Normally, when a Michigan football player walks around Ann Arbor, it’s other students doing double takes.
But a couple weeks ago, redshirt sophomore tight end Ian Bunting was the one playing paparazzi when he saw another student walking around in a hat he recognized.
“I kind of snuck behind them,” Bunting said, “and took a picture of it and sent it to Mr. Wangler.”
Since this past summer, Bunting has been working with John, Jared and Jack Wangler on a new apparel line called “Valiant.” Bunting said the elder Wangler — of Wangler-to-Carter fame — brought the idea to his sons and Bunting. Together, they started up a side enterprise.
Now, the fruits of that labor are for sale in the M Den. Valiant hats, visors and shirts sell in the same store as Michigan’s “Jumpman” apparel.
And according to the M Den’s Rose Balzer, the Valiant gear is selling better than you might think.
“People are absolutely eating it up,” Balzer said. “They love it almost as much as the Nike stuff.”
The differences are subtle. Balzer noted the women’s apparel having three-quarter-length sleeved shirts, V-cut necklines and hoods, and while the Nike apparel is sleek and clearly well-liked, Balzer says the Valiant gear offers slight variations that go a long way.
“A little different niche, just a little bit,” Bunting said of the Valiant apparel. “We love the Jordan stuff, too, though.
“It’s just sort of like a little bit of a different target audience.”
For Bunting, even the meetings have been fun. Tuesday, he recalled flying out to New Jersey for a meeting with a part owner that was supposed to be quick — 45 minutes to an hour.
Instead, “We ended up being in there for like five hours, just bouncing ideas off each other,” Bunting said. “It was sweet. Really got the ball rolling.”
Bunting said the players went through the school’s compliance department and received clearance to work with the company — “It took a little while, but we got it figured out,” he said — and that Mr. Wangler had secured the licensing to use the block ‘M’ on its apparel.
For now, Valiant’s identity is tied inseparably to the Michigan brand. Its name comes from the Wolverines’ fight song, and Bunting and the Wanglers are all Wolverines. But soon, the company could take on an identity of its own. Bunting is interested in the prospect of selling street fashion, too, as well as the other design and business aspects he presently enjoys.
And for now, he has a measure of exclusivity. Wearing a Valiant hat after practice Tuesday, a reporter asked him how much it retailed for. He responded that the particular hat, with a wide, maize block “V,” wasn’t for sale yet.
Moments later, though, Bunting reassured: “I’m sure eventually we’ll sell this one.”