SweatStyle: Tell us how you got started in the athleisure business and at Alala.
Denise Lee: I was training for a triathlon and was working out every day. I wanted to get some better looking workout clothes because personally I feel more motivated when I like the way I look in my gear. When I started shopping around, I didn't see anything that I really liked - everything looked the same and wasn't exciting. That's when I started thinking that there was an opportunity in well designed, fashion forward, functional activewear and that's how I decided to start Alala. Also, at the time I had the idea of Alala, I was working for a retail entrepreneur, so I was exposed so every part of the retail business and learned a lot about starting a brand. That gave me the confidence to go out and do it on my own.
SS: Who has been the biggest influence in your career?
DL: My father has been a huge influence on me. He has been very successful in his own career - yet was able to focus on his family and gain the respect of his peers and industry and that has always inspired me. He has a background in the garment business as well as in startups, so he has become my most trusted advisor at Alala as well.
SS: With the recent boom in athleisure, how do you make sure Alala stands apart from the crowd?
DL: Alala combines style and function in a very special way. We put a lot of thought into designing our performance pieces. In addition to ensuring our fabrics are wicking and machine washable, we place powermesh panels in the waistband of our pants and in our bras for extra support, and we never design anything that she would feel uncomfortable working out in. Our fabrics are exceptional and all our pieces feature a style detail, whether its a sheer mesh panel or a beautiful zipper that brings a level of sophistication to our styles as well.
SS: What do you wear when you’re not in your own brand?
DL: I'm in Alala most of the time - we have such a great range I can find a piece to wear for almost any occasion. Now that it's getting cooler, I wear a lot of leather jackets - I love Vince, All Saints and The Arrivals. I also love a good motorcycle boot - I have a great pair from Chanel and I am lusting after a buckled pair from Givenchy.
SS: Where are you going on your next vacation?
DL: I am headed to Tokyo for New Years with my family. It's one of my favorite cities - there's so much to eat, shop and see yet somehow I still feel so relaxed when I'm there!