With the world sports apparel industry expected to exceed $126 billion by 2015 (source: Global Industry Analysts), it’s no surprise that new companies are flooding the market while established brands add “active” categories to their lines to try to grab a piece of the yoga-pants pie (I’m looking at you, Forever21, Victoria’s Secret and Anthropologie).
But while workout clothing companies are seemingly a dime a dozen these days, there is still the occasional new kid on the block that’s worth a second look — especially when they come highly-recommended from your former high school running teammate who is now a professional triathlete (thanks for the heads up, Terra Castro!).
So without further ado, let me introduce you to DDCC, a women’s activewear line designed by Diana Mitchell and manufactured in the heart of my neck of the woods, San Francisco. DDCC’s chic and functional lifestyle/workout apparel is engineered for a sleek, flattering fit — for adventurers and athletes of all sorts.
I sat down with Diana to get the lowdown on her line, along with details on the Kickstarter campaign she’s running for her Spring 2014 collection:
Source: Julie Englemann and Kelly Pullio photography
KineticFix: DDCC stands for “Dirty Diana’s Clean Clothes;” is there a story behind the name?
Diana Mitchell: Of course! A nickname I had growing up that I couldn’t stand was “Dirty Diana,” so I decided to own it, and Dirty Diana’s Clean Clothes was born. I’ve since grown to love it; it reminds me to not take things too seriously and to have fun in life. I strongly believe that all of the best things in life — hiking, camping, eating ice cream — are the ones where you end up a little dirty, and having beautiful clothing to support that lifestyle is my goal.
Source: Julie Englemann and Kelly Pullio photography
KF: What was the inspiration for starting your own line of activewear?
DM: I launched DDCC with three women’s hoodies. San Francisco is a big hoodie town, and I thought I was making clothing for every day wear. I started to see my friends and customers using the hoodies for running, however, and was constantly asked if I was making activewear. Around this time I not only got a new roommate who was training to become a yoga instructor, but I also started a part-time job at a cycling apparel company. Suddenly I was surrounded by active people, which inspired me to start my path towards fitness. After leaving that job I decided to make clothing that would support this new lifestyle and inspire other women to work out, as well.
KF: Tell us about the mission behind DDCC.
DM: A lot of activewear companies have mantras like “Nourish, envision, believe, etc…” We see these words over pictures of perfect women who only have time for running and doing juice cleanses, all by themselves with headphones on. DDCC offers a more realistic and balanced approach to fitness. It aspires to promote an active lifestyle through fostering a sense of friendship and community. My fitness routine started because I had friends who invited me to run, bike and do yoga. I am happier and healthier, and now I invite other friends to work out. I want to show women that exercise doesn’t have to be a boring task with unattainable goals. Incorporating exercise into our social lives enables us to find the time and energy to practice fitness and self care.
KF: Can you walk us through your idea — from conception to completion of the line?
DM: I started developing the line in February, when I began my residency in the Fashion Incubator San Francisco (FiSF). I wanted to create a full line that allowed women to incorporate activewear into layered outfits that would go from brunch, to yoga, to the store, to the beach, etc. The line started with 15 pieces, which the mentors at the FiSF helped me refine into an 11-piece collection. I knew I wanted the line to be sleek and fitted, and to reflect a more sophisticated, San Francisco aesthetic. The charcoal and black color blocking came about because I wanted something that was neutral and could be worn with many different outfits, but was more interesting than plain black. The tops, cover-ups and outerwear pieces not featured on the Kickstarter all merchandise with the active collection to take you from one activity to the next.
KF: How is DDCC different/better than other brands?
DM: DDCC stands apart in its aesthetic, fit and quality. It’s sleek and fun, without being boring black or bright neon. As a designer and patternmaker who struggles with her own body issues, I engineer each garment to fit and flatter real women’s bodies. Waistbands are anti-muffin top and smooth out love handles so you feel confident in the tanks. Lines are uplifting and slimming, and subtle details like the satin straps and bra zipper make it fashionable and functional. By manufacturing in San Francisco I am deeply involved in the production process, ensuring a higher quality and standard of activewear.
KF: Why did you decide to take to Kickstarter to raise funds for the project?
DM: Since the mission of the brand is to foster friendship and community, it seems only natural to launch through a crowd-funding campaign. Kickstarter has allowed me to tell my story to the world and to find like-minded people from all over. I have supporters from England, Germany and Singapore who would have otherwise never known about DDCC. It’s amazing to see the community come together to support the brand and the mission.
KF: How has the feedback been on your collection thus far?
DM: It has been overwhelmingly positive. Women are so excited to have apparel that is fitted, functional and super-cute! I’ve also had boyfriends and husbands buy the line for their ladies, either because they want to treat them to quality activewear, or because they’re excited to see them work out in something attractive. The two most popular [items on Kickstarter] have been the V-Capri and the Fly Girl, which is the V-Tank/V-Capri combo. I have had positive response for the pants from the plus sized community, too, and have been asked to design a sports bra that is friendlier for the busty ladies. I’ve also been asked if I’m thinking of designing any men’s activewear. These are all ideas I am taking into consideration as I start designing my next line.
KF: Speaking of Fall 2014, what can we expect?
DM: I’ve had a lot of taller women ask me for a full legging, so that is definitely in the works! I’m working with some beautiful new colors (think purple), and am experimenting with some looser tanks and cover-ups. I’ve also been working with a 100-percent-milled-in-California Tencel, which is a luxurious and resilient fabric made from eucalyptus trees. It has the wicking properties of polyester and the breathability of cotton. I am in love with it!
KF: Switching gears — there’s been a lot of buzz about ‘thigh gap’ and the effect that body shape has on the wear and tear of activewear. What’s your stance/philosophy on the subject?
DM: I go back and forth. While yoga pants are never going to be as durable as jeans, I think if you’re paying $100 a pop you should expect a lot more! I recently took a picture of my V-Capri next to a competitor’s brand after running in both. I do not have thigh gap. The competitor’s brand showed significant pilling in the inner thigh region, while the V-Capri looked good as new.
As it turns out, both fabrics are supplex, and both come from the same company. The difference is that the competitor’s brand is “brushed,” which literally means the surface is brushed to give it a softer feel. Think of sweatshirt fleece, which is French terry that has been brushed on one side. The brushing creates a “yummy” feel, giving the product more hanger appeal, but it also degrades the quality of the fibers and leads to pilling. For my collection, I chose the unbrushed supplex, because it feels just as good on, but lasts a lot longer.
People expect a lot from their yoga pants — they want them to feel as soft as cotton, wick sweat away from their body, make their butt look fantastic, and last a long time. Even a great pair of jeans, which will probably undergo a lesser beating than a pair of yoga pants, has its lifetime. So I would say we should be realistic when we buy our activewear. If you can’t afford to replace your yoga pants every few months, make better choices, and buy from brands that you know build products that last.
KF: Agreed! So where do you DDCC going from here?
DM: My goal is for DDCC continue to grow, to become a staple in the activewear industry and to work towards a sustainable model using organic and eco-friendly materials. I would love to continue this idea of motivating others towards fitness though sponsoring races and other active events. Most of all, I hope to eventually pay back everyone who has helped get me to this point, and to give back to the community by providing jobs in the USA.
Want to help Diana make her Spring 2014 line a reality? Click here to make a pledge via Kickstarter!