Since its establishment the yoga attire company weargrace has become brand of choice for women who want their clothing – both on and off the mat – to spark a deeper, authentic personal style. Muuyu was fortunate to recently catch up with weargrace Founder, KAREN JOYCE, to find out what inspires the former Gucci Image Director as the woman at the helm of this unique yoga clothing collection.
When did you establish weargrace and what was the momentum behind it?
I have been practicing yoga for many years and in 2009 after 20 years in the fashion industry, I left my business and traveled to Asia in search of more meaning, deeper self-understanding and a greater awareness of the ancient disciplines of the east.
In my travels and study I found that the ancient teachings and philosophy inherent in yoga and meditation are very different from their western interpretations. There is a very pure and simple side, a more meaningful foundation that gets lost in our hectic lifestyles and conditioning.
The creation of weargrace was an opportunity to use a language that I know (fashion) as a vehicle to share these precious teachings by embodying them in the brand values and the clothing itself.
This idea was born in late 2009 and developed through many subsequent trips to Asia and many yoga experiences in different parts of the world. The first collection was produced is 2012.
You’ve talked before about there being three specific events that woke you up to the fact that you needed to change the work/life you were leading, but at what moment did you start to think about setting up your own yoga fashion line and were you not worried that the work might consume you once again?
I started thinking about a yoga line in 2009 when I sat in my teachers training workshop in Bali, listening to the profound, life changing philosophy behind this ancient discipline and observed that everyone was dressed the same. Yoga attire was totally disconnected to the teachings. It occurred to me that the clothing could be a vehicle to remind people of the precious values inherent in yoga and to keep these teachings alive.
I trusted that if my work could be a natural extension of who I am and the values I sustain, that I could stay aligned and not fall into the old work patterns.
“Living” the precepts of yoga and meditation is much harder than studying it on an island or in the Himalayas. The real challenge comes in the integration of this wisdom into the ups and downs of everyday life. This remains a continual challenge for me and is what stimulates me to keep weargrace growing and to stay true to the message behind the brand.
Weargrace is so much more than a fashion brand. Along with the weargrace collection there are also grace retreats and a philosophy that promotes the practice of yoga – Can you explain further how these strands all tie together?
Grace retreats and the weargrace philosophy are all vehicles to remind people to live from the inside out. To connect to their unique inner wisdom and guidance. The clothing, the retreats, the philosophy, are all part of the same message.
You may buy a weargrace legging because you see it on Net-a-Porter or because you like the particular color or style. Maybe you read about the prayer flag symbolism and it helps to bring more compassion to your day, or the text in the weargrace mantra inspires you to take a yoga or meditation class and you begin to live from a different space. It is my hope that weargrace plants a seed that can lead people to their own unique path of personal growth.
You are one of the 16 hand-selected fashion lines that debuted as part of Net-a-Porter’s new, luxury activewear offering, Net-a-Sporter. How did that come about and what can we expect as part of your future relationship with them?
I first contacted Net-a-Porter in 2012, introducing the brand message, philosophy and product selection. Candice Fragis, the buyer who I was in touch with, was very kind in her feedback, recognizing the unique offering but relaying that there was not yet a place for this niche market on the N-A-P platform. In March of 2014, I received a call directly from Candice, senior buyer of the activewear segment. She had remembered the brand and explained the plan to launch the Net-a -Sporter platform, and came by to see the collection.
As an avid yogi, Candice connected immediately with the deeper message behind the brand, as well as its simple and elegant style, versatility and comfort that made the offering different from all other activewear brands.
Being in the right place at the right time and having someone who understood what the brand was trying to communicate, this was grace!
In July, 2014 weargrace was the only brand to represent the yoga sector on the Net–a-Sporter platform launch. Our presence on this important channel reaching over 170 countries is the perfect opportunity to share our unique message and offers all women simple, stylish and comfortable clothing that inspires a more personal, authentic part of themselves.
What are the future priorities for the company?
Weargrace aims to establish itself as the most modern, tasteful and meaningful brand in yoga attire, encouraging women to live from the core of their being, and connect to their unique personal style and inner guidance.
As a business woman and an avid yoga practitioner, what advice can you give to other working women in relation to using yoga both on and off the mat to live a fulfilling life?
Yoga is not just a physical practice. It is a tool that helps us to align with who we really are. Approach your practice with compassion and presence. In this connection, you will discover an inner knowing, a guidance that will help you to live from a more peaceful and authentic space.
This is living from the inside out and is my challenge every day. To live from this space is our greatest gift.
US-born Karen Joyce is the founder of weargrace. Following her graduation from Providence College and Rhode Island School of Design, Karen moved to Venice, Italy where she worked as a consultant for the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. From there she moved to Milan where she joined Gucci as a graphic designer, then as Art Director before relocating to London as Director of Image for the Gucci Group. In this position she managed an in-house creative agency for all Gucci’s brands including Yves Saint Laurent, Sergio Rossi, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Balenciaga. However, after almost two decades in the business Karen decided to make some personal changes that would greatly impact her professional life …and weargrace was born.
Weargrace products can be found on weargrace.com, Net-a-Porter and, from next year onwards, across the USA in 9 locations of the luxury department store chain, Barney’s.