Today’s outfit post features my favorite line of hot yoga wear, K-Deerwhich just so happens to be owned and designed by one of my friends–a fellow alum from Syracuse University–Kristine Deer. As an avid hot yogi myself, I’m always on the hunt for comfortable, fashionable and beautifully-made pieces that can withstand the uber-hot temperatures of our classes. Kristine has absolutely nailed the perfect legging (not to mention hot yoga shorts, tanks and everything in between!) and I can’t recommend her line enough.
As I shared in yesterday’s K-Deer sketchbook post, Kristine has inspired me since the day I met her because her entrepreneurial, creative spirit is so infectious to be around. I’m excited to share an interview with Kristine today (in her own words) which is all about her path to becoming the successful entrepreneur she is today. She’s also sharing some insight for women of all ages who may be looking to take the leap to start their own businesses too. After graduating from college, Kristine (pictured below) built her business out of her childhood bedroom. She truly believes that all women could benefit from opening their own businesses that they’re passionate about because there’s something so incredible and unique about holding the key to one’s own destiny.
1)Where are you originally from and and where are you currently based?
I was born and raised in Westwood, NJ, about 30 minutes outside New York City. My design office and warehouse are located in Westwood. Our design studio is in the same building my dad had his photography studio in for 25 years!
2) How would you describe K. Deer and what types of products do you carry? What is the brand’s message and what sets your line apart?
K-DEER is a luxury activewear brand made in NJ with locally sourced materials and vendors. Our concise collection of styles (leggings, capris, shorts, bum bums, cropped tops, tank tops, kids leggings and mens shorts) are all originally engineered designs and our prints and colors are always a step ahead of the trend. The brand is founded on authenticity, high quality and exceptional customer care. I believe we set ourselves apart from other brands because of these qualities and are always looking for ways to improve my listen to our customer feedback.
3) What was your inspiration behind K. Deer?
K-DEER was born out of necessity after losing my job in the recession, starting Bikram yoga and realizing I had nothing good to wear! I started by making our Bum Bum shorts on my bed in my childhood bedroom from small amounts of colorful, printed swimwear fabric. It was perfect for sweaty, hot yoga! As I began to sell online, the feedback for wanting something unique and special kept the momentum of the brand going in the right direction: always unique, always original.
4) What does yoga mean to you and how has it shaped your day-to-day and brand?
I started my brand as I started my yoga practice. Being a student of yoga is about more than just doing postures and getting fit. As my practice evolved and I chose to delve deeper into the practice, I studied with Jimmy Barkan, learning about all 8 limbs of yoga. The yamas and niyamas became my guideline for living a joyful life for myself, but also for how I built my business. Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, non-possesiveness, are the guidelines for my relationships with others. Purity, contentment, self-discipline, self study, surrender, are the guidelines that I follow for my own awareness and growth.
5) When did you first notice your passion for design and being creative?
My family is and was extremely creative. We didn’t have a formal dining room, we had an ‘art’ room. So from a young age, maybe 4, I was encouraged to create things and was given the freedom to make any kind of art I wanted, without ruining the rug of course.
6) What do you wear on a normal day at the K.Deer studio and why? How would you describe your style?
“Nama’stay in my leggings all day” is kind of the motto around here!
7) What advice would you give to other women in terms of starting their own businesses and becoming entrepreneurs? What are some secrets to success that you have learned along the way?
First of all, GO FOR IT! Every woman would benefit greatly by opening her own business. There are so many incredible skills you learn along the way!
8) K.Deer was recently in the news along with fitness brand, Athleta because the brand started to sell leggings that looked very much like K.Deer’s (down to the stripped pattern). Please tell us in your own words what happened and how having a positive outlook and message allowed K.Deer to take the high road.
At first, it was a shock and a little heartbreaking to be honest. To see the design that you created and that people identify your brand by, be taken and mass produced for corporate profit was a frustrating and disappointing thing to go through. I took the necessary actions and consulted our attorney but knowing there was nothing to be legally protected, I instead held my head up high and continued to rock out ‘business as usual.’
Then an amazing thing happened; our customers and fans began to take notice and they gave Athleta a piece of their minds. Someone I don’t know decided to bring light to the copycat by making an image, added some passionate hashtags and it started to get shared around Facebook. Before we knew it, shares, likes and comments were in the hundreds and then thousands. Customers were e-mailing us screen shots of their e-mails and comments they left on Athleta’s webpage, letting us know that they were standing up for us.
Throughout it all, I just kept my faith that this pile of lemons we were served would soon become the sweetest pitcher of lemonade–ok, maybe a few gallons worth. We are just so grateful that our community saw something wrong and put the pressure on to bring some sort of justice to the situation. We were shocked by how quickly they pulled the copycat leggings from the shelves and website. I had absolutely no communication with them throughout the social media buzz and have not had any communication with them since then.
9) Who are your favorite designers and creative inspirations?
When I was 11, I told my soccer coach that I was going to be the next Donna Karan. She was certainly one of my inspirations then but has become one of my role models now. I loved flipping through the trade magazines (BOOK MODA) packed with fashion show recaps and would always be drawn to designers like Betsey Johnson, John Galliano and Emillio Pucco for their full on color, texture and design aesthetic. Now that I’m in a business role as well as a designer role, I look to Donna Karan, Tory Burch and Diane VonFurstenburg as women who have built brands that embody the balance between creativity, wearability and marketability. They all know how to make a connection with their customer and that is the most important part of what I do as well.
10) Where do you see K Deer at the end of 2016? How about 5 years out? What are your goals?
K-DEER changes daily, it feels. We are in such a constant and consistent state of evolution and growth that I my goals ebb and flow with the opportunities that present themselves. I like to leave room for those lemonade making opportunities. What I am sure of it that by the end of 2016, we will have more styles available, have moved through 3 or 4 deliveries of amazing prints and will be connected to more amazing women, charities and partnerships around the world.In 5 years, my business will be well organized with incredible team players who share my passion for the kind of apparel and lifestyle we believe in.
11) K. Deer started in your childhood bedroom. How has it changed over the years and where is your company at today in terms of its team?
Oh, the good old days… I would toss an Ikea table top onto my bed when I woke up, cut, pin and sew all day, pack orders, deliver them to the post office and then go to yoga. I now have a design studio and warehouse (a pretty office-like one) in my hometown, in walking distance from my house. My team has grown in the past 2 years to include my sister Trine, our Creative Director and a team of 7 strong, intelligent women who love what they do. We are a family and operate this business with high ethical and moral standards. Since I’ve infused the yamas and niyamas into this business since day one, that’s what this business continues to attract.
12) What were the stakes for you in starting K. Deer?
I had lost my job and was in the entry level work force during our Great Recession when K-DEER began to evolve. Yoga found me and started to teach me things that woke up that driven, determined, passionate girl that excelled in her past. I didn’t know HOW, but I knew what and why. With about $1,000 and nothing to lose, I went for it and put myself and my design out there. Since I loved it so much and knew it was exceptional, I had no doubt other women would love it to.
13) Your sister is your textile designer. What’s it like working with family–especially now that you get to work together full-time!
It’s awesome. Not all family/work relationships are this awesome and so I am so grateful that I have Trine to collaborate with and laugh with throughout the day. She has always been an inspiration to me and without her work in print and fabric, K-DEER may have evolved in some different way.