Nestled in Edgewater Public Market on the outskirts of Denver lies KadyLuxe, a female-owned activewear brand slowly making its way into the big leagues with Nike and Lululemon. Creator and founder, Kady Zinke, with ample experience in dance and athletics, found that many fitness clothes designed for women didn’t do them justice. In response, she made her own. “Being a dancer, I’m very aware of my body and I know how women want to move in their clothes,” Zinke said.
All throughout her life, Zinke was a dedicated ballet dancer up until her graduation from the University of Arizona. She moved out to Los Angeles with a goal to make it in the entertainment industry, pursuing professional dancing and acting. After deciding to take a break from LA, she came home to Denver, where she wound up dancing for the NBA Denver Nuggets.
It was during her time with the Nuggets that she noticed the lack of women’s sports apparel, both as a dancer and a fan. Rather than having apparel specifically made for them, they received extra smalls in menswear. Nothing was tailored to the physique of a dancer.
“No one’s filling this niche and that’s kind of where I saw a hole in the market,” Zinke said. The brand started brewing as an idea for a single product: leggings with hidden knee pads in them for dancers. Zinke began traveling back and forth from Los Angeles and Denver, slowly learning about fashion while working.
“It wasn’t like I walked out of fashion school and knew how to make a tech pack or how to pattern or how to fit,” Zinke said. “I really had to learn by having the courage to just go figure it out. I didn’t have a manual or mentors.”
During this process, she produced a trendy moto legging as her first pant. This led her to create a Kickstarter campaign that quickly gained a lot of traction. She started with only 100 pairs initially allocated to her backers, but as brands began seeking out her legging, it was clear that the demand was exceeding her expectations.
To get a sense of the potential popularity of the collection, Zinke began pitching her designs to big-name schools such as her alma mater, the University of Arizona, and the University of Colorado Boulder. With just a sketchbook of designs, a few line sheets and minimal sample clothing, both schools immediately wrote her a purchase order. Two schools quickly grew to over 50 across the nation. “I was pursuing and filling something that no one was doing at the time, which was Lululemon quality activewear athleisure with the school logos on them,” Zinke said.
Zinke puts a strong emphasis on the quality of fabric and how that aids in comfort, mobility and shape retention of the clothing. When first starting out, Zinke would buy and fly out rolls of fabric from Italy to either Los Angeles or Denver.
With the growth in popularity, Zinke understood the need to learn more about the industry. This led her to travel to China, where she learned about fabrics. Her mentors, as she described, were “textile experts,” and aided her in the development of the fabrics used in her clothing today. It was during this time of constant travel that she began to see the business take off.
One of these unique fabrics ended up as their blend for leggings. At the time of the fabric’s creation, big-name activewear brands were under fire for their pants looking see-through. In an attempt to avoid this issue, the brand worked on what they called a double knit.“Fabric was one way that we distinguished ourselves, and that helps us because we use such a high-grade level of spandex. Your pants aren’t gonna bag after wearing it for one day.”
Zinke aimed for a specific look with these leggings, one that was more versatile than other brands. Traditional black leggings are commonly seen at the gym or the grocery store, but her goal for KadyLuxe leggings was the ability to wear them with heels and a leather jacket; quality activewear with much more fashion.
“The dancer lifestyle that I really wanted to bring to the brand was freedom of movement, life is a movement, you don’t have to change your clothes,” Zinke said.
To coincide with this goal, the brand has expanded its collection to products outside of athletic wear and what Zinke describes as a unique style that “tends to be a little bit more edgy, fashionable.”Zinke describes the business as two separate ventures: the fashion line of KadyLuxe and the sports division.
Styles from the original fashion line carry over to their licensed co-branded apparel. Similar to Nike or Champion, KadyLuxe creates their take on sports apparel and embellishes it with their logo: the crown of the queen in a chess game.
“We chose her because she is the most powerful piece of chess,” Zinke said. “She represents freedom of movement, she can move in any direction, which is the tenant of this brand.”In time, Zinke has big plans for the company’s development. As of now, the brand can be found in campus bookstores, in-stadium stores, sports retailers and some department stores, but as they grow, they plan to create more of an online presence. Changes will include a new face to the website, making it feel more geared towards shopping, and a goal to release a new product each month rather than a spring and fall collection. As they draw close to partnering with 100 schools across the country, they also hope to expand with their other sports partnerships, including the NFL and NBA.
Their biggest change though will start in July. A percentage of proceeds will go towards Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R), a charity that rescues, seeks justice and provides aftercare for victims of sex trafficking situations.
As the business grows, KadyLuxe will continue to fill the gap in the activewear market for women. For now, Zinke and her growing brand can be found either online or at 5505 W 20th Ave, Edgewater, CO.
All photography by Roxanna Carrasco.