Bringing aspirational, on-trend, affordable clothing to every family is what Old Navy is all about. And the brand's Active line delivers — in a big way. As stylish, performance-minded athletic wear becomes a growth category for the brand, its designers are going for gold.
We kicked it with the Active design team — Janice Lucena, Sr. Director Design; Brett Roddis, Director Design; and Julie Dunn, Sr. Designer — to find out what fuels them, and just what makes these (built-for-)players so awesome!
[Pictured, from left: Matthew Duckett, Sr. Graphic Designer; Brett Roddis, Design Director; Julie Dunn, Sr. Designer; Janice Lucena, Sr. Director; Janine Garb, Associate Designer.]
Old Navy's EVP of Product Design, Jill Stanton, mentioned in a recent Bloomberg article that the team is made up of athletic-wear veterans. Tell us all about you!
Janice: I've been in the Active design space for 20 years — designing everything from football kits for the World Cup, to yoga and tennis apparel. Sport has an incredible power to bring people together and inspire them. At Old Navy, we are changing the perception that great-performing activewear must cost more.
Brett: I was at The North Face for seven years. I ran more ultra-marathons than my legs care to remember! It gave me a deep appreciation of unparalleled performance apparel, “method” designing, taking a maniacal approach to R&D and wear-testing the hell out of product! It's all about problem solving, the hustle and making the design magic happen!
Julie: I've been designing performance apparel for 11 years. Creating garments that enhance the wearer's performance is what keeps me going after all these years. There's always room for improvement and innovation.
The Built For Play campaign showcases our Active product in a way we haven't seen before. What makes you so proud of the new line?
Janice: We are a family brand, and I'm proud that we're able to give every member of the family great gear, at amazing value. I love to see a piece of Old Navy Active paired with something from Lululemon!
Julie: When we started this, I dreamed we could create a really credible activewear line, and now we have. I love all the hashtags our consumers have created from wearing our product, like #RUNRESTREPEAT.
Creating the active line can't just be a walk in the park. What do you find most challenging?
Julie: The design process is about problem solving. Maintaining the right technical innovation at a great value. It's a fine balance.
Janice: Our silhouettes don't change rapidly — athletes will always need a great run short or compression tight — but detail does. Every season you've got to challenge yourself to make product better than the last season.
Brett: Our product is built for play, but it's also built for performance. Customers are extremely loyal and place a lot of trust in their performance-wear brands. We can't miss the mark.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Brett: Most of my inspiration comes from wearing the product with people who do sports all the time. Inspiration could also be the most obscure thing at the most random time. To quote Sir Paul Smith, “You can find inspiration in everything…and if you can't, look again.”
Janice: I'm a working mom with young kids, which really connects me to our customers. Time outside with my family can inspire me to get the assortment right for everyone, from moms to toddlers.
Is designing Active product different from designing a fashion line?
Brett: When it comes to performance apparel my design mantra is “function first fashion later”, but you walk a very fine line of creating a perfectly technical functioning ugly monster that no one wants to wear…you still got to look fly when you work out!
Janice: Our design team is tiny but mighty! It's also important to look at things like harmony of color across all divisions, making sure we tell a cohesive story. We might feature Active for the family on mannequins at the front of store, and it's important that it look like one collection, while also sitting well with the fashion product around it.
Alright, time for a little fun, what is your album of choice while designing?
Brett: Too many albums to choose from. Check out my Spotify playlists.
Julie: At the start of the season when I'm collecting inspiration, I'm typically lettin' the Led out or jamming out to the Black Crowes. When I'm designing though, I need total concentration and it's the Lord of the Rings soundtracks all day. I'm surprised I haven't designed any performance cloaks for the line!