The collection was really born out of a personal need. I danced growing up, taking studio ballet and jazz and performing and competing with my high school's poms squad. I sadly lost touch with my regular dance schedule when I went to design school, and it wasn't until a few years after graduating college, working as a fashion designer, and moving to NYC that I reconnected with dance, now as a workout and outlet for creative expression. I was having a really difficult time finding functional, modern activewear that suited my personal aesthetic. Everything was neon + wild prints, and I wanted something more feminine, more subtle, more effortless. I couldn't find it in the marketplace, so I decided to make it.
With my design background, it was natural for me to start with a mood board. It represented the color, aesthetic, and details I had in mind, but also the real essence of the brand. You have to decide who you are and what you stand for, and this informs every single decision you make, from how you present your brand online, to who you work with, to what you make, sell, and provide. It’s important to have something to anchor you to that vision from the beginning and steer you accordingly.
From there it was slow and steady. I started sketching the line, really honing in on the most important pieces to launch with. I found the perfect ballet pink. I scoured the market for the best materials, and while I stayed true to the vision, I allowed myself to be flexible and always inspired, making adjustments as I discovered new trims and ideas. I sampled, fit, corrected, wear tested over a number of months, allowing myself the time to really get the product perfect.
I love New York more than I can explain and certainly more than I ever imagined. I’m not a native, but I’ve been here for 10 years, and in that time, I have experienced so much wonder, learning, growth, opportunity, and adversity. It has truly shaped me as an individual and as a designer. The energy is contagious, where you’re surrounded by so many people that are here to chase their dreams.
This city is in our brand DNA. We live here, dream here, build here. We photograph our clothing on dancers from the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, and Juilliard. We buy our trims from mom and pop shops in the garment district, and we work with a decades-old family owned and run factory.
That’s the romantic side of it. From a practical side, working with a factory in the city is much more accessible for a small, bootstrapping company. We don’t have an extravagant budget for overseas travel, but we do have a metrocard! Our factory supports us as a small and growing business, and they allow us to work with smaller production runs (sometimes as small as 25 or 50 pieces!). It does increase the prices of our product, but with that comes higher quality and more attention to detail, and that aligns with our mission to provide something really special.
Lastly, but possibly most importantly, we are glad to have a reduced environmental impact with our development and production. We don’t have that all figured out yet – we do still import some of our materials – but we are able to minimize our footprint by avoiding the overseas travel, frequent international shipments of samples, and more. Again, there’s more we can do, but we feel good about the small impact we’re having.
I am thrilled to have connected with Dancewear Corner and to share my brand and story with you! Thank you for the opportunity and for your support of Belle Force!