by Ashley Lodato
If you're a sporty woman of a certain age and you hear the words "Title 9," your first mental image is probably that of your favorite jog bra, that awesome board skort, or the athletic apparel catalog that reads more like a "Ten Ways to Get Active This Weekend" article than a piece of retail advertising. And only after that do you think of the original Title IX--the landmark 1972 legislation that mandates gender equality in public education--that was the inspiration for the largest independently owned and operated retailer in the women’s fitness and adventure market (Title Nine).
If you've ever wondered what women's athletics were like before Title IX (the education amendment), you need only talk to a woman who struggled to explore her athletic potential in her public high school or university prior to 1972. College men had competitive gymnastics squads with fully-equipped gyms; women had old wrestling mats and tumbling clubs. Men had track teams with pole vaulting; women had croquet. Men had football; women had cheerleading. It was difficult for a young athletic woman to envision herself making athletic accomplishments a lifetime pursuit, much less finding the resources to help her achieve those dreams.
This is not to suggest that Title IX fixed the inequities between men's and women's sports; nay, much work remains to be done, in everything from equipment funding to scholarships. But let's take a moment to appreciate the groundbreaking civil rights law that paved the way for women to take their rightful places on the track, in the pool, on the court, and on the field.
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
— Title IX, Education Amendment of 1972
If you've every wondered what women's athletics were like before Title Nine (the apparel company), you need only talk to buxom women who loved running but couldn't find bounce-control bras, or swimmers who couldn't find bathing suits that were comfortable and rugged enough for open-water swims, or yoga enthusiasts reduced to wearing bulky cotton sweatpants to do their asanas. Title IX mandated that women and girls have equal access to sports (and other activities); Title Nine made it possible for these women and girls to pursue sports (and other activities) in effective, comfortable, and attractive apparel.
As a recent college graduate in the late 1980s, Title Nine founder Missy Park noticed that no one seemed particularly interested in making athletic apparel for specifically designed for women's bodies. Through old-fashioned hard work, experiementation, and numerous failures, Park and her team began to learn about what they liked to make and what their customers liked to buy. Steadily, Title Nine built up a growing clientele of customers who realized the difference that well-made, activity-specific, aesthetically-pleasing sports apparel makes for active women. Says Park, "The people here are product users, all of our buyers are product users, the folks on the phone are product users. It’s important to us that we be able to speak authentically about what we’re selling."
That authenticity led to brand loyalty, and now, 30 years later, Title Nine is the independently-owned and operated global apparel company with philanthropic impacts that someone like Park--who believed in women's ability to achieve their dreams--envisioned back in the Berkeley garage where she sewed her first sports bra. As with Title IX, the rest is history
Title Nine is owned and operated by women (and, as they say, "a few cool guys"), as is Bronwen Jewelry
. But that's only one of the many reasons we admire the company and feel grateful to be entering our second decade of partnering with them. First of all, despite their growth over 29 years, Title Nine has never compromised on the quality and integrity of its products. They make great clothing
: attractive, durable, comfortable, and affordable. They use regular, active women as their models
(including Bronwen Jewelry founder Bronwen Lodato
!), not impossible-dream professionals. Some of their models have grey hair, or muffin tops, or wrinkles--nearly unheard-of in the retail apparel modeling population. There's a gym right in the main office! ("I wanted fitness to be at the center of this company and it literally is," says Park.)
Shall we go on?
Title Nine provides grants to organizations that support girls in underserved communities
. They sponsor athletic events through their T9 Mermaid Race Series
program. They're committed to sustainability
. And as a company, they've got great personality, as evidenced by Park's musings
on everything from everything from the #metoo movement to the inspiration provided by Yvon Chouinard about doing well by doing good. And, oh yeah, they also sell Bronwen Jewelry bracelets
. What's not to love?
As a company that prides itself on its high-quality, durable, handcrafted line
and active jewelry
, Bronwen Jewelry appreciates Title Nine's dedication to excellence, as well its shared value of helping women look and feel their best. We embrace their customer satisfaction ethic as our own; they have a generous return/exchange program
, we have our signature lifetime warranty
. Our companies are both built on the notion that women are multi-faceted, complex individuals who can be both bad-ass and sensitive, rugged and delicate, athletic and girly. And like the original Title IX, both Title Nine and Bronwen Jewelry stand behind the concept of helping women pursue their dreams.