We can’t overstate how important we feel it is for fashion to become more transparent about manufacturing practices and waste. Burberry’s recent admission that they burned $38 million worth of unsold product in order to maintain brand integrity was really something. As an industry, we think fashion needs to rethink its priorities, redefine luxury and consider that we’re all on this planet together, no matter what brand we’re wearing.
I had the pleasure to interview A.K L’Heureux and Brook Cosby the co-owners of Hyde Yoga.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?
In the early days of Hyde, AK designed a men’s yoga pant and sent a pair to Deepak Chopra. It seems that he took them on his next trip abroad because not long after, AK started getting text messages from him in India detailing how much how much he loved them, signed xoxo! It was a thrill to be walking down a New York City street and texting with Deepak. — Brook Cosby
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It seems funny now but at the time this story was stressful: In 2005 A.K. quickly discovered an error with the first, eagerly-awaited production run. Instead of pieces sized XS/S/M/L as she had ordered — and pre-sold to yoga studios throughout the Tri-State area — the Tribeca factory had cut size runs of S/M/L/XL. A.K. bee lined to the cutting room downtown to find the XLs, which were then re-cut. She even sewed on the new XS labels herself. — Brook Cosby
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Brook and I are proud that Hyde stands out for what we don’t do. Magazines and social media tend to portray yoga as external displays of achievement — the way a pose looks, and the more extreme the better. Our focus is on designing clothes for women who practice yoga whether or not anyone is watching, for women seeking the internal experience of yoga. Our years on the mat seeking the stillness and wisdom that yoga provides led us to making clothes in organic fabrics without a lot of superfluous distractions. The craziest we get is the pintuck details on our Paradise Tight (www.yogahyde.com/product/paradise-tight/). Our commitment to simplicity is maybe the most radical thing about us. — A.K L’Heureux
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Have a goal that is bigger than your brand. A good friend and brand strategist, Jee Chang, founder of UME (www.ume.design) asked me years ago about Hyde: “What is your leadership position in the world?” I remember being a bit thrown by the question. I was expecting to work on more traditional metrics. But her challenge guided me to identify what we actually wanted to accomplish — beyond brand recognition and, ultimately, selling clothes. We want people to experience the joy of being connected to themselves, each other and the earth. For A.K. and me, practicing yoga and making sustainable choices have been a huge part of our journey towards that state of being. So, when we consider Hyde as a vehicle towards that goal for others, we’re able to manage the inevitable challenges, frustrations and seeming impossibilities of running a fashion business with a little more patience and good humor. –Brook Cosby
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We think of this dynamic a little differently, actually. I would say that in the course of trying to do some good, we have become successful. I won’t call it karma (that feels reductive and honestly, obnoxious), but by starting with a generous or conscientious approach, we’ve been rewarded. For example, AK’s decision to design in organic cotton when she launched Hyde in 2005 was an expensive choice. Most small businesses trying to get off the ground seek the least costly route. But an earth-friendly fabric was integral to her vision, so it was non-negotiable. And here we are 13 years later. Similarly, we’ve forged several charitable partnerships, designing pieces with yoga teacher friends of ours and giving the proceeds to non-profit organizations. We’ve worked with Elena Brower (www.elenabrower.com) to design a top benefitting Women for Women International (www.womenforwomen.org), Ame Wren (www.amewren.com) to design a legging benefitting Farm Sanctuary (www.farmsanctuary.org) and most recently with Colleen Saidman Yee (www.colleensaidmanyee.com) to design a pant benefitting Urban Zen Integrative Therapy (www.urbanzen.org/healthcare). When we first embarked on this model, our accountant was dubious. As a start-up business, could we really afford to be giving away our profits? By rational standards, we shouldn’t have done it. We didn’t have the money. But it was important to us to give back and create opportunities to help other people — and animals too. –Brook Cosby
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
We routinely come back to the Zen proverb: “Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” For us it means, stick to the process, do the work. When success arrives, fantastic, enjoy it! When failure comes (and it will), don’t give up, keep working.
We’ve had some terrific successes. We’ve landed wholesale accounts we never thought would be interested in a small line like ours. We once sold every single piece on hand when we were vending at a yoga festival. We’ve had celebrities shop our website and send us handwritten thank you notes. And then we went back to work.
We’ve had more than a few failures. A few years back, we explored designing with recycled polyester. After an exhaustive search (over a year) we sourced one with a terrific hand. We tested samples, shot photos, crafted a promotional campaign, printed postcards, everything. When the final production pieces arrived, they were an unqualified disaster. The fabric was wrong, the fit was wrong, the colors were wrong. I think we literally cried. And then we went back to work. — A.K L’Heureux
Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
We are really excited about the trending awareness around ethical fashion and the “Who Made My Clothes” movement, as well as the growing attention being paid to wastefulness in the garment and luxury goods industries. We’ve loved watching Emma Watson’s pioneering efforts and hope other celebrities and influencers will take up the charge as well. — A.K L’Heureux
What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry?” Please share a story or example for each.
Conviction. Know who you are and what you want to accomplish as a brand — and why. Whenever we stray from our mission to design elegant basics that respect the earth, we stumble. Even when chasing a trend is tempting, our greatest successes come from prioritizing our belief in ease of movement, a “less is more” sensibility and environmental sustainability.
Tenacity. You will have seasons that flop. Your deliveries will be late. Your factory will raise its prices. Your best repeat customers will disappear. Hang in there, be resolute in your conviction, even when you are convinced that failure is inevitable. If you love what you’re doing, you’ll find a way to keep going.
Accountability. The above being said, have a financial plan. Dig into the numbers. Know which of your pieces have the best profit margin and which you hang on to for aesthetic or even sentimental reasons. While there’s no formula for creativity, when making decisions about our line, we find it helpful to remember that the difference between a hobby and a business is that a business needs to make money.
Flexibility. In the 13 years that we’ve been in business, nearly every part of our process has changed. We’ve moved offices several times, most recently from Brooklyn, NY to Marin County, CA. We’ve worked with various factories, fabric mills, technical designers, graphic designers, web developers, sales reps, you name it. We like to think that our training in yoga makes us more prepared for the inevitable flux, but in truth it’s still hard. Fighting change, however, is harder.
Relationships. You cannot do this alone. No one can. Ask for help. Offer help. Be kind and honest with everyone you do business with. It will come back to you. –Brook and A.K.
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
We can’t overstate how important we feel it is for fashion to become more transparent about manufacturing practices and waste. Burberry’s recent admission that they burned $38 million worth of unsold product in order to maintain brand integrity was really something. As an industry, we think fashion needs to rethink its priorities, redefine luxury and consider that we’re all on this planet together, no matter what brand we’re wearing. — A.K L’Heureux
How can our readers follow you on social media?
We’re most active on Instagram: @hydeyoga. You can also find us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/yogahyde/) and Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/hydeyoga/). Feel free to send us an old-fashioned email too: [email protected].
Originally published at medium.com