buc-ee’s. Whatever the future has in store for us, Triple Nikel will be ready.”
Just because the brand is now hanging up in Khol’s across the country, don’t expect their messaging and intent to change – only broaden and grow.
“Triple Nikel is a creation born from the elements of music, community and love. We want to connect with our fellow active-duty service members, veterans and military families. Because we share the same passion for our country and the communities from which we came,” McPhee said. “We want to reach beyond the veteran community and connect with our civilian community leaders and supporters who believe in our nation’s military and share the same beliefs as Triple Nikel.”
Ayala added to the plans.“What you can expect in 2023 and 2024 is more collaborations. Given we are former Green Berets, we have stuck with the adage of force multiplying. Our strategy is not a secret,” he said. “We are here to nation build and no one builds a better Army than a Special Forces Operator. Is Triple Nikel building an Army? Yes we are.”
To learn more about Triple Nikel, click here.
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