Local Athletic Brand Speaks on Inspiration, Aspirations and the Pandemic

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Amidst our ongoing COVID -19 environment, many have taken to indoor activities as a way to pass the time and fuel creativity. Exercising at home has become a popular venture, with more and more people rolling out their yoga mats in the living room and getting their sweat on. As a means of self improvement and discovery, both internally and externally, it’s no surprise that athletic clothing sales have simultaneously increased. With large brands and companies capitalizing on mainstream designs and products, many find themselves shopping from the same set of products. However, upon your next opportunity to purchase a new item for your work out routine, you may find that originality is closer than you think.

First brainstormed in 2008 , Mika Yoga Wear is a local company that offers customers a unique and conscious selection of athletic clothing and products. 303 Magazine caught up with the brand’s founder, Laura Costa, to gain insight on the inspiration behind designs, goals for the future of the brand and how the pandemic affected business. With a unique perspective on all types of athletic wear, Mika Yoga is a local gem that strives to help you become the best version of yourself.

303 Magazine: What can you tell us about your background and your childhood growing up?

Laura Costa: I grew up in a very close knit family. My mom was born in Mexico and my Dad is from LA. They raised the four of us ([I have] two brothers, one sister) in Ventura County. My parents instilled in us a strong work ethic and I believe this value comes from how they were raised. I feel really lucky to have such a supportive and encouraging family.

303: What is the story behind your brand?

LC: The idea for Mika Yoga Wear began when I was in yoga teacher training in 2008. At the time, I remember being disappointed by the cost and fit of hot yoga clothing options available. Together with my partner and his father, we began working on making this dream a reality. Being a small family owned business, we have always been very hands on with everything from the initial concept to the execution, to the marketing and photography and everything in between.

What began as somewhat of a niche clothing line began growing quickly as we branched out into designing styles for various sports and leisure activities. Whether we are designing for yoga, pole fitness, dance, pilates, etc., the key was to create quality clothes that are comfortable, high performance and beautiful. Above all else, the Mika brand is meant to empower people to move their bodies and feel good while doing it.

303: Many of your clothing/products are sustainable – why is that important to you?

LC: We’ve seen just how much excess waste and overproduction fast fashion pushes out. Fashion production has an immense effect on the environment, so we feel like it’s our responsibility to contribute however we can in making our production and pieces more eco-conscious. From creating eco-friendly/recyclable options, to our small batch production practices to reduce our carbon footprint, to something as simple as packaging. It’s just a matter of being aware of how you contribute to or help eliminate the problem. I hope to continue to improve in this area.

303: Walk us through the process of designing your products or collections?

LC: It starts with these five concepts:

Need: What is something we can make that people are asking for or have given us feedback on?

Inspiration: What is moving me at the moment?

Design: How can we incorporate the inspiration into a piece or collection that is functional & flattering?

Supplies: What is available for us to use?

Prototype: Is the sizing accurate, is the quality and comfort there?

303: What is your favorite aspect of this brand you’ve created?

LC: My answer is actually kind of simple, but it comes down to creating pieces that people feel good in. I love seeing the confidence in someone when they wear our brand. Whether it’s someone on an aerial apparatus wearing Mika or someone styled comfortably in our loungewear, it makes me SO happy to see someone feeling empowered in our clothing.

303: How has COVID-19  affected your business?

LC: Aside from working mostly from home, the biggest change was getting creative with what fabrics that have been available to use for most of 2020/21. Where we manufacture in Brazil, lines of production came to halt abruptly. Fabric production stopped so most of our orders were cancelled and we had to make some quick decisions and purchase fabrics that were available to us. Wholesale orders dropped entirely. We are still currently relying solely on direct to consumer purchases right now & it’s made us rethink our business model, more specifically ensuring our purchase orders are more precise. Also, masks. We use leftover scraps from our fabric to make our masks and when we have them in stock they fly. Face masks ended up being our top seller of 2020.

303: Looking forward, what goals do you have for the future of your brand?

LC: On the forefront, I’d like to broaden our media content to feature more videos, lifestyle content and to work with various models spanning the range of racial and cultural backgrounds, body shapes and gender identities. Sometimes as a brand I have felt overthinking things hinders the ability to connect on a more relatable level, so one of my current goals is to be more transparent with our behind the scenes and to continue to share and appreciate our customers on a more personal level.

303: Looking back on how you got your brand started, do you have any advice for other small business owners just starting out?

LC: Don’t wait for things to be perfect to start. Just go for it and know things will shift and shape along the way. Adapt, ask for help when you need and research as much as you can. Be prepared to wear many hats and don’t expect things to go smoothly. Sometimes they will, a lot of the times they won’t and that’s part of the process of seeing what works and growing as a business. Surround yourself with a team that you believe in and trust. Lift your team up and make sure they know they are valued. Don’t get caught up in the comparison game. Do your thing and be proud! Most importantly: enjoy all the milestones. Don’t wait until you think you “made it” to appreciate and value all the hard work running a business entails. It all matters!

Mika Yoga Wear’s warehouse location is temporarily closed; however, they offer curbside pick-up and also the opportunity to purchase items through their website.

All photography courtesy of Mika Yoga.