Josh Chavez – Mainframe – Kings of the Merch

Josh Chavez is the CEO and Founder of Mainframe, a US based gaming and esports lifestyle apparel company. 

He spoke to use about the Mainframe story, why he started a gaming and esports apparel firm, designing the jerseys and how to appeal to the different communities under the ever widening esports umbrella. 

Esports Insider: Can you provide some background to the Mainframe story? And what first made you enter the world of esports?

Josh: Inspired by gaming culture, music and art, Mainframe breathes life into a counterculture that has been ignored, overlooked and dismissed. Our team comes from lifestyle companies such as Stance Socks and Skullcandy headphones. 

Josh Chavez, Mainframe

Mainframe was founded on a simple principle – create a dope gamer inspired lifestyle brand. In the spring of 2012, I went to The Staples Center in LA for the League of Legends World Championship – Taipei Assassins vs Azubu Frost. The Staples Center was packed. After years of working for lifestyle companies, one thing stood out to me, there was no dedicated lifestyle brand that spoke to us as gamers.

That’s when I had the realisation that gaming and esports was more than a pastime, hobby, or game – it was a way of life for a lot of people. That’s when the idea of Mainframe spawned. You can read all about it on our blog and even see the photos of me at the event with Ryze body paint on.

ESI: For teams, do you think the potential in this space lies more in jersey sales or in adding streetwear type lines such as Fnatic are keen on?

Josh: In our experience jersey sales seem to be the hot commodity at the moment. The space is still quite young though and we think the trend of streetwear for gamers will rise quickly.

“Mainframe was founded on a simple principle – create a dope gamer inspired lifestyle brand”

We built Mainframe on the idea that gamers wanted something they could wear into the streets that was subtle. A tribal logo and designs that other gamers would recognize but that didn’t scream loudly – “Mario fan!” Or “League of Legends player” or “Call of Duty fan!”. We are incorporating in our approach subtle gamer designs behind Mainframe’s tribal logo. A logo that represents a passion for gaming / esports. Of course we have Jerseys and we do sponsor teams as well as have our own “Team Mainframe” jerseys. What truly separates us as a brand is our Gaming Sleeve. We brought that to market because we wanted our customers and fans of teams to be able to support their teams without having to pay the price of a jersey. A gaming sleeve is a light compression sleeve that has your favorite team’s designs on it. People love them and they sell out at all the cons we attend! Gaming Sleeve.

ESI: In what ways do you manufacture and specify a jersey for an esports player rather than for someone playing a traditional sport?

Josh: In terms of materials, the components are the same as a traditional sports player. Gamers sweat too, right? Haha. It’s a good idea to use those same sweat wicking materials, simply because they are more comfortable. Playing on stage can get intense.

“In our experience jersey sales seem to be the hot commodity at the moment”

We want our customers and sponsored teams to stay as comfortable as possible. I think the major difference is the fun element of esports jerseys vs traditional sports – The colours, the team names, the sponsors all over the jerseys, but most importantly the gamer tags!

ESI: Now esports is approaching the status of no longer being ‘part of the counterculture’, but part of the mainstream – do you anticipate more of the major apparel brands entering the space and how do you anticipate this affecting your business?

Josh: I’ve worked for lifestyle brands for quite a few years and for major brands to step into this arena we would have to move the needle pretty far!

“Brands like ours were started by gamers and made for gamers. The authenticity is there and that is hard for big companies like Nike to buy”

Meaning we would have to approach hundreds of millions of dollars in sales before a brand like Nike or Under Armour would enter the space. If a brand like Nike tried it, I think gamers would be somewhat skeptical of it. Esports may be approaching the “mainstream” but we still have a very counter culture mentality. And I don’t think that will go away for a long time to come. Brands like ours were started by gamers and made for gamers. The authenticity is there and that is hard for big companies like Nike to buy.  

ESI: How do you promote merchandise and apparel to fans of esports? Are there certain communities within this space you focus on, fans of FGC for example?

Josh: Our brand is pretty underground and we haven’t poured marketing dollars into advertising.

We go about it through social media, partnerships and brand awareness. We find key influencers and teams to partner with to achieve that awareness. We have some pretty big plans for 2018. Of course there may come a time when you see us as a major sponsor of an event or Con.

You can read the others in the Kings of the Merch series by following the links below:

Also, for those in or around the UK on September 28th, our next #ESIForum is focused on the opportunity in esports and apparel. At the Fnatic Bunkr, 6-10pm, find out more here