Okodee Mmowere is the Adinkra symbol for strength and versatility used by the Oyoko clan of present day Ghana. Meaning “The Talons of the Eagle,” Denver’s newest activewear brand ICONI is hitting the fitness fashion scene with this stoic symbol as its overlay to inspire and motivate.
In 2019 — on September 15th at 1 a.m. to be exact — inspiration struck Angel Johnson after working a long nightshift. She’d disliked spending so much money on leggings that would eventually turn out to be see-through or have unreliable waistbands that would roll down. Johnson had already been contemplating starting a business which drove her to figure out a solution. “I started sketching a legging because I love activewear fashion and it just clicked for me,” she told 303 Magazine.
As an active duty military member and a fitness and activewear lover, she came up with a plan to create both fashionable and functional activewear that’d be worth every dollar spent. “I’ve had embarrassing moments where I’d spent $70 on leggings just for a friend to point out that she could see my underwear color when I was squatting!” Johnson revealed.
Just two weeks after her epiphany, the brand’s first legging went into production and ICONI was officially born. The business began with the Resilient Red Core Legging, Goals Gray Core Legging and Icon Open Back Top. Now, in less than a year, it has expanded its horizons with greater product and sizing offerings, a bigger fan-base and even introducing a men’s line.
Like Okodee Mmowere, there’s also great significance behind the meaning of ICONI — I Can Overcome, Nothing’s Impossible is the brand’s acronym spelled out. Its intention has been to promote power, strength and motivation through each of its carefully designed and tested pieces. In or out of the gym, Johnson has felt that these three distinct pillars are necessary for any journey or goal someone may have.
“Throughout my life, those aspects have helped me overcome challenges such as being one of the first hundred Black women to graduate from The Citadel, being a Black woman military officer and now starting my own business. I Can Overcome, Nothing’s Impossible is not just about fitness but also overcoming struggles.”
The physical and mental challenges that Johnson faced while attending a military college forced her to dig deep in order to overcome obstacles and do the seemingly impossible. To move mountains and live victoriously have been some of the reasons why ICONI has resonated with so many.
Johnson and her team understand that life can sometimes be challenging and have made it their promise to help uplift others as the brand continues to grow. With this in mind, ICONI donates 10% of its profits to nonprofit organizations. The brand has been able to donate $1,000 in total to Clothes to Kids of Denver and Minnesota Freedom Fund in its mere infancy as a business
When asked about her own volunteering experience and where her innate desire to help others comes from Johnson told 303,
“My mom always taught me the value of gratitude and giving back. Throughout my life, I’ve volunteered with various organizations from Toys for Tots and The Special Olympics to food banks. I’m currently a volunteer leader with Project Helping and volunteer at Clothes to Kids of Denver. I think it’s important to uplift others while uplifting myself.”
Inclusivity and positivity have also been at the forefront of the brand’s mission since its very conception. To Johnson, Black businesses in the fitness fashion industry can often be overlooked. After all, current representation and diversity in fashion doesn’t have the sunniest outlook.
Johnson has had immense admiration and love for all of the women who have supported ICONI and created a strong sisterhood. “I love that Black women are featured all over my website and social media pages and are not just tokens like we see with other big brands,” she stated.
This has meant that ICONI’s customers and followers have had quite a say in the brand’s design process. Jonson told 303 that she actually is receptive to learning about what they want to see and what they’d enjoy wearing. Powerful quotes and words and even colors also inspire her as a designer to create the brand’s apparel. To Johnson, having an ICONI wearer look down at their athletic attire, at the gym, and get motivated all over again is a definite success.
Maintaining high standards to produce the best-of-the-best activewear is just as important as the message they promote. ICONI follows a strict guideline of what is considered high-quality before putting its name on it.
“We test everything extensively! We squat, run, jump, stretch, do yoga, etc. in our leggings before they ever go into production. We test them in the gym and outside in the sun to ensure you can’t see the color of your underwear through our leggings,” Johnson attested.
In essence, all leggings and shorts need to be squat proof, chafe resistant and must be moisture wicking. Sports bras are tested under the same scrutiny, however rather than being squat proof — of course — they need to be breathable. As for all products, logos and other graphics on clothing must be able to withstand several cycles in washing machines and dryers without experiencing peeling.
ICONI’s most popular products are the Goals Gray legging and Drive Two-Tone legging, particularly for their support during tough workouts. Johnson also recommends the Goals Gray legging for everyday activities because of its body-flattering fit. And for moments to lounge, she tells us that ICONI’s crop tops are excellent at home since they’re so lightweight and comfy.
“It takes a certain strength to control your total wellness, especially when starting a fitness journey,” Johnson shared when asked about Okodee Mmowere. ICONI’s fierce mission to simultaneously inspire and innovate in an industry where inclusion is much needed is in itself a remarkable feat.
All photos courtesy of ICONI