Rashaan Gilmore has a great energy. And he brings that energy to everything he does—especially Nuts & Bolts, the men’s underwear company he co-founded with Quentin Savwoir.
As soon as we walk through his front door, he invites us to sign his fridge. His refrigerator is his guest book, covered with signatures in permanent marker of every style and color. It’s a great example of how welcoming and fun Gilmore is.
That fun streak shows up in Nuts & Bolts, too — the company’s mission statement declares that they wish “to cover the asses of the masses with the world’s most expressive and artistic underwear.” They mean it, too — they offer virtually endless possibilities to customize each pair you buy, featuring art from independent artists or your own design. They call it “an underwear revolution.”
But the revolution doesn’t stop at customization. Gilmore and Savwoir felt strongly about using a more eco-friendly fabric than cotton for their product. What did they settle on? Recycled plastic bottles.
“The bottles are chopped up at a plant and become flake,” Gilmore said. “It goes through a chemical process that breaks it down to filaments … [which are] extruded into yarns and woven into very soft, stretchy fabric.”
He offers the fabric for proof, and it’s true — the fabric feels silky and lightweight. He says it holds dye very well and makes for a long-lasting product.
Gilmore, a Kansas City native, has always had tenacity and determination. His entrepreneurship started with a bakery and has grown from there. He’s worked in fields ranging from politics, to community organization and development, to marketing. So when Gilmore and Savwoir perceived a gap in the relatively stagnant underwear industry, they leapt on the opportunity.
“Let’s take the model that the industry currently has and flip it on its head,” Gilmore said. “For us, that meant taking the power of the designer and putting it in the hands of the consumer, so that you can design your own underwear that we make in this country.”
They feel passionately about keeping jobs in the United States. Gilmore says that more than 98 percent of underwear is manufactured overseas, so this isn’t an easy task. But they pull it off — the fabric is sourced and printed in Virginia, and the production is completed in California.
Gilmore and Savwoir also give back locally to the Kansas City community, whether that’s through annual participation in AIDS Walk or donating part of their proceeds to environmental causes and homeless youth charities.
Gilmore came out later in life, saying “I had to live my own truth.”
He speaks candidly of his excitement to work with the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. “What I like about [the chamber] is that it is targeted to a group of people who are usually a disenfranchised minority. … We should be at the table. So often we don’t have a conversation because we don’t get to the table.”
There are lots of new developments coming up for Nuts & Bolts, such as a crowd-funded pre-order campaign, a new website (mynutsandbolts.com) and a pop-up store. But one of the company’s strongest assets may be Gilmore’s winning attitude — a combination of enthusiasm, wit, and focus. Together, he and Savwoir are an entrepreneurial tour de force — and they seem perfectly poised to revolutionize the underwear business, one pair at a time.
Photo: Landon Vonderschmidt
The Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (MAGLCC) is an organization that advocates, promotes and facilitates the success of the LGBT business community and their allies. Learn more at maglcc.org.