This week we chatted with Judy Lei, Creative Director of Light Activewear. Light Activewear is a company created by Judy and her sister Michelle Lei. When these sisters converted to hot yoga years ago, they knew it was love at first sweat. Although they looked and felt fabulous after each session, the quest for that perfect yoga outfit was never fulfilled. The Sisters Lei vowed to set out and create the highest quality active wear apparel by infusing fashion-forward designs with high-tech, functional materials. Read on to find out more about their entrepreneurial journey.
VCB: How did you come to start your business?
The idea started back when I was studying fashion design in Los Angeles. I’ve injured my lower back quite badly moving out of student housing and doing my pattern drafting homework on the floor (don’t do it! It’s really bad for your back!) A friend of mine suggested that I take up Bikram Yoga with her, and with just 2 weeks of practice I was walking upright like a normal person! Back in Vancouver – Michelle (my sister and & partner in crime) also started her practice in Bikram Yoga. We both fell in love with this intense practice pretty much right away. When I moved back to Vancouver we continued our rigorous practice but was unable to find, in our minds, the perfect clothing for this hot and humid environment. So we just decided to just start something of our own, by fusing our two great passions – yoga and clothes!
VCB: How is Light Activewear different from other athletic wear companies?
I would say that what we pride ourselves greatly in is the materials that we use. We are so fortunate enough to work directly with a fabric manufacturer, this allows us to develop a specific type of fabric from scratch. This type of working relationship takes years for a typical business to materialize, and for us this gives us a strong advantage that our fabric is so specialized. It is *exactly* what we wanted and what we ask for. And because our company is so small, we are able to take feedback from our clients and implement them as soon as we can. We see Light Activewear as a company that is always growing and always trying to improve our products.
VCB: What has been the most challenging thing about starting your own business?
That you have to get used to having people say no to you. You’ve got to take that as just a bump in the road, dust yourself off and get back on the horse. It’s not easy, actually it is quite hard! As cliche as this may sound, you just can’t give up. We couldn’t, because we just can’t imagine us doing anything else!
VCB: What were you doing before you started your business?
Other than school, I went through a numerous part-time jobs. I’ve always wanted to work for myself because my own vision is so strong. Probably that’s why I was never able to stay at a position for too long
VCB: What does Light Activewear mean to you?
Everything! It is proof that myself and everyone else are capable of living the life and doing what they love to do! I am a strong believer that you should do what you love – otherwise it’s called soul-killing.
VCB: Where would you like to see your business 5 years from now?
I would love to see Light Activewear in a nice office! Michelle and I are both strong advocates for building a company that possesses a positive working environment. This was another reason why we wanted to start our own company. We feel that somewhere along the line, this priority has been forgotten. We want our team to be excited about going to work (for the majority of times!) I’m also big on group/team building activities. It’ll be a blast!
VCB: What is the most unique thing about your business?
That like us, it is always changing and growing. I’ve recently started taking up pole fitness classes and am so happy to put to the test the level of diversity Light Activewear products are capable of accomplishing. We make our own rules, and we learn things (lots of things!) as we go along. Whatever new adventure we decide to take on, we’re always coming from a place of ‘why not?’
VCB: Tell us a little more about your ‘Darla’ jacket. Will you be making more eco-friendly clothing?
The Darla Jacket is made out of recycled polyester material! The fabrication actually comes from reusing plastic containers and making them into wearable material. Also because we only use black plastic containers this cuts out the dying process – So it’s not as harmful to the environment AND it helps reduce waste! We’re so excited about this, and of course we’ll be coming out with more sustainable material styles! The reason why it took us a while to get here is because we want our clothes to be durable. I can’t say much about everyone else, but I don’t really have time to hand wash all my work out gear 😛
VCB: We think your designs are extremely sexy! What inspires you?
Honestly I take inspiration from everything! Music, architecture, animals, nature, whatever I feel like inspires me at that moment. I’m very graphic design oriented, and I’m in love with all sorts of geometric shapes. Especially ones that make us girls look awesome, am I right? 😀
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