Kia Phillips and Nekol Gaskins are the founders of Glamourina, an athleisure line devoted to women of all body types and skin tones. Their products can be found at glamourina.com and at pop-up events, including one at Sassy Nail Spa on May 25.
What led you to found Glamourina?
Kia Phillips: I had Glamourina as a blog I was running several years ago. Probably in 2015, I approached Nekol about taking Glamourina from a blog to something else. We threw around some ideas about creating a clothing line and settled on creating an athletic line. We think women of color are highly underrepresented in the athletic market, so we wanted to create an apparel line that represents who we are, our culture, and also be able to motivate women of color to lead healthier, active lifestyles.
How do you go about designing your clothes, and what inspires you?
Nekol Gaskins: Each year we set up time to think about what colors we’re interested in, what prints. When we’re thinking about it, of course we’re going with culturally inspired prints, like the kente or different ankara prints inspired by Africa. We’re geared toward what looks good on every body type, so it’s important to us to create a collection that looks good on all shapes, sizes, and skin tones. That’s one of the most important things we look for when we’re designing a new collection.
What are your most popular items?
KP: Definitely the leggings. Our first collection, we launched in 2017, and that was leggings and sports bras. Our leggings are made of great, high quality material, it keeps everything in place, it’s not too loose or soft or see through. You can bend down, lunge, and they don’t start riding down. You can wash them several times and the color doesn’t fade, the structure doesn’t get lost.
Are there certain patterns and prints that are more popular?
NG: There’s two types of women: one that’s bold and fearless and wants something that stands out, like the most colorful. Then you have your women who like to be more neutral. With each collection, we try to offer both options. They all sell pretty much on the same level, and I think it’s because we consider both types. A lot of people know us for our prints and it’s one of the things that stands out about our brand.
How do your garments get made?
KP: Nekol and I design the pieces, and through a lot of research and trial and error we found a manufacturer that mass produces the pieces from China. We have been fortunate enough to find the same manufacturer that Adidas uses. We did look at some manufacturers that are in the United States, and unfortunately the cost to manufacture the same number of pieces is five times more than doing it in another country. We send them our designs, our fabric choices, everything that we create here. Then they send us samples first, then once we go through the sample process and approve, then they mass-produce the pieces for us.
You sell in stores, in pop-ups, and online. Are some methods more challenging?
NG: The pop-ups for me are the best because we actually get to meet our customers, see them in person, hear their actual reactions. I think the pop-ups are most effective in trying to introduce us as designers to our customers.
KP: I 100% agree. The pop-up shops work well for us. They’re definitely great for people in the D.C., Maryland, Baltimore area. And the website is a great additional tool for those outside those areas. We have customers overseas. Essence magazine created an online marketplace, so our pieces are on that, and that has helped expand brand awareness. Having pieces in stores in California, sometimes that’s more challenging, just trying to keep up with the inventory.
You’ve said that you want your clothes to be worn all day, not just at the gym but for running errands or hanging around the house. Would you ever expand into something besides activewear?
NG: I think Kia and I have both identified the activewear market as our market. I don’t think we’d expand outside of activewear. We might introduce some pieces more on the leisure side that are still activewear.
What can we expect to see from Glamourina next?
KP: We’re not really looking to expand to other apparel that isn’t athleisure, but possibly a men’s line. Maybe a kids’ line, to have a matching set. Nekol and I are both mothers of young daughters, so we’re very much aware of body consciousness and body positivity. We want to really showcase those things, so expanding to have interns and young girls come on board so that we can show them that it’s possible to have a dream and create something and build your own business. We definitely want to mentor as well as expand our brand. We tell people, we’re not trying to be the next Nike or Lululemon or anything like that. We’re just trying to provide these functional, affordable pieces that you can’t find anywhere else.