By Adrie Mendonez
As a woman who hustles hard for her earnings. I always thought to myself, “Why do people spend money on clothes for the gym?”
Personally, when I can convince myself to get to the gym, you’ll see me rolling up in an old blood drive tee and inexpensive leggings and here’s the shocker: I get the same. Exact. Workout. Bonus: I get to prove that I’m a good person in my “I’m a saint, I donated blood” tee (after all, that’s what they’re for, right?) – and here’s the kicker: I have all the more money to spend on clothes, accessories, and beauty products to wear for, well, everything else life entails – where first impressions count.
For those of you who haven’t heard of (or recognized the distinction between) athletic wear and the fastest emerging genre of apparel, “athleisure,” let me break it down for you. Athleisure wear is, allegedly, athletic apparel that serves two purposes. First and foremost, it’s sportswear (can’t argue this) – wear it to the gym with the usual benefits the apparel genre – fitted to accommodate the rigorous workout without loose clothing obstructing your workout routine, fabric elasticity so as to not feel restricted – simultaneously providing ample support, and sponge-like qualities that handle potentially embarrassing sweat stains with fast-acting absorption without making you feel like you’re wearing Saran wrap. And here comes the “wow” factor… athleisure apparel claims to be occasion-appropriate streetwear, making allegations that it possesses the design capabilities to ease one’s transition from working out (or like me, pretending to work out) to everyday activities and casual outings without disrupting the flow of your day or your productivity.
I’m not one to shoot down the theoretically amazing concept that these brands hoped to achieve – in fact, I wanted it to be true. But, unless you want to ease your transition from spin class to Trader Joe’s, and then back home for a nap – I (quite literally) wasn’t buyin’ it. I have fantasized about a world in which I could come from my 9am Vinyasa Flow, run some annoying adulting errands, do a little hair tousle, smack on some lipstick, change my shoes and watch the girls’ jaws drop as I and show up ON TIME for brunch. Pfft. Pipe dream. I will never be on time…. And the only thing athletic wear can transition to grocery shopping, Home Depot, the dog groomer, and a coffee date with a friend who you aren’t the slightest bit attracted to.
So for those who rally with me, brace yourself. I have stumbled upon a designer who has succeeded in designing true athleisure – the Tessla of athletic apparel/athlesuire wear. I introduce you to ESPALIER, a truly innovative emerging brand, that has managed to design a collection that has not only solved a problem I had deemed unsolvable, but has done so with designs that exude elegance, femininity, sophistication, quality, and diversity. Ladies and gentleman, designer Karen Hsieh stuck the landing: combining sportswear, streetwear, underwear, and beachwear, truly addressing the “gym to life” transition – and with quality, comfort, and an aesthetically flirtatious whimsy.
Karen understands the busy women that we are – with the rise of female entrepreneurs, working mothers, motivated students, and has given us the gift of time. With ESPALIER’s collection, we can “move effortlessly from one activity to another,” saving precious moments, (and, uhh, look damn good through it all.) But Karen wasn’t done – she designed her garments with benefits in mind that we didn’t even know possible, but we will henceforth be unable able to live without.
With a whimsical and flirtatious aesthetic, and innovative fabric choices and cuts that flatter the body in a comfortable (that’s right, flattering and comfortable,) fabric changes that hug the body rather than cut off circulation, and – you thought the dual occasion wear was impressive? Try rocking these as bathing suits, bras, and underwear.
All we need is for the next collection to offer is yoga wear that transforms to evening gowns, and socks that turn into Louboutins, and I’m afraid the world won’t need another brand or category of clothing ever again. Well done, Karen. Thank you for ESPALIER.
Lookout for other International Emerging Brands:
Yay Sunshine / @yaysunshine, yaysunshine.co
Beautifully designed sunglasses that cater to those with smaller framed faces. Based out of Sydney Australia, slowly but surely, Faith Smith (founder and designer) has been creeping into the Americas, selling out stock just as soon as it arrives in store. Find these gorgeous sunnies at Love Locked (Jersey City) and ask your favorite boutique to stock them.
vem.ver / @vem.ver, and more Korean fashion at KeyClue
A Seoul based brand who just scored their first US boutique (Vivi Girl Shop in Jersey City.) Vem.ver has a true talent for taking an element that another would call dated and traditional – and putting a whimsical spin to make it their own. Ex: Neutral plaids with whimsical asymmetrical ruffle skirts and a deep plunge; fitted midi skirts swapped from boring polyester with denim and a bit of fringe… typical wear to work blouses (the “Phyllis” blouse,) and incorporating a funky neckline and a youthful print. I’ve had my eye on vem.ver since NYFW SS17 this past Feb when I asked them to be a part of my emerging brand fashion show and with every new collection, it never ceases to amaze how they can still find ways to push boundaries.
Shh by Sadie / @shhbysadie, shhbysadie.com
Based in the UK, this young talent, Sadie Hawker, knows her way around a loom and can put together patterns and color palettes that would make you scoff silently (“wow those colors will never work.”) – but, lo and behold, 18 painstaking hours later – a hand woven customized order drapes across the table, and memorized by the unexpected patterns, colors, and sheer skill – you already are forming an outfit in your head completely based around her creation. Each order is hand woven and customizable to your liking, and its un understatement to say that she has that ‘thing” – taking your half baked ideas, melding them with her own, and creating something you don’t want to take your eyes off.