Luxury Active: a New Era
Above: Kelly Dooley wearing BodyRock Sport for Total Body Advantage Dress and The Love for All Bra from The Zip ’em Up Collection.
“I envisioned fabulous little pieces of art that I could don at marathons and then combine with a pair of stilettos for a night on the town.” – Kelly Dooley.
by Kelly Dooley
Kelly is a fiery entrepreneur who founded the activewear company BodyRock Sport, which was voted Start Up Fashion Company of the Year by Stiletto Woman in 2012. She has now created a new lifestyle internet company, Kelly Dooley Official, that is the purveyor of unique and innovative products for women who celebrate originality.
Luxury is in the details. One of the biggest challenges that luxury brands face today is devising a strategy wherein they can cope with the extremes of the marketplace, offering everything from a $30 pair of socks to a $10,000 suitcase. Many critics seem to think that fashion is frivolous, but think again. It’s an extremely cut-throat business that deeply influences art, politics and society
Above: The Nicole Bra from The Zip ’em Up Collection.
“As a young designer with an idea that completely disrupted the activewear industry, I can certainly attest to the latter.”
As Coco Chanel said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
Above and from left: Kelly wearing the Angelina Bra and Alexis Booty Shorts; Vanessa Tib wearing the Artemis Bra and Booty Shorts.
In October 2008, while working at Equinox Fitness in New York City, my colleague, Joe, who was a personal trainer, and I, decided to sign up for The Walt Disney Marathon to run in January 2009. I worked as a membership advisor and my fish bowl office was located right in front of the shop. In a period of five months, before I quit to compete in the race, I got to experience the trials and tribulations of sales first-hand. And being plopped across from the shop for 12 hours a day enabled me to realize how utterly dissatisfied I was with the activewear market.
While training for the race, I was searching for the perfect race day outfit, one that not only represented my funky style but that also was comfortable and functional. And I really craved something that would hold all of my essentials, such as my iPod, hotel key, license, money and Motrin.
Above: Vanessa Tib modeling Rosie Bra with The Valerie Gloves by G-Loves for BodyRock Sport and Love for All Capris from The Luxe Capri Collection.
I was frustrated but remained hopeful. We excitedly flew to Orlando and rushed to the pre-marathon expo to pick up our race bibs. There were several vendors selling activewear, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to find the ultimate sports bra, one that was fabulous yet functional.
In my dream world, this bra contained a easily accessible pocket in the front. I searched the expo high and low, and after leaving empty-handed, I vividly remember turning to Joe and exclaiming: “The world needs the sports bras that I am envisioning, bras that are blinged out in Swarovski crystals but that have waterproof pockets and other features that will enable women to wear bras from day-to-night.” I envisioned fabulous little pieces of art that I could don at marathons and then combine with a pair of stilettos for a night on the town.
Above: Angelina Bra from The Zip ’em Up Collection with Alexis Booty Shorts from The Wow ’em Collection.
I completed the race and I felt fine, but the outfit I wore was boring though probably one of the most exciting outfits that I saw at the race. I felt fine but I did not want to feel like myself and that really irked me, because I knew that I did not stand alone in this dissatisfaction.
So I decided to go for it. The instant I got back to New York, I started working on what became BodyRock Sport, the name being a double entrendre, as I wanted all of the sports bras to contain fancy embellishments and, at the same time, enable women to rock their bodies.
Above: Valerie Moto Jacket from The Venomous Vixen Collection, Rosie Bra and Eternal Love Gloves by G-Loves for BodyRock Sport.
But I had zero industry experience and was not sure how to execute my vision. Thankfully, I had a few connections in the fashion world, so I contacted them and they helped show me the way. I then starting sketching out a design gallery, registered my LLC, got a resale certificate, worked with an IP attorney to trademark the name, BodyRock Sport, set up a wholesale account with Swarovski, and sourced local fabrics, as I wanted all production to be in New York City so that I could support the garment district and offer same day messenger service.
