Friday, April 28, 2017

All About Athleisure!

An emerging trend that is quickly becoming a fashion staple in everyone’s closet is Athleisure. What started out as a trend in the 80’s with tracksuits has evolved from season to season to more sophisticated pieces that aren't just for working out. Women today are always on the go. From work to yoga class to picking up the kids and school functions, the to do list is endless. As women today we need versatile pieces that we can wear with anything and to any occasion. What’s great about athleisure pieces is they have the comfort of workout attire with soft breathable fabrics that are easy to move in. Athleisure is re-imagining clothing to resemble more tailored looks for the office or leggings that can be paired with any top just like your favorite pair of denim. There are a lot of brands out there which offer athleisure but one of the brands I think does it the best happens to be a local brand found right here in the CLE called Grace & Ricci.
I was first introduced to Grace & Ricci during a trunk show held at one of my favorite local boutiques, Banyan Tree. When I shopped the line I fell in love with their designs and tailored athleisure pieces. As all of you know I am a lover of everything local so I had to reach out to Mary Grace the brands designer and learn more about her up and coming brand.

Styled by Stacy: What’s your background?

Mary Grace: “...My degree is in exercise science and started doing cardiac rehab right out of college and a chance came up for me to work for a local politician and that ended up being my career path…. I have been a political consultant for 20 yrs. and I was ready to get out of it after having my kids. I did have a good run in politics and it was a difficult job to leave, but I got to a point in my life where I decided that it was time to do something different and I’ve always loved fashion and I’ve always been a home sewer and I had this idea that came to me after I had my boys that there was a gap in the market for athleisure, athletic clothing that looks like regular clothes for busy moms who are running around all day…”

SS: How did you get started with your brand?

MG: “I had a family friend that has been in the fashion industry for over 50 yrs. And I ran the idea by him thinking he would tell me no it was a horrible idea but he said yes, it was great, let's do it, so we got started and that was two years ago. It took a long time to develop the products. Everything is made in LA…my partner lives there…. We launched this past November (2016) and it's been a pretty incredible ride since then.”

SS: Who does the designing for your brand?

MG: “It’s hard to say who actually you can attribute it to, there are designers out there who do it all on their own and that's not how we operate. I have something that I think would work and sometimes it starts with a piece of fabric that I think would be great.  Then I sketch out ideas and send it to LA to my partner. From there we discuss any additions or changes, it's very a fluid thing. Than we send it to a sample maker who lets us know if the design is possible with the fabric choice. Sometimes we have to go back and make changes if the design doesn't work with the fabric. So technically you can say I’m the designer but there is so many moving pieces that I feel like I can't take all the credit.”

SS: What inspired you to start your athleisure brand?

MG: “Being a mom and wanting something I wanted to wear and what I thought other women wanted to wear. I love the trend and the idea of being comfortable all the time and wearing athletic clothes but when it came to the designs out there I couldn’t find what I was looking for, that's when my desing ideas came. Especially the tops, there is not a good variety in them, they're all built in bra, spaghetti strap type and I grew tired of them and that look….. The jacket (that Grace & Ricci sells) is another good piece I designed that ties it (the athleisure look) all together. You can wear your own tank and leggings that you would work out in or run errands, but with the (Grace & Ricci) jacket it's a tailored athletic piece that can pull the whole look together and I love that!”

“Also, a lot of brands that offer athleisure you can't actually work out in them and I thought that's ridiculous who wants to dry clean their activewear? So I reimagined the use of athletic fabrics to make them look dressier but their still sweat wicking and fast drying just like all your other athletic wear pieces.”

SS: Who is your customer?

MG: “Originally it was someone like me (a working mom). But I’ve gotten interest from runners or athletes who have jobs that allow them to wear active wear all the time and want more options. College girls wanting something they can wear to class but also head to the gym in, and businesswoman who want to wear washable shirts under their suits. Suits are heavy and hot and shirts you traditionally wear under them you have to dry clean and my shirts look exactly like those shirts but they are washable and breathable. It’s interesting to branch out to other customers than I originally thought.”  

SS: I was first introduced to your line at Banyan Tree is there any other retailers that carry your line?

MG: “There is the website, where we launched the brand. You can also find it at Fringe in Chagrin and at Cleveland Yoga.”

SS: Did you have a list of retailers you wanted? And do you only sell in Cleveland or LA as well?

MG: “I made a list of the stores I wanted to get in (locally) and I called three of them (Banyan Tree, Fringe, and Cleveland Yoga) and got into all three. I wanted to make sure I could fulfill the orders and see how things went before I contacted more…. I wanted to test the retail waters here at home and I’m looking to branch out in L.A. soon.”
SS: When I was at the Banyan Tree trunck show you only had a few pieces, was that just for the show or do you have more pieces that you sell online?

MG: For the trunk show we started with six pieces, two pairs of leggings, two tops, and two jackets. We also started with those when we launched the line to test the concept. Initially we had 20 designs but only tested the six and if it worked we knew we would go back to the other designs and make them. We are finishing up development on the others now.”

SS: What are some of those other designs we have to look forward to, if you don't mind me asking?
MG: I’m hoping to develop three more pieces soon, a cap sleeve top, a long sleeve, and a skirt.”

SS: What are your future plans?  Do you see yourself with your own retail space someday?

MG: “Big picture plan, I’d rather have my own manufacturing in house set up in Cleveland. I'd rather see a manufacturing district and be a part of it in Cleveland than have my own store front. You would be surprised, I’ve been meeting a lot of people locally and there is a lot of manufacturing happening here in Cleveland, not as much as LA or New York, but we have the ability. We just need the initiative and an anchor business to keep things going and hopefully I’ll be that business. But I don't see that happening for a while.”  

Photos by: Ashley Shaw

And Styled by Stacy completely agrees! I love my city and I would love to see it grow to its full potential. After sitting down with Mary Grace I felt inspired and excited to meet someone with a passion not only for fashion but, for Cleveland as well. Every time I meet a local maker my pride in my city grows. I’m so glad to present the Athleisure trend to you in a more personal way. I hope to encourage you to always shop local, even if you’re not from Cleveland, and if you're having trouble incorporating the athleisure trend into your wardrobe, check out my three different looks below featuring the Emily Tank from Grace & Ricci to help get you through the weekend with ease!
Friday Night Girls Night Look: With the breathable sweat wicking fabric of the Emily Tank you can dance the night away with the ladies while stay cool and dry!

Saturday Weekend Look: The Emily Tank goes with everything including your favorite pair of leggings. Just add a jacket and this laid back look is perfect for running all your weekend errands!

Sunday Morning Look: Add a cute skirt to the Emily Tank and you have an outfit perfect for Sunday services or brunch with the ladies!

Shop the Emily Tank Here!
Make sure to Follow Grace & Ricci on Instagram @graceandricci
Or find them on line at

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