It’s been game, set, match for fitness enthusiasts and lifelong best friends Lisa Lazarus and Lainie Goldstein, who rallied together to develop Pheel, a boutique line of fitness attire designed to make women feel comfortable and sexy.
The brand itself launched in March of 2013 after 6-8 months of research, trade shows and focus groups to ensure their new line was one that fulfilled the needs of all types of women.
“Lainie and I found that there was a real need for a unique and boutique-y fitness fashion line in the market. All that was being offered was Lululemon and Nike, and we wanted something a little more chic, interesting, spicy, sexy and cool. We wanted something really comfortable, and did not want to look like everyone else,” Lisa said. “We wanted to do something that would make us feel unique, interesting, and beautiful. “
To put the line together, Lainie and Lisa immersed themselves in research. From talking to students at the Fashion Institute of Technology, to attending spin and yoga classes, or simply working out themselves, they built their business off the idea that “fitness enthusiasts need and want more in their fitness wardrobe,” according to Lisa.
Another important element to the Pheel brand was that all the clothes must be made in the USA.
“We felt companies were just mass producing out of the country and not caring what people were putting on their bodies, offering performance fabrics but not really thinking about it,” Lisa said. “We import the fabrics from Brazil, which is a big deal, but we want to create jobs here, which is why we manufacture in the USA. We believe in our country and we think it’s very important to bring jobs here,” Lainie said.
Lisa and Lainie are both full-time mothers. Prior to the launch, Lisa had graduated with a business degree from New York University, and had been working in fashion editorial for 20 years, where she was involved with the business end, as well as photo shoots and fashion. More than anything, though, entrepreneurial work was her main focus. Lainie was a licensed massage therapist, who always dreamed of owning her own boutique. Starting Pheel was an exciting change for this pair of old friends.
“I spent a lot of my time working out and playing tennis. I would do a couple massages a week at night, and so I thought ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to work a long day; I wonder how that feels.’ It ended up feeling amazing,” Lainie said. “When you create your own styles and you watch something go from something very small and simple to something complex, it’s an amazing feeling. The inspiration, motivation and persistence to keep that feeling alive has kept making me want to spend more and more time working on the brand. Lisa and I spend about 5 hours in our office each day, but we spend 24 hours emailing, texting, sending each other images and saying ‘Did you see this? Did you see that? Wouldn’t it be great if we did this?’ The passion we have for Pheel keeps us going. It was a huge change in my life and I welcomed it.”
Together, their brand has reached new heights.
“We both have a similar dream and vision for Pheel. It’s just flying on it’s own feathers, which is the logo for the company,” Lisa said.
The feather’s symbolism for the company is two-fold. In one respect, it represents their clothing themselves: lightweight, compression fabrics that are meant to feel like a second skin. It also signifies freedom, for Lisa and Lainie, as well as other women taking control of their lives.
The brand is experiencing tremendous growth on the east coast, according to Lisa, but that’s just the beginning. They have also gotten major attention from international buyers –even being approached by India Vogue for samples. In their three years of sales, the duo has watched business double. The available products have gone from 48 SKUs to about 400 now, with different colors and styles. Their top-selling items, which, according to Lisa, they can barely keep in stock, are the Breathe tanks, Getaway pants, Helix pants and Peekaboo top.
“We’ve learned so much in these three years of growing,” said Lainie. “We stay true to Lisa and myself, and what we like to work out in. We didn’t lose what we are; we tailor to customers closest to our age – around 35-45 years old. We feel like they are the people spending the money on fitness clothes, and they’re probably the most complicated. They have the most on their schedule and want the most out of their workout clothes, since they often wear them many places during the day outside of just the gym.”
In terms of their future, Lisa and Lainie are confident in their product and are thinking big about where to take their growing brand.
“We’re both very passionate about being successful,” said Lisa. “The business part is tough, and we have a lot of competition. We really desire and need more manpower. Although Pheel has already gained a sizeable stake in the market, we believe the sky is the limit. We’re kind of sitting back and continuing to do what we want to do, and we’re going to wait and see who will jump on board with us. There’s something very special here.”
Her partner further emphasizes that their brand is one that is growing with the needs of women everywhere.
“Fitness apparel is the new blue jeans; it’s what everyone is wearing now,” Lainie said. “People want to feel good and they know it’s important to take the time to do that, but they know they still have the same responsibilities they’ve always had. We try to bridge the gap between casual clothing you can feel sexy running errands in, and clothes rugged enough to handle an awesome workout.”
For their upcoming Spring/ Summer line, Pheel will be venturing into tennis attire, something that is very close to Lainie’s heart since her playing days in high school. New colors will also be offered, as well as other fashion-forward products that Lainie and Lisa are both very excited to share with their customers. The company is already designing a year ahead, and is looking to build themselves to the point where they are able to design two years ahead of the season. They are also part of various trade shows and are now featured on Amazon.com.
To offer an even more unique experience to their consumers, Pheel has found an office space that they have also made into a showroom. Customers can receive a pampering treatment while selecting their fitness attire in a personal setting. At the office/ showroom, the experience will include a personal shopper that will fit and dress the customer.
“We cater to your body type,” Lainie said. “We’d never put you in something you’d look ridiculous in. It’s a time for us to help dress you and find pieces that will look best for you, and leave you feeling sexy. It’s great, and it’s by appointment only. We love getting everyone styled and feeling good.”
With 2016 already glowing bright for Lanie and Lisa, look for Pheel to incorporate some exciting new ideas and concepts, matching the best fabrics with a form fit feel, leaving you looking amazing at the gym and beyond.
To learn more about the brand, visit pheel.com.