Inspiration often comes from the most unlikely places.
Lizzie Cochran was a pre-med student at Columbia University in New York City when the idea for women’s activewear brand Epidemia Designs came to her in a biology class, while looking at slides of different cells under a microscope.
“I decided to launch Epidemia because I love science and I wanted to come up with an interesting, creative way of showing the world the awe-inspiring beauty of science,” Cochran, who’s now studying medicine in Dallas, told Sourcing Journal. “During my senior year I noticed that many activewear companies were starting to feature bold prints and bright colors and I loved how the clothing made women feel comfortable standing out. When the concept behind Epidemia came to me, the idea of putting scientific images on everyday apparel, using activewear as our canvas just felt like a natural fit.”
Of course, the path from microscope to prototype to debut collection—called She’s Got It—was not without its bumps.
“It was definitely a long process and one that I could not have made happen without the help of brilliant, patient people who were willing to show me the ropes of the apparel world,” Cochran said, noting that graphic designers helped her turn the microscopic images of muscle and tissue cells into prints that not only retained the details, but also looked good on clothing. “Getting to the final prints for the She’s Got It collection definitely took a lot of time and a lot of back and forth with the designers who we worked with. Then we had to manipulate those images by adjusting their color and creating repeats that could be used to print the fabric.”
Cochran also worked with The Apparel Agency, a solution-based development and production management firm based in Chicago, that helped her through the design and production process, including connecting her with Fox Fabrics in Los Angeles to find fabric that had all the characteristics she wanted.
“They did an amazing job of turning my ideas and ‘must-haves’ (flattering lines, moisture wicking fabric and super functional pockets) into real-life clothing that performs just as I hoped it would,” she said.
More than a selling point
In order to raise the funds for Epidemia’s first collection, the start-up launched a Kickstarter campaign in March 2015 and surpassed its goal of $15,000 within four weeks to reach more than $20,000. She’s Got It was released in July.
“Upon starting Epidemia Designs, I quickly realized that the premise could provide lots of opportunities to make science puns and so set out to create an inaugural line that would communicate our mission as well as being nice and punny,” Cochran explained. “The images in the line feature images of brain cells (She’s Got Brains), nerve cells (She’s Got Nerve), and heart muscle cells (She’s Got Heart).”
For those who prefer more of a monochromatic look while working out, Epidemia also offers two styles of black mesh sports bra, black leggings and black capris, as well as mesh-back tank tops in white or black. Each piece is sewn in Chicago and sizes range from XS to XL. Prices span $29 for tanks to $68 for leggings.
“We chose [Taiwanese company] Wen Feng for the base fabric for our leggings and sports bras because we really like the texture, stretch and wicking characteristics. We went with [South Korea’s] Ducksan for the mesh fabric that is used on the calves of the long leggings and the backs of the sports bras because we really like the texture and the appearance of the mesh,” she explained.
And science is more than a cutesy selling point. Epidemia’s mission is to encourage women and girls pursuing education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). To that end, the brand chose Girlstart as its first-ever donation recipient, granting $5,000 toward the nonprofit’s STEM programming for girls—something Cochran will continue to do as Epidemia grows.
“Girlstart is a great organization that provides summer camps and after-school programs for young girls, mostly middle school aged, that are interested in the sciences. They do an amazing job of making science fun, but not feeling like they have to ‘pink-ify’ it in order to appeal to girls,” Cochran said. “I believe the summer camps and programs they offer can play a huge role in giving kids the confidence and support they need to pursue their dreams.”