Athleisure is hotter than hot right now but for every hip new activewear line that launches, there’s a teen wishing she could feel confident while wearing it.
Enter, SparkFire Active, a new performance apparel brand designed to fit and flatter young women, founded by former marketing pro and mom-of-two Samantha Hodgkins. Bonus: it’s eco-friendly and a portion of every sale goes toward educating, elevating and empowering girls around the world.
Hodgkins got the idea for SparkFire when she noticed her two daughters, ages 6 and 12, were increasingly coveting her own (adult-sized) collection of workout clothes.
“Activewear is what they live in and it’s their daily wardrobe, as it is for most young women,” she said. “But size-wise, it doesn’t fit them. SparkFire is designed to meet teen girls at the years where their bodies are developing from youth sizes but still not fitting in adult sizes.”
But before diving headfirst into the performance apparel industry, Hodgkins needed to first find out what teens wanted to wear. After surrounding herself with hundreds of high school girls, she discovered that most couldn’t find cute, age-appropriate, body-positive clothes to work out or play sports in. And sadly, it appeared to be a contributing factor to the high sports dropout rate among girls.
“They told me that when they’re working out, or moving and being active, raising their arms, they don’t want everything to be seen,” she said. “They want to feel comfortable in their developing bodies, whether it’s their waist or their hips or their chest.”
Armed with this knowledge, Hodgkins spent two years developing performance apparel in just-right styles, colors and custom sizing with four-way stretch, designed to help girls move freely and feel strong and confident. All SparkFire products, priced from $8 to $59, are responsibly hand-made in the Dominican Republic using Repreve fabric and each piece features moisture-wicking, odor-resistant and quick-dry properties.
“Working with stretch knit fabrics and sublimation printing, there are technical capabilities required and skill sets that are quite specialized—I was surprised at how limited the choice of quality suppliers really is,” Hodgkins said, explaining that she had focused her search on the USA and Central and South America, noting that geographic proximity was key, but so was finding a factory that could act as a true business partner.
She added, “I have personally visited the factory [in Dominican Republic], spent time with the management team and met the people actually producing my garments. They are an extension of the SparkFire team. I love that they share a like-minded commitment to education, with a program for adult employees who are continuing their studies locally in DR and maintaining a certain grade level to be eligible for tuition-reimbursement for the upcoming semester.”
Girls’ education is important to Hodgkins. That’s why 5 percent of every sale is donated directly to the Sacred Valley Project in Peru, which provides indigenous girls from the rural highlands with the education, skills and resources they need to become leaders in their communities. Hodgkins chose to partner with the project after she and her two daughters visited the school last summer.
“It is indelibly marked on each of our hearts the way each student courageously and confidently introduced herself in English—a clear showing of the way the Sacred Valley Project team is helping build strength, confidence and empowerment in these girls,” she said.
Going forward, Hodgkins hopes to expand SparkFire’s sponsorship and support of girls’ education with more programs.
She added, “Based on our core belief that strong girls equal a strong world, partnering with schools and girls’ education programs that directly impact the 62 million girls around the world out of school and facing barriers to education means we can help today’s girls become tomorrow’s leaders.”