You’ve got to be extremely confident (or slightly delusional) to start an active wear brand in today’s saturated market with so many big-name players. But Zuma Blu is on a mission, and it has as much to do with preventing bullying as it does with performance bike shorts.
Based in Minneapolis, Zuma Blu launches online this week with women’s active apparel designed for running, biking and yoga—in prints chic enough to wear to coffee after the gym. Prices are comparable to Athleta, with one major differentiator: 10 percent of Zuma Blu’s proceeds will go to bully prevention charities. You might not guess it from looking at founder Lea Leopold, an adorable, fit blonde who is currently expecting her second child, but growing up in a small town in Iowa, she says she was bullied relentlessly for two years. “I nearly lost every friend I had. It’s especially difficult when that kind of trauma happens during such a formative time in life. It’s not something that ever leaves you.”
In just the short time Zuma Blu has been publicizing its brand mission, emails have been pouring in from people who want to share their stories of being bullied and how they overcame it, says Lea’s husband and business partner, Brian Leopold. The couple says their goal is not to knock lululemon off its throne, rather, to do what can be tougher for a large company: connect with the community. They started by donating 100 percent of profits from their launch party last week to Twin Cities-based Athletes Committed to Educating Students (ACES).
For consumers seeking meaning behind their purchases—which is a lot of us these days—Zuma Blu offers a double win: supporting a local start-up, and knowing that your yoga pants are doing some good for the community, with a portion of every purchase funding programs to create bully-free schools.
Of course, the mission is only as good as the product, and the Leopolds have 20 years of cumulative experience in the retail industry with brands including Gap, Banana Republic, Christopher & Banks, and Target. They’ve clearly spent time on the details, from sun resistant fabrics that won’t fade to sweat resistant pockets. Lea was so excited about the high waist on her active capris that I had to try them on. I really liked the graphic pattern, the fit, the compression—enough to hold me in without creating a sausage situation—and the design details, like transparent panels on the lower leg. I wish the waistband didn’t dip in the center—it looks nice on fit models, but personally, I’d prefer a straight band to avoid giving my belly a path to spill forth. And, the material felt a bit thin, which could be perilous to my downward dog. Lea assured me I was good to go. She also pointed out that thicker fabrications will be coming for fall.
Overall, there’s a lot that’s right with this new line, and great potential as the Leopolds continue to add designs. Between the looking good and doing good, Zuma Blu is worth trying on. zumablu.com
Namaste, from the bathroom/fitting room at Bachelor Farmer, where Zuma Blu held its launch party.