My goal was to launch by January 12, 2010, exactly one year after my marathon. I worked very closely with Cindy Mak, the owner of Melko and negotiated very good pricing with her for my first collection. The bras were set to retail for $70-$94, which was preposterous at the time, as the average sports bra was around $35, but I knew the world needed these bras. I’ve always had an uncanny ability to see what others couldn’t, to give women what they didn’t know they wanted.
“Each bra was named after the diverse group of women who have inspired me…”
The debut collection consisted of 12 bras, three colorways per style, and each style was based on women’s respective needs: (1) Keep ’em In, a scoop neck with a front zipped pocket, a 2-inch elastic band so that women could wear their heart rate monitors comfortably and shirring on the back; (2) Lock ’em Down, a scoop neck which contained three pockets and a side zipper; (3) Show ’em Off, a deep v-neck with an open pocket on the back for your phone or iPod; and (4) Zip ’em Up, a v-neck zip front bra.
Each bra was named after the diverse group of women who have inspired me, ranging from The Jan Bra, named after my incredible Mom, to The Jazz Bra, named after my best friend since 7th grade to The Cammi Bra, named after my hairstylist, who has been doing my hair since I was 10 and The Maria Bra, whom I named after a lovely lady that I met while studying abroad in China.
Above: Angelina Bra, Zuzu Leggings from The Attack ’em Collection and Eternal Love Gloves by G-Loves for BodyRock Sport.
I hit the ground running in January 2010 and never looked back. My idea was very premature for the market and I received a lot of criticism, all of which I took personally, so I stopped reading the hater-filled blogs and kept going. I knew that BodyRock Sport marked the beginning of an apparel revolution. BodyRock Sport blew up, gracing the pages of hundreds of publications throughout the world and donning some of Hollywood’s most game-changing celebrities, from Lady Gaga and Britney Spears to Pink, and Carmen Electra.
Above and from left: Angelina Bra from The Zip ’em Up Collection, Zuzu Leggings and Eternal Love Gloves by G-Loves. Kelly wearing Gwen Bra from The Lock ’em Down Collection, Gwen Slashed Leggings and Cleopatra Love Gloves by G-Loves for BodyRock Sport.
Unfortunately, extreme manufacturing issues forced me to shut down my business. The same month that I delivered my TedX talk, where I tacked Einstein’s quote, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to never stop questioning.” my entire company collapsed right before my eyes. Unfortunately, this is one of the major risks that start-up brands face. All of my target buyers suddenly wanted my line, stores that I had been going after for years, including Nordstrom, SAKS, and Bergdorf’s. Target even reached out to do a collaboration and HSN wanted a piece too. But that did not matter. One bad production cycle can destroy everything.
So I learned and am developing a new line. The name will not be released until launch. As Seth Godin said, “When your art fails, make better art.”
I finally have the right manufacturing partner to execute my vision seamlessly, who will be the COO of my company; I have a CPO with over 24 years of experience in the industry and is a details-phene like me, and I will remain the CEO and Creative Director, just as I was for BodyRock Sport. I am collaborating with some of the best designers in the world, offering a fresh spin on the world of luxury active. The overabundance of mediocre activewear has flooded the market and it makes me cringe.
Above: Nicole Bra from The Zip ’em Up Collection and Love for All Capris from The Luxe Capri Collection.
For confidentiality reasons, I will not share any details until my launch but just know that this line is my true brainchild. I recently launched a new site called www.kellydooleyofficial.com, where you can see a lot of the work that I have done over the years and a list of the services that I currently offer. I now have 10 clients on board and have almost reached capacity but am willing to take on more projects that excite me, only entrepreneurs that are looking to make some noise in their respective industries.
Above: Valerie Bra from The Halo Collection and Ruby Gloves by G-Loves for BodyRock Sport.
“The question,” as Godin said, “isn’t whether you’re capable of godlike work (you are).”
The question is: Are you willing?
Learn More about Kelly Dooley
Hair and Makeup by Zuleika Acosta
Photography by Jayd Jackson
Clothing by BodyRock Sport
Styling by Kelly Dooley
Modeled by Kelly Dooley and Vanessa Tib
Select Clothing Available on www.bodyrocksport.com