Skip to main content

Gymnast-Turned-Designer Finds a Common Ground in Activewear and Jeans

After nearly a decade of designing women’s activewear and denim, Nancy Rose Performance is now in its prime.

With both activewear and denim considered high-growth categories in the covid retail landscape, the brand is strategically positioned for success in 2022. The crossover is a common one for major denim brands like Levi’s, which recently acquired Beyond Yoga to propel it into the activewear space in a move that it estimates will earn it more than $100 million in net revenue in the 2022 fiscal year. However, for Nancy Rose Performance, the reason for merging the two categories was much more personal.

Founder Nancy Rose launched the New York City-based apparel brand in 2012 when she pivoted from training as an Olympic gymnast to pursuing her other passion: fashion. As her family owned a successful juniors’ denim business, she found herself surrounded by fabric swatches, garment samples, wash panels and tape measures throughout her formative years. After attending Parsons School of Design, she took the leap into entrepreneurship and started her own collection.

Nancy Rose of Nancy Rose Performance explained how the shift from activewear to denim helped her business.
Nancy Rose Performance Courtesy

For Rose, it was important that her products reflected her active background and provided relief for the common pain points other active women experienced. For starters, much of the activewear she came across lacked a fashionable component. And when it came to denim, jeans were never as comfortable or form-fitting as gym clothes.

“As a former gymnast, I know how important technical performance is in apparel,” she said. “I was inspired to create a denim collection that had all the same mobility, flexibility, technological upgrades and comfort that our activewear assortment has.”

The brand’s activewear collection, which ranges in price from $29-$115, features high-compression fabric that contours the body and offers anti-microbial properties. When Rose launched denim in 2018, she applied that same concept using Lycra T400 technology for compression and shape retention. The fabric also includes moisture-wicking properties to keep skin cool and dry.

Related Story

Featuring four styles—a mid-rise skinny, a distressed mid-rise skinny, a cropped flare and a jean jacket—the brand’s denim offering delivers the comfort, quality and fit active consumers demand without the excess. The fabric reportedly “lifts, tones and tucks with zero restrictions,” and provides stretch and recovery for maximum mobility. Sizing ranges from 23-30 and XXS-L and the line retails for $98-$118. Though the majority of sales comes through the e-commerce site, apparel is also sold at Pure Barre, Barre 3, Core 72 and Sportec.

Before each style is approved for sale, it’s wear-tested to ensure it meets all of the needs of her active customer base.

“I wanted to provide our consumers with something that they couldn’t find in any other denim collection,” she said. “Our denim has the comfort of leggings but still feels like denim. This is a denim that can move with you as you move through life, giving you an opportunity to elevate the standard of what you know denim to look, feel and move like—while still achieving the highest fashion standards that you would expect.”

Nancy Rose of Nancy Rose Performance explained how the shift from activewear to denim helped her business.
Nancy Rose Performance Courtesy

The brand has taken steps to reduce its environmental impact over the years by eliminating harsh chemicals and pumice stones in the washing process and recycling more water. “Our goal is to be as sustainable as possible when it comes to our manufacturing processes and the products that we are creating,” Rose said.

The label’s commitment to ethical business practices extends to its community support initiatives, which include donations to the Covenant House, a nonprofit that provides shelter, food and immediate crisis care to homeless and runaway youth. Women’s empowerment is another top focus for the brand, which it demonstrates in the form of three bars stitched into each item, representing “the woman you are, the woman you will become and the women you will affect along the way.”

The brand recently branched into men’s with a T-shirt offering under the label “Thorn,” which donates a part of its proceeds to Connected Warriors, a nonprofit that supports veterans. In 2019, Rose also donated garments at an estimated retail value of over $100,000 to the nonprofit to further support the community.

Rose stated that 2022 will see more of the same, with a laser focus on enhancing the quality of her existing assortment.

“I intend to continue to create cutting edge and unique fabrics to give our collection the technology to deliver high quality garments,” she said. “Consumers will continue to find the unique fashion details that I infuse into every piece in our collections.”