First of all, thank you so much to your comments, emails, texts, and love for the 5th year of the JGB. I am blushing and so appreciate it all– thank you so much, and most of all, thank you for reading and letting me be in your life! On to today’s post…
I spend half my life in fitness clothes — or at least, a big chunk of my morning — and therefore, like to be dressed in high performance (makes you run faster, right?) and cute (makes you hotter, right?) gear. So when I came across the fitness clothing site, Evolve Fit Wear, I was incredibly happy. AND THEN WHEN I FOUND OUT that the owner and creator of Evolve, Kyla Smith, is a blog follower (#humbled), I jumped at the opportunity to interview her. I love digging into people’s business and seeing what makes them tick and operate. Kyla is a strong entrepreneur who created an e-commerce fitness website from scratch. Take a look — what an inspiration!
You started Evolve in 2006 in pop up shops in gyms in LA. The athletic wear industry looked quite different 10 years ago — what items still resonate with your customers of today?
Actually the activewear landscape has changed so much, I’m having a hard time trying to remember one brand that did well back then that we still sell! There wasn’t a ton of brands 10 years ago like there is now. Brazilian workout clothing was very popular with embellishments and designs on them. They were really thick material and more people did the “matching thing” where their tops matched the bottoms with the exact print or design. Also, everyone used to be crazy about bootcut pants! The brands we sold a lot of were Bia Brazil, Brazil Sol and Body Language. Also, another really hot brand we sold to the yogis was OmGirl, who is no longer in business unfortunately. Beyond Yoga is probably one of our oldest brands that we sell on the website that still sells like crazy today! They make awesome staple pieces and I personally own about 10 pairs of their Essential Long Legging!
How did you know that selling athletic wear was going to be your future career? What type of buzz around fitness wear made you want to sacrifice everything to go for it?
When I have a new workout outfit I feel on top of the world. I would see that in other people when they would put on a new pair of sexy yoga pants. I’ve always loved working in the clothing world, but activewear is so much more rewarding because customers are health-minded and active. Plus a new workout outfit doesn’t just make them feel sexy, it motivates them to remain fit and active. My full-time job when I started Evolve was I was a sales rep for a footwear company called Earth Shoes. I sold to both small retail stores and big commerce like Nordstroms and Zappos. I witnessed seeing my smaller brick and mortar stores struggling and ended up closing, and the e-commerce ones thriving and tripling their sales every year. I knew if I wanted to be in business it would be in the online space. Plus I was already obsessed with activewear so I just put the two together!
And then you moved to Portland five years ago… why the move?
I actually stopped selling in the gyms a year or so before I left LA and Evolve was already strictly online. My full-time job was really demanding and it was hard to do both on the weekends. I decided on Portland because my dad lives here and was diagnosed with cancer so I wanted to be closer to him to be close to him and help out where I could (he’s healthy and doing great right now). Plus I was getting in my late 20’s and was craving a city where I could plant my roots, have a house with a backyard and do domestic things like grow my own veggies! 🙂
Do you think of yourself more as a fitness lover or a fashion lover?
Fitness all the way! Unless it involves yoga pants, I don’t really care that much about what is “in style” or keeping up with what is trendy. I dress according to the versatility and functionality of clothing, so I’ll have literally 4 pairs of the same one-color pant because I love the way they make me feel.
Do you wear your workout gear all day everyday? What is your personal favorite workout outfit, (I imagine it is a mixture of every brand, so please state the brand, too)
People are shocked at the office if I’m not wearing yoga clothes. I pretty much wear yoga pants, sports bra and a pullover everyday of the week with some boots or sneakers. I have so many clothes, so it is hard to pick one outfit but my staple uniform is a pair of printed leggings from Teeki with a workout bra from Onzie, tank top from Spiritual Gangster and then layered with a pullover from Joah Brown. I do hot yoga afterwork so I literally just take my pullover off and Im ready to sweat!
How do you find the different brands that you carry on your website?
The past few years we now get a lot of inbound emails with peoples line sheets so it is nice that they just come to our inbox! We also find a lot of new brands thru Instagram and social media, plus going to different trade shows throughout the year.
Who is your main customer? What are they like? What is their fitness routine?
Our main customer lives in their yoga pants. They may be a work-at-home mom who literally wears yoga clothes all day long or a woman who goes to the office with a pair of basic leggings, dress shirt and flats. Her yoga leggings have replaced what used to be jeans or a skirt, which has become way more acceptable to wear to work and way more comfy. Most of our customers are into yoga- its so rewarding both physically and mentally!
What is your number one selling item on the website? Both in terms of product (leggings vs sports bra) and brand?
We sell leggings 2 to 1 (versus any bra or top). Whats always blows my mind that we constantly sell sooo many of are the Falling Gold Lights from Goldsheep. People go crazy over them!
Where do you see your company in the next couple of years? I read that you are starting swim and menswear, what else are you hoping to do (brick and mortar store? your own line?)
Yeah, swim and mens are big growing categories for us! We will also be launching our own line of activewear mid next year! We are also launching a content site that is full of free workouts, routines, recipes and videos to motivate our customers towards a healthy lifestyle! I’m super excited about the workout site, it is really fun to work with yogis and trainers in our photo studios all the time.
What makes your e-commerce site different than your competition? Anything strikingly different? What makes customers come back?
I think our customers keep returning to us because we don’t treat them like customers, we treat them like we would a friend. We actually have this as our motto in our office “Treat our customers like you treat your friends”. We are just as quick to tell customers not to get something as we would to buy something. I think customers also like that we have 360-videos wearing the products and tons of information on measurements and how an item would fit. Plus on our site we don’t photoshop the photos (which we get a lot of emails thanking us that we don’t).