5 Amazing Canadian Yoga Wear Brands (That Aren’t Lululemon)
Look great on and off the mat with these Canadian yoga brands.
The hottest yoga wear in Canada
Wear something from Lululemon and you get hooked. It just performs so well — and looks fantastic. But while the Vancouver success story still corners the market, there’s a second wave of Canadian-designed athletic fashion brands finding their own niches to keep us looking and feeling good both on the mat and off. Some have retail stores, while others sell their creations online only. Here are some of Canada’s trendiest yoga wear brands.
Canadian yoga wear: Lolë
The name, which stands for “Live Out Loud Everyday,” was hatched by Evelyn Trempe and huband Éric D’Anjou, who had launched the ski apparel brand Orage in 1989. In 2000, they noticed an opportunity in the outdoor market. “The clothing at that time was very masculine,” says Trempe, 46. “It was all about performance and not look.” She knew they could make more fashion forward high-tech clothes for women.
Two years later, Lolë was launched. The company used its contacts at Sporting Life in Canada and REI in the U.S. to get the line onto store shelves.
Today, Lolë puts out around 350 styles a year, including yoga basics but also outerwear and dresses. In 2010, Trempe and her team launched the first Atelier Lolë store in Montreal. Now there are over 50 — most of them in Canada, with several in France and the U.S. They also sell at many other retailers and online.
Trempe continues to push for what she considers Lolë’s key principles: technical sophistication, femininity, versatility and comfort. As an avid skier, cyclist and runner, she ensures the company is creating fashions for women like herself. “We really want women to feel good inside and out.”
Canadian yoga wear: Karma Athletic
When the latest designs show up at Karma Athletic’s Vancouver office, the company’s staff members all gather to comment on the new round of leggings, tanks and jackets. “It’s a very collaborative company,” says Kim Gosteli, 44, director of sales, marketing and digital.
While Karma has been around since 2004, it was formerly a small hot-yoga apparel company. In 2011, the company was relaunched with new leadership and a commitment to create a truly made-in-Canada, fashion-forward brand of yoga wear. Gosteli, design director MelEesa Lorett, 31 and product line manager Libby Vance work as a team to run the day-to-day operations of the company. (According to Gosteli, CEO Conrad Tappert deliberately lets the trio be the public face of the company.) Their quest: Reinvent the brand into a high-fashion-inspired line that women will want to wear for fitness and for fashion.
Lorett stays on top of athletic fabric science and runway trends, while Vance monitors the Vancouver factory where the clothes are made. Meanwhile, Gosteli works with retailers — you can find Karma in independent stores and fitness studios across Canada, as well as at Nordstrom and Pure Barre studios in the U.S.
Canadian yoga wear: Titika
When Toronto-based personal trainer Susan Bosley wanted a thin-strapped workout top with a built-in bra, she suggested it to her favourite brand, Titika Active Couture. As one of the company’s so-called “advocates,” she offers feedback and promotes the line. A few months later, the Susan Tank was for sale in Titika’s retail and online stores.
Fast, flexible and fun: That’s what this Toronto-based brand is about. Titika’s owner, Eileen Zhang, now 37, first started working with Courtney Brooke, 30, while both were studying fashion business at George Brown College. Upon graduating in 2009, Zhang decided to do an athletic-wear line, and Brooke soon came on board to handle marketing and branding. The name came from Zhang’s son, William, who, one day, was dancing and singing “Ti-ti-ka! Ti-ti-ka!” She hoped the brand would have that much zest and energy.
Zhang had products ready and in a few studios that same year. A location soon became available in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood, and she decided to open her own storefront. Zhang reached out to contacts in her native Hong Kong to set up a small factory there, which allows her to retain control over the manufacturing process. The company releases new items every few weeks. A capri pant may appear one week with additional lace or a ruffle on the bottom; a hoodie may get a different treatment from month to month with different fabrics.
Along with a brisk online business, the company operates five stores in Ontario.
Canadian yoga wear: Michi
If you were in New York City in the spring of 2010 and were working out all the time, you might have run into the most fashionable Canadian fitness buff in town, Michelle Watson. The designer had just left a job creating sportswear for Ralph Lauren – she’d already designed for Donna Karan and Kate Spade since arriving in NYC in 2004 to study fashion – and was now testing out her own line, Michi. “I wanted to make stuff that was more creative. It’s hard to do that with a big company,” says Watson, 35.
After testing her custom-designed pieces during dance, yoga and martial arts classes, she came out with a small line that focused on undergarments. No one, she felt, was making a bra that was comfortable and looked great, yet still offered good support and shape.
Watson and her sexy products got media attention right away, even before the collection hit stores in Canada and the U.S. “I was lucky. I didn’t have time to do any public relations, but bloggers and the media found me through my website.”
That summer, Watson decided to move back to Toronto, where she now manufactures her line of clothing. She rents office space in one of the factories where her clothing is made, partly so that she can help the sewers handle the intricate use of lace and mesh on the pieces. The factory employees make the clothes, but Watson runs the company herself with no other staff.
These days, the line includes superhero and lingerie-inspired leggings, jackets, bras and tops. To Watson, it’s the combination of design, detail and fabric that makes the pieces work outside of the gym, too. She says: “When you wear Michi on an airplane to be comfortable, it looks like you dressed up for your flight.”
Canadian yoga wear: TerraFrog
“You have extra large, honey; no one has extra large!” cried actress Yvette Nicole Brown when she first spied TerraFrog Clothing Corp’s Pop Bottle Hoodie. The curvy American actress, from TV’s Community, along with a number of other Hollywood types discovered the Alberta-based label when entrepreneurial sisters Cori and Bobbi Windsor attended an Emmy party last fall. Their success there further entrenched the five-year-old company’s unique appeal: great-fitting athletic clothes in all sizes.
The brand came about in 2007 when they spent a leave together – Cori was doing her master’s degree in nursing and Bobbi was on a maternity leave with her second child and doing her master’s in education. That’s when they realized they could not find good-quality, Canadian-made workout gear that covered their long arms and torsos (Cori, 42, is five-foot-nine, and Bobbi, 44, is six-feet). Although they had no fashion experience, they started making drawings, sourcing fabrics – particularly eco-friendly ones like bamboo – and working with an experienced pattern maker to realize their ideas. A year later, they had their first line, made at factories in Alberta and Ontario, and started selling online. “We wanted to take it slow, get our feet wet,” says Cori. Soon retailers started contacting them, and TerraFrog is now sold in many stores across Canada and the U.S.
The early designs were quite funky, but the sisters now stick to their top-selling basics: sturdy workout jackets, mid-rise bottoms and carefully fitted tanks.