Case Study: Reprise Activewear
How a plant-based line of leggings built a brand that made their customers feel right at home
Reprise Activewear, based in New York City, makes the softest pair of leggings you will ever touch. “That’s what everyone says when they comment on the leggings. They always tell me how soft they are,” Mary Bemis, founder of Reprise, explains. The pieces in Reprise’s collection are made of Tencel, a super soft, sweat-wicking, antibacterial, and antimicrobial fabric that wears like a dream in the gym, on the couch, and anywhere in between.
Mary originally conceived Reprise with her own workout routine in mind: “I’m really active, and I realized that the clothes I was working out in are mainly made of polyester, which is a petroleum-based product.” Dissatisfied with the lack of eco-friendly activewear on the market, she set out to build a beautiful line of workout clothing that was better for our bodies and the planet.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the immense popularity of athleisure, when Mary got feedback from customers, she realized that they liked wearing her clothes for all sorts of things, “People are wearing the leggings to hang out at home as a comfy pair of good-looking pants. Sometimes if it’s cold they’ll even wear them to work – under a dress or something similar. They’re not just wearing them for a workout.”
Because her customers were reacting differently to her product than she originally thought, Mary realized that she needed to pivot her brand to reflect her customer, their needs, and the ultimate goals of the company she had built.
When Mary was in the process of building Reprise, her brand came together as a reflection of herself: “I chose the brand based on what I liked, and based on what I thought my customers wanted. I would pick colors that I just liked, fonts that stood out to me, but there wasn’t any strong system to it.” As a result, she had a loose but fresh brand concept, featuring bright blues, blacks, and whites. The brand was very energetic, and felt as if it was almost in motion. It was Mary’s style – but it wasn’t her company’s style.
Even with the brand elements Mary already had in place, she was missing a lot of her foundation. A company’s brand exists to help give nonverbal cues about a product, and how the product will add to your customer’s life: how it will make their life better. Mary realized there was a big disconnect between her personal preferences and the foundation of what her brand was looking to accomplish.
“Before, when I would reach out to people, I felt like [Reprise] was a small passion project. I wanted to partner with big brands but felt weird reaching out. I knew people were looking at the website and it didn’t communicate the message of what I wanted to do. Or they would talk to me and I wasn’t as clear so they would look at Instagram,” Mary explains. “I felt like I had something that was an in-between project.”
Mary couldn’t put her finger on exactly what the problem was, and that’s when she decided to get help, “After Kickstarter, I knew there was a need for what I was building but I didn’t feel like I knew what I was supposed to do in order to build a real company with a foundation and meaning and strategy. For me to really build something with legs under it, I needed real One on One help.”
Mary began One on One coaching with SewEthico to find the missing elements to her brand and business. “In the past I’ve sat down and done branding, marketing, ideal client, all of those things… but the way I do it with SewEthico is totally new. It’s to a level that I know I wouldn’t force myself to do. I wouldn’t spend the hour on it alone, so having someone really asking questions and challenging you in a supportive way is so nice. On your own, you don’t have that.”
Every company has its own personality, and it’s up to us to learn what that personality is. The result is the company’s brand. “Right now we’re building a mission, and my brand’s objectives. I’m understanding why, what my company stands for, and the big picture things I’m accomplishing.”
It’s fair to say that personalities change over time, and it’s no different for your company’s brand. Reprise was launched with an active focus that supported plastic-free clothes for working out, but clients loved it for much more than that. Mary tells us, “The material is so soft that people haven’t only worn it for working out. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that people are wearing them to hang out, or sometimes wearing them as tights under a skirt or dress for work when it’s cold. People feel very comfy in them, so having that attitude of comfort is becoming a big part of the new brand.”
While it’s easy to pick brand elements based on what we like, a business’ brand actually needs to reflect the personality of the brand, and what the customer needs to solve with that brand. After diving deeply into what her client wanted from Reprise’s clothing, Mary realized that her brand needed to reflect some new personality traits that uplifted her customer in new ways. Working with Cat Bradley, founder of SewEthico, helped her build the brand she was really looking for.
It wasn’t easy. SewEthico’s One on One coaching presents major challenges for clients, because it asks you to face your brand’s problems head on. Looking back, Mary says, “it’s really tough, especially when you have an already existing brand. It’s one thing when you’re starting from scratch, but to challenge everything you thought. I felt like I had a brand already, I just needed to touch up some things here and there. Cat challenged that, and asked me to give reasons behind everything I was doing.” It took some time to organize all of the important work Mary was building into a formal and easily defined set of values, goals, and objectives. Mary needed to get the information out of her head, and into a format that could be easily communicated to achieve the outcomes she was looking for.
