MICHI Talks: How to launch a successful activewear brand
Born in NYC and hailing from Toronto, MICHI puts the glamour into activewear, with its iconic mesh cut-outs, sheer panels, and flattering, feminine fit. We spent five minutes grilling the founder and CEO Michelle Watson…
What inspired you to launch MICHI back in 2010?
I was on the design team at RLX Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lauren's high end sports line) in New York and was working out frequently at the gym while noticing a lack of stylish options for activewear clothing. Everyone looked like a clone in the gym as they wore yoga clothes for all activities!
So how did you bring the brand to life?
I started designing MICHI in New York in my small and sweaty apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I sewed all the samples myself throughout a hot summer without air conditioning and wear tested them doing a variety of workouts. I couldn't find any specialised activewear manufacturing in New York so I soon relocated the company to Toronto, Canada for the excellent manufacturing.
The line started with bras and leggings in mostly black and dark coloured Nylon Spandex. While those styles are still our bread and butter today, the collection has evolved to include an array of performance activewear, loungewear, swim and athleisure layering pieces. We offer a lot more colours, textures and prints than when we started and we do our best to keep expanding while focusing on our customer's core needs.
MICHI sometimes blurs the lines between performance and provocation – tell us about the inspiration behind these designs?
When I started MICHI I was inspired by super heroines, pin-up girls and the 90’s European designers, but I always kept the end use of sport in mind. Before starting the line, I wished there were more opportunities to wear strappy bras, bustiers, and high waisted leggings. so I decided to incorporate those ideas into activewear, which was something that I need to wear every day at the gym.
Since I liked to push myself in the gym, function was mandatory for me and it was really important to have very functional and stylish workout clothes. Our styles are very thought out to stay true to our design aesthetics but also to ensure the products are high performance and extremely comfortable.
MICHI certainly addressed a gap in the activewear market. Do you think there's anything missing in the women's activewear market right now?
At this point the activewear market feels very saturated, with every brand jumping on the bandwagon. But I think there is something for everyone. There is always more room for something new and different than what is already available. I’m trying to figure that out myself.
You are the pioneer of mesh cut-outs in activewear, something many others have since tried to copy. How do you continue to stay ahead of the crowd?
I wear MICHI every day to work and then for my workout. This means I am constantly wear testing, thinking of great ways to style it in and out of the gym and thinking about how to make it better. I also travel as much as I can and research the industry to stay inspired. When I come up with new designs I aim to do things that no one else is doing and always be different. Since we’re a smaller company we can move faster to get the product into the market if we have new ideas too.
So who is the 'MICHI girl'?
The MICHI girl is strong, cool, and confident. She is health conscious and leads an active lifestyle but has a creative or artistic side too. She’s always on the go while working towards a goal. She’s probably busy celebrating her latest victory in some kind of competition, whether it’s a dance or an athletic competition, a 30-day yoga challenge, a successful win at work, mastering a difficult recipe or achieving a personal goal.
The MICHI girl doesn’t just practice yoga. She sprints, does chin-ups, dances, figure skates, paddle boards or does martial arts. She’s not boring and likes to mix up her workout routine as well as her lifestyle choices. She embodies strength, confidence and uniqueness. The MICHI girl doesn’t just set goals and forget about them; she follows through and knocks them out of the park.
Your hometown? Calgary, Canada
Dream destination? Indonesia
Favourite way to sweat? Dancing
Favourite way to chill out? Getting a massage
Favourite MICHI outfit to workout in? The Summit high waist legging in Olive with the Plunge Bra, Amp Tank and the Flash Jacket in White Python.
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