We recently caught up with Katy Miller, Athleta’s Senior Director of Strategy and Business Development, to learn more about the inspiration and development of the new, diverse girl’s clothing line for girls.
Q: Take us back to the beginning. Where did the idea of a girl’s clothing line begin?
Katy: Our customers have been asking for it for some time. Girls want to dress sporty; they want to wear comfortable clothing, built-to-move, without sacrificing style. Moms want high-quality clothing that will last.
Athleta Girl, from concept ideation to design to production, has never just been about the clothes. At this brand’s core is a firm belief in the importance of empowering and lifting one another up. We call this the Power of She. We realized that if we want our girls to grow to be strong, kind, confident women, we need to reach them when they’re young. After that realization, Athleta Girl felt like a natural next step for the brand.
Q: What were the biggest challenges or biggest hurdles you came across?
Katy: Anytime you are doing something from scratch, there are challenges. Mostly learning a new business, a new customer, a new way of doing something. We still have a lot of learning to do and hurdles to climb but with each one we get a little closer. All of us working on the project can say we have learned a lot!
With each hurdle, however, we have also had more and more people within the company jump in to help us through and get us closer to a better product. It’s been a great example of when there is passion around a project, there are always people willing to help. There is so much passion across the brand, and so many people have gone above and beyond to contribute amazing work. It’s been an incredible experience.
Q: What has been your favorite part of working on this project?
Katy: My favorite thing is the customer and the message we are delivering her. Getting to know her and building on our core beliefs has been overwhelmingly powerful. Having once been this girl and having three of them at home makes it pretty personal. Our brand has always been an inspiration to women and even girls, but being a part of building the inspirational message for girls has been pretty incredible.
The photo shoot for summer was a special moment. All the girls we worked with were local, and it was the first time we had seen the product worn. We were trying things the brand had never done and we had no idea what the outcome would be. It was a weekend filled with 10-year old energy and it was contagious. Our creative team was amazing; seeing the first photoshoot come together with all the girls there, made and the brand come to life. It was something I will never forget.
Q: You invited girls into your house to have them try the clothes and give feedback. You also held Fit Labs — mini workout sessions so they could move in the clothes and see how they performed. How much did you use the feedback you got from them to shape the direction of the brand/clothing line?
Katy: In my living room we talked with the girls – we let them shop the line, had them tell us about their average day, favorite activities, what inspired them, what they liked to do with their friends, etc. We got to know them. And I did this at every moment – even inviting neighbors into my house to look at samples!
At our Fit Lab sessions, we did some Crossfit exercises with some good dance moves built in. We basically let the girls have fun in the clothes. We wanted to see how the clothes performed and what the girls liked about them.
We made changes out of all of it – added a few more pockets and even changed what we thought were our best items. We have always said “one thing we know for sure is that none of us are a 10 year old girl” so anytime we can get information from them, we treasure it!! They are the inspiration for the project – we are just working to get them the best product!
Q: What the inspiration behind the designs and some of the motivational sayings?
Katy: We knew we wanted Athleta Girl to be about more than just clothes, so that’s where the motivational sayings came in! We created the hangtags with the hairbands and motivational sayings so that each garment came with some sort of message of confidence, strength, or kindness.
We want to take every opportunity to remind the girl how amazing she is!
We want her to feel like this brand was especially built for her.
We want each saying to mean something to her.
Q: What’s your favorite piece in the summer collection and why?
Katy: Of course I love it all…
But probably the Kickin’ It Poncho. Mostly because in every focus group and meeting with the girls once they put it on they wouldn’t take it off. I had multiple girls beg their mom to let them keep it!
Q: Do you have a story of a time with the girls, or with your own daughters, where you were talking about Athleta Girl and realized this is actually making a bigger difference than simply selling clothes?
Katy: First, the girls at the shoot. You could see the energy light them up when they were in their element. You could see how their confidence and personality exploded when they were doing what they love. The second we handed the soccer players a soccer ball, they lit up. They made new friends on the field and barely remembered there were cameras. We had girls that were dancers, skaters, gymnasts, etc. and it was extremely powerful to see them in their element. It reminded me that as a brand, if we can inspire more girls to try new activities and participate on teams or clubs, we may have the opportunity to inspire and build confidence in so many more.
I know Athleta Girl is nothing if we are just selling clothes. My daughters remind me daily that the most important thing we are doing is inspiring these girls and building a community with other girls and women/moms in their lives.
My 6- and 8-year-old were roller skating recently and my 8-year-old wasn’t having fun at the beginning because it was hard and she wanted to quit. My 6-year-old looked at her and said “Lucy, that is not being confident.” Lucy kept trying and now is begging for skates — we had to go back to skating two days later. if we can keep pushing the girls to try a little more, build a little confidence, and beg for those skates, we have won!