Amy Robbins. AR. How fortunate those initials are for a woman trying to make her mark in the firearms community. Some of you may remember her from NRA-TV, where she appeared regularly on “NOIR,” a program hosted by Colion Noir. Others may be familiar with Robbins’ Not Your Average Gun Girl podcast.
As a member of the media, a firearms instructor, and an anxious husband who has been trying to help his wife figure out a way to carry her gun comfortably, I had been closely following Robbins’ new company, Alexo Athletica — an online retail outlet offering concealed-carry apparel for women.
Robbins and I met in Las Vegas a few days before the official opening of the 2019 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show. Once we settled into a booth at a crowded restaurant, I shared that I had taken some time on my 4-hour flight that morning to watch a few archived episodes of “NOIR.” One of those episodes, just a few years old, revealed Robbins as a woman not yet convinced of the need to carry a firearm. Given that her popular line of clothing targets ladies who carry, something had obviously changed.
From Respect to Reliance
Amy Robbins grew up in a small town in rural Texas. And “small town” is no exaggeration — she graduated high school with 41 other students. Her dad, a hunter, had guns around the house, and he often carried a revolver in his truck.
“I always associated firearms with protection and provision,” Robbins said. “He taught us gun safety at a very young age, and how to shoot — even though he had all daughters.”
While Robbins respected and appreciated firearms, she didn’t know much about them and certainly never gave much thought to carrying one.
Robbins was modeling for an agency in Texas in 2013 when she was recruited by the National Rifle Association, which had just launched NRA-TV and was eager to represent the growing ranks of pro-2nd Amendment women. She began hanging out with people on the set who carried handguns and soon noticed most of her coworkers at the agency were armed as well.
“At first, I thought these people were crazy and paranoid,” she admitted. The “aha moment” (her words) came when she and some ladies from the agency were walking to their cars in the parking garage one night after working late. Robbins wondered aloud why they all felt the need to carry guns. One workmate was quick to respond: “If someone attacked us right now, what would you be able to do about it?” The only idea that came to Robbins’ mind was to call the police who, her co-worker remarked, were at least three to five minutes away. “Don’t you think something bad could happen in that timeframe?”
Robbins obtained her carry permit shortly thereafter, but it would be another six months or so before she developed the confidence to conceal a firearm in public. At that time, she did what many women do — carried a gun in her purse. Of course, off-body carry is a perfectly viable solution, but it does introduce unique challenges.
Robbins encountered one such challenge head-on when she began training for a marathon. Vigorous exercise with a purse is not an option, and marathon-distance running involves many hours of practice. For working professionals, that usually means training early in the morning or late in the evening. Robbins found her runs taking her farther and farther from home. With her newfound sense of situational awareness, the solitary surroundings and risks to her safety prompted a search for alternative means of carry.
‘The great thing about our leggings is you don’t have to carry a weapon to appreciate them.’
Robbins quickly found that the on-body holstering options available in stores and from online retailers didn’t work well for her. It’s no wonder — the vast majority of these products had been designed by men for men. Males typically have narrow hips and carry most of their weight in the shoulders. Women are curvy, with center mass in the hips, and most prefer garments that hug their bodies and accentuate those curves.
These facts of nature present a problem for women who need to hide a firearm but keep it readily accessible — every lump and bump shows. In firearms lingo, we call that “printing.” Robbins tried a few belly-band holsters but found them uncomfortable and cumbersome. She became frustrated, and soon came to the realization she was not alone. This discovery planted the seed for an idea that would eventually sprout into Alexo Athletica.
Launching a Lifestyle
Alexo (Greek for “defend”) officially launched their concealed-carry leggings and activewear in October 2017, but the company was three years in the making. First came the market research, financing, product R&D, and suppliers. Then there was the process of finalizing the initial designs, negotiating minimum quantities for orders, and selecting colors for each style.
Just 15 months in, Alexo is enjoying incredible success but not without some growing pains — backorders due to unexpected demand, pressures to create new styles, and requests for different color options, to name a few. Even after doubling and tripling orders, Robbins consistently sells out before new inventory arrives. She points out that being first to market has helped lessen the pain. Customers can be patient when there are no other options. However, as new companies enter the space, she realizes expectations will change. Alexo is quickly ramping up resources and production to meet demand, as well as launching new products. The recently introduced running short, Carry Runners, are available now for pre-order and are set to begin shipping in April.
The true appeal of Alexo is its unique blend of form and function. Robbins’ experience in the modeling and fashion industries gave her a keen sense that functionality alone is not a selling point for women shopping for athletic apparel. They want to look fashionable, too. To date, the most popular products have been Alexo’s Signature Pant and Stealth Leggings.
Robbins righteously defends and supports the 2nd Amendment but makes it clear that she strives to keep politics out of her company.
“The great thing about our leggings is you don’t have to carry a weapon to appreciate them,” Robbins said. “You can carry a gun, taser, or pepper spray if you want to. But if you don’t, you’re going look cute and have nine pockets available to carry whatever you want.”
The Alexo Athletica brand presently dominates the 18-to-35-year-old market, which includes millennials and Gen Z right behind. That might seem ironic because these generations are not exactly looked upon as supportive of firearms and 2nd Amendment rights. However, Robbins is not a bit surprised. She feels the “snowflake” label is definitely a product of the mass media and greatly exaggerated.
“These women are looking for products that align with their beliefs — to support their mission,” she said. “We need to educate these young ladies about their constitutional right to defend and protect themselves, and the consequences of losing that right.”
And what of the politics of guns? How does Alexo navigate those turbulent waters? Robbins righteously defends and supports the 2nd Amendment but makes it clear that she strives to keep politics out of her company. Alexo’s customers are Republican and Democrat, gay and straight, and represent every race and creed. Robbins wants to encourage all women to embrace the responsibility to protect themselves: “In a day and age when we [women] are fighting so hard for equality, what is more important than the right to defend ourselves?”
At SHOT Show 2019, Robbins beamed with confidence and pride — and why not? She has used her life experience to create a wildly successful brand that fuses her love for running, firearms, fashion, and helping others. Her timing with this business venture could not have been better. Right now, women represent the fastest growing demographic in the concealed-carry population. However, are women the only ones who can benefit from apparel designed for gun-toting athletes? As our time together came to an end, I revealed to Robbins that I was more than slightly envious of the Alexo leggings I had recently purchased for my wife.
“Men could use something like those pants, too,” I told her.
“Stay tuned guys,” she said. “We may have some good news coming your way!”
This article was originally published March 3, 2019, on Coffee or Die.