But, even in the moments of difficulty, Mary felt supported the entire way. “Cat was really encouraging. I didn’t feel pressured to do anything and I could tell that when we hit a spot where I needed to stop – she gave me the space to think about it. I wasn’t forced to make a choice; she wasn’t just trying to make something sound ‘sort of good’…She really wanted me to get through the harder material to find the value of what we were trying to do. It required me to think on a deeper level than I usually get to, and Cat was so patient with me.”
By challenging the different brand elements and building a foundation based on what the brand wanted to communicate, Mary found a new groove that was a lot easier to work with, “I have the tools to have the brand that I’m proud of and excited about. I can show people and they can understand. I want to show off the new branding, and I have confidence in what I’m doing because I’m doing it in a much more real way.”
Now, Reprise has a new direction to take the brand, and Mary is already seeing results. For one thing, she’s gotten a lot of clarity on her materials and can save a lot of time when building content for her brand, styling photo shoots, and doing a myriad of other tasks. “I used to put together flyers or marketing and it would take me at least an hour to do. This morning I used our work together and I did it in 15 minutes. Now, I can look at other brands for inspiration and understand what they’re doing to build something, and then I can take that idea and rework it for myself. Before, I had to copy other brands because I didn’t know what branding was really mine.”
Reprise has a strong brand direction that completely takes the guesswork out of any of Mary’s actions. “I can visualize what it’s going to do, how it’s going to look, how I can see it in these different places. So now I have the real visual elements done and I can see it as a real brand. I can see how this business will act, talk, do, see. Not just in my mind but literally physically see it because we have colors and shapes already decided. We’re building the brand guide. It’s way easier to put together the marketing materials and work on the website because I know what it looks like. It used to take so much longer to put together even a simple flyer because I was making it up every time.”
Even though it was a challenge, Mary has found a lot of clarity in her new foundation and the brand that she was able to develop as a result. “Until you have it written down…in terms of the real values, goals, and objectives, it’s really hard to actually create action for the brand.” Once she had mapped it out, though, “the fundamental things of what I’m creating [became] so much more clear. It was what I wanted to build, but I didn’t know how to get the ideas out of my head and into the world. Now, I understand them, I can picture what they mean, and I can go into the real world and make it happen with step-by-step instructions.”
Looking to the Future
Mary has been hard at work putting her new brand to use, including an upcoming partnership with major hotel chain, 1Hotels. “I feel like opportunities are unfolding so I can grow and people can trust me because there’s more of a real foundation. The company can take off because there are real opportunities, where the goals and mission of Reprise fits better with potential partners that I want to align with. Like with 1Hotels, what we’re building fits together so nicely, and it’s easy to see that we sit closer together now. Our missions, vision, the customer…I can show that I understand it on the deeper level that they needed to see.”
In addition to other opportunities and pop-ups, Mary’s brand is growing, now with more intention than ever. She’s continuing to work with SewEthico on new parts of her business to keep the momentum going, “I’ve seen results already! We’ve only gotten through maybe five sessions and I already have this thing I feel so proud of and I’ve put a lot of work into. It feels different…I was proud of the Kickstarter but I wanted to get to the next level. I was lost in getting that. After only a short time, I see results and I know we’re only in the beginning and I want to keep going. Feeling that achievement, I know if I feel so accomplished after one and a half of the modules, I know there’s so much we can still do together.”
Next, Mary is going to tackle more of her marketing, so she can stop worrying about the day-to-day questions of communicating across her marketing channels. “How do we take our larger goals to accomplish them? How do I communicate to people to accomplish teaching people about sustainable fashion and getting them activated? With that is messaging, strategy, and having a blueprint for what your company stands for – how to get into action on those values. I’m excited about having a plan for all of that.”
Be on the lookout for the new branding Reprise is unveiling, and if you’re on the search for the world’s comfiest, softest leggings for working out, staying cozy at home, or just taking the day to yourself, check out Reprise. Free your skin – wear plants.
Hi there, I'm Cat Bradley
Founder of SewEthico, systems enthusiast, marketing expert, and nonprofit career alum. I help women founders build their first marketing departments and structure their company around their clients, so they can grow, prove traction, and gain funding for their mission-driven businesses. Get my support to grow your business.