Can a Los Angeles start-up give video gamers a stylish look?

Los Angeles start-up Ultimate Media Ventures is focusing on business opportunities within the e-sports industry, starting with a fashion brand dubbed ULT. (Ultimate Media Ventures)
Though fans may not always notice, professional athletes put thought into their outfits off and on the field. They’ll choose custom sneakers on the court, fancy jackets at the press conference and color-coordinated headphones in the locker room. But in e-sports, not so much. Professional video game players rarely do better than jeans and oversized hoodies. So at its first of several planned ventures to amp up e-sports, a Los Angeles start-up is hoping to give the growing industry a sophisticated look. Ultimate Media Ventures on Monday launched ULT Kills, a fashion line of T-shirts, hoodies, hats and eventually footwear that, in the words of co-founder Nate Eckman, isn’t the usual “super-embarrassing … kitschy, nerdy gamer wear.” The Los Angeles-stitched streetwear, priced between $28 and $78, will have woven labels, embroidery, custom printing and generally more attention to detail than the gaming-fashion industry typically sees, Eckman said. It comes in men’s and women’s styles. There’s no “all-over print, colorful fabric, splash art and big throw-up characters on a shirt that costs $2,” Eckman said. “If people keep designing products for 'nerds in basements,' they are going to keep ending up with that.”
There’s no “all-over print, colorful fabric, splash art and big throw-up characters on a shirt that costs $2,” Eckman said. “If people keep designing products for 'nerds in basements,' they are going to keep ending up with that.”
Ultimate Media Ventures is among dozens of small services companies and product makers seeking space in e-sports niches, from analyzing a player’s value to developing fancy chairs for matches. As deep-pocketed investors flock to the booming industry, the start-ups hope to carve out a big business. In accouterments, Eckman saw extra opportunity because, in his view, established athletics wear giants like Nike are hesitant to enter e-sports because they could catch flak from their traditional sportswear customers. Among many sports fans, playing video games remains anything but a sport. Nike declined to comment. By the end of the year, Eckman would like to have uniforms on players. The jerseys would be made from multiple undisclosed materials in an effort to make them breathable and sweat-wicking. Uniforms also must stand up to the chill players feel in heavily air-conditioned video studios. “It’s not going to be a cheap soccer shirt,” Eckman said, adding that there would be matching pants and shorts. He and his co-founders have been consulting video game publishers on marketing initiatives for several years. They recently decided to combine efforts and raised start-up capital from Dallas firm Cedars Spring Capital. Other projects include developing e-sports-related shows and organizing events on behalf of gaming companies Los Angeles Times // Paresh Dave