Canadian fitness apparel brand champions body positivity

May 10 2021, 12:53 pm

Finding fitness apparel that’s functional, stylish, and comfortable can be a challenge if you’re looking at brands that take a one-size-fits-all approach to design.

Vancouver-based designer Selene Dior realized this after being a competitive swimmer for over 15 years. When she was in grade 11, she stepped down from swimming competitively and took courses to become a lifeguard.

“My family couldn’t afford it,” Dior tells Daily Hive. “I became a lifeguard, and lifeguards make pretty good money. I was helping out my mom that way.”

After discovering how ill-fitting swimwear impacted swimmers, she imagined there had to be something on the market that was fashionable and durable.

“I looked on Pinterest, and I couldn’t find anything,” she says. At this point, in the summer of 2016, Dior decided she would start designing her own swimwear and build a community in which women could support one another. By December 2016, the then 18-year-old brought Vitae Apparel to life.

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Dior, now the brand’s CEO, describes her road to entrepreneurship as a “rollercoaster.”

During the first and second year of business, she was handling everything from sketching to designing to customer service, packing, and social media herself — all while working part-time as a lifeguard.

“It was tough. It was a grind, and it was a hustle, and I just never gave up,” she says. “And at the time, I finished my first term at UBC. I didn’t like it, so I quit school altogether.”

After another two years of building Vitae Apparel alongside her part-time job, she hired her first employee. Today, the company is a team of seven in-house, all of whom are women. With the help of her team, Dior can now take designs from sketches to the finished product within roughly six months.

The design process, Dior says, involves a lot of back and forth with the manufacturer, ensuring the fabric is right — something that’s salient to the designer.

“We’re always innovating, trying to be more sustainable and finding new technology and new fabrics to have them [garments] fit women better because our brand is all about promoting different body types.”

Dior hopes that when women dress in Vitae Apparel, they can feel confident and “love their body, no matter what they’re wearing.” This, she says, coupled with her mission to create more styles and sizes to cater to all women, keeps her going and motivated in her work.

When asked about other designers she looks up to, Dior cites Girlfriend Collective for their sustainability and representation of all women, ages, and body types.

When it comes to planning a collection, Dior tells us the colour palette and its cohesiveness is a key factor, along with paying attention to trends and what celebrities are wearing.

“It’s really important to always think of new styles and new colours and see what the trend is for this year. Before brown became a thing, we were already planning to launch brown sweat sets, and they sold out pretty much right away.”

Last year, the brand launched swimwear made from recycled plastic bottles, and more recently, resistance bands to help give customers access to fitness equipment and assist them in achieving their overall wellness goals.

Since the pandemic hit, Dior and her team have kept their community connected, hosting Instagram live workouts, meditation sessions, and virtual yoga classes led by influencers. They also run a private Facebook group, where members can ask advice about health, fitness, mental health, and “any advice really,” says Dior.

“I think it’s really important for a brand to have a community because not only are they your most loyal customers, they are also always there to provide you with feedback for a product or ideas.”

Outside of the online space, Vitae Apparel has donated over 30,000 masks to local healthcare facilities and ran several donation campaigns. Dior also recently partnered with Olivia Canlas, CEO of meowbox, to launch a Women in Business Startup Competition.

The successful female leaders wanted to give back to the community by funding this competition, supporting the winning candidates in developing their entrepreneurial skills while offering mentorship and helping them get a jump start on growing their businesses.

As we come to the end of our conversation, Dior notes that many fast fashion brands still have work to do in promoting all body types and ethnicities. “I think more brands should showcase that. We hope to set an example for small brands that are coming up to be able to showcase that as well.”

To learn more about Vitae Apparel and shop the brand’s latest collection with 15% off, visit vitaeapparel.com.

 

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Catriona HughesCatriona Hughes

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