By Meredith Corning
In a modern world with healthy living on the forefront of every cosmopolitan woman, one may wonder where to turn for stylish fitness wear. Turn It On apparel suggests to look no further than their new line of fabulous fitness wear designed by Project Runway finalist, Althea Harper. Harper has her own ready-to-wear line, but admits that she is a fitness fanatic who often wondered why the fashion runway was missing from fitness wear. Thus, she teamed up with Juetta West – a former high fashion runway model for international fashion luminaries such as Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass and Bob Mackie – to offer women a stylish choice whether hitting the gym or going out for cocktails with the girls. Coining the term “Crossover” wear is how they describe their easy, transitional clothing line that takes you from the office to pilates and back to the office again. Read what Harper had to say about this new venture and her advice for emerging designers.
Most people know you as a ready-to-wear designer, but now you have teamed up with Juetta West to create a new spin on fitness wear. How did you get started in this genre and how did you meet West?
I have always been interested in fitness and find working out to be a huge stress reliever. Juetta West came to me, because she was having a hard time finding gym clothes that she loved and felt there was a gap in the market for fitness wear that was both flattering and well made. I happened to agree and felt that my design aesthetic would work well in creating flattering active wear because of my attention to seaming and creating a flattering fit.
Turn It On combines fashion and fitness for the girl on the go. What is the design process like with the aim to incorporate the “crossover” pieces into each collection and explain what crossover fashion means to you?
Crossover means performance apparel that can be worn everyday by simply changing accessories. Crossover wear can be worn in the gym or out to lunch. I wanted a woman to be able to get a coffee after going to the gym without screaming, “I just came from yoga!” We were able to develop this with close attention to the fabrication we used as well as the design of the garment.
In a modern attempt to engage Turn It On clients, the website offers a “Girl Talk” blog and TIO TV. How have these avenues aided in spreading the word about the brand and can you describe what Girl Talk and TIO TV’s goals are for your clients?
Girl Talk is focused on creating a community of women by sharing tips on fashion, fitness, nutrition, and inspiration. We aspire to inspire women of all ages to pursue a healthy and fashionable lifestyle. TIO TV is primarily a teaching tool to give women an idea what Crossover is all about as well as providing exercise routines that give women easy to use fitness programs whether at home or in the office.
What fabric choices and fine details have been used in designing this line to exude a luxury, high fashion feel that separates Turn It On from other fitness wear labels?
Our design starts with “on trend” fashion elements such as asymmetry, color blocking, ruching, open back draping and cold shoulders. Our fabrics include performance fabrics of the highest quality such as Tactel®, which is known for its extremely soft hand, moisture wicking, and its ability to dry eight times faster than cotton. Other fabrics are selected for draping, but still need to have the performance characteristics. We use fashion quality bindings and zippers from the world’s leading manufacturer of high quality zippers. We use woven labels instead of heat transfers setting us apart from the athletic crowd. Besides our brand label, we incorporate an inspirational label – “You Are Ageless” – into all garments. We incorporate all of these elements into our styles, but require the performance characteristics of the design to match those of non- fashionable performance apparel.
Your career seems so multi-faceted – much like the Turn It On line – working for designers such as Vivienne Westwood, dressing celebrities, being a reality TV star yourself, designing an eponymous ready-to-wear line and now fitness wear. From where you stand now, what one practical piece of advice would you offer aspiring designers on how to make it in the world of fashion?
Confidence! I believe if you have a vision, you have to stand behind it, be proud of it and grow with it. Fashion, similar to any creative industry, is tough because you get a lot of opinions thrown your way and if you don’t have confidence then you will quickly be thrown astray. If you don’t believe in yourself then how can you expect anyone else to? Believe in your talent, be willing to take and grow from feedback (confidence is different then arrogance!), and a lot of hard work is the key to success!