Dance Clothing & Shoes
Today we have Cameron Dieck with us from échauffe – a company started by dancers, for dancers. Specifically–legwarmers…something they realized there was a real need for in terms of quality product. Read more about how they wound up business owners…
How did the idea for échauffe get started?
Caitlin and I have always heard complaints about legwarmers during our collective years spent training and dancing in the ballet world. After hearing a colleague at New York City Ballet complain about their legwarmers about two years ago, I just said to myself, “I can do this better”. It just occurred to me, if I don’t do this, someone else will.
In creating our line, we drew inspiration from our surroundings in New York City. NYC is a fashion Mecca and the place where many fashion houses’ creative departments are located. We really drew on this for the creation of our line. It was also extremely important to us that along with producing in the USA (to support the American economy) that we created products that were sustainable as possible. Aside from choosing raw materials that are Eco friendly, our yarn and factory are towns apart in NJ. The close proximity of our factory and yarn distributor cuts down on emissions and wasted fossil fuels in production. Another sustainable aspect of our garments is that they are all produced in whole garment manufacturing. Each garment is one piece of yarn from top to bottom, there are no seems, which cuts down on waste in the manufacturing process. This is something that both échauffe and our customers can be really proud of!
Was it difficult to get all the pieces in place to have the legwarmers made once you had the idea?
It wasn’t easy, I will say that much! It took about six months to find people that I was comfortable working with and to sort out our production supply streams. The hardest part in finding suppliers is finding people who value quality and that are agreeable to working with you.
Legwarmers have notoriously been considered by professionals and students alike to be poorly manufactured, leaving the ballet dancer with an often bulky and cumbersome product that just doesn’t cut it. We wanted to create a solid product that achieved the following…
- A new unibody seamless design. Through our research, we found that legwarmers fall apart along their seems. By constructing a garment that has no seems, a stronger more stable product has been achieved.
- A lightweight wear, which allows the wearer to see muscle definition. One of the largest complaints we have heard over the years is that legwarmers are bulky and thick, they get in the way of getting into fifth position. Our legwarmers are thin, yet warm!
- A 3/4 inch elastic band that eliminates slippage. You won’t have to pull up échauffe legwarmers up every two minutes.
- A moisture wicking design to keep the wearer dry.
All of this has been achieved while creating a beautiful design that is superior to other legwarmers made in the United States. Our mission is to design products that delight the spirit and enhance the dance performance of our clients.
How many different designs do you have?
We currently carry two designs, the Bambu™ Legwarmer and the Puma Stretch Calfwarmer. The Bambu™ Legwarmer is a full length legwarmer that incorporates our new unibody seamless design with a lightweight wear, which allows for wearer to see muscle definition. The Bambu™ Legwarmer comes in two styles, a striped and a solid, both boasts natural moisture wicking qualities due the use of 100% Bamboo yarn in its construction. Our Puma Stretch Calfwarmers helps to compress and warm the gastrocnemius muscle; like our Bambu™ Legwarmers, the Puma Stretch Calfwarmers are lightweight, allows their wearer to see muscle definition, and employs our new unibody seamless design.
What has been the most difficult part of running this business?
The most difficult part of running this business so far has been keeping up with the demand from our customers and finding the time to run a business while dancing with New York City Ballet and attending Fordham University. There have been many late nights in the process of founding and running échauffe Inc but I love the challenge. I find when one is passionate about what they are doing, they find the time to do whatever it is. Échauffe is a passion, so I make time!
What is next for the company?
Our ultimate goal for échauffe is to continue developing products that enhance the dancer’s experience and performance. In the near future, we will remain focused on warm-ups, more specifically knitwear. We are committed to making the best knitwear on the market for dancers!
We are also extremely excited to begin offering wholesale contracts in the near future. We have received an overwhelming number of requests from retail stores who are interested in carrying échauffe products and we will be rolling out that side of our business in the months to come!
Connect with échauffe:
If you are the outdoor activity type, you may have already heard of this company’s shoes–they make hiking boots, trail runners and other performance footwear. Starting out in the San Francisco Bay area in 2007, three founders got together and created a shoe line that reflected the name that they chose for it: Ahnu.
Ahnu is the Celtic goddess that embodies the balance between well-being and prosperity. To that end, not only has the company succeeded in doing well in the industry, but they have also donated over $250,000 to charitable causes–something they plan to continue doing.
The “Zen” and “Karma” shoes are among Ahnu’s latest efforts, and they were inspired by dance. Here’s a closer look at both:
The Zen ($80) is a luxe leather slide with a sculpted EVA footbed. I recently wore a pair of these around town for a week, and I’m here to tell you that they are quite comfortable. Although they are casual, they are dressier than flip-flops, but just as easy on the feet, with a little added protection for tender toes. (Note–for the record, they have a toe-seperator like flip-flops do, so those who just don’t like that feeling may want to think twice before purchasing a pair.)
I found these shoes to be incredibly light–kind of like Crocs, but ever so much more stylish. And they are available in black, garden green, plum and smokey brown, so there is plenty of variety.
The other shoe they have is the Karma ($90). Made from soft, supple, full-grain leathers, these flats are good for all day wear. The stretchy back heel provides a secure fit and they don’t take up much room in a travel bag. The sculpted EVA footbed is wrapped in micro-fiber suede to offer a soft feel with every step. These shoes are available in black, mood indigo, plum and garden green.
I liked the Zen shoes…they felt more like slippers. The only thing I own that is as comfortable is my (well broken in) pair of cowboy boots. But wearing those in the summer isn’t exactly practical…
What do you wear when you want to rest your feet?
Today on 4dancers we have 10 Questions With Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg…
1. How did you get started in ballet and what are you doing now?
I always loved to dance, since a was a little girl, and I was always entranced by ballet in particular. I used to watch PBS “Dance in America” specials on TV and try to copy what I saw. My parents finally took me for lessons when I turned 8 years old. I knew I wanted to dance professionally, and I was fortunate enough to be contracted as an apprentice with the Miami City Ballet at the age of 17. I am still dancing with MCB now, and have been a principal dancer since 2001. I also teach annually for the CB School Summer Intensive and I have been a guest artist and teacher with several other schools around the country.
2. You have written a book – “So, You Want To Be A Ballet Dancer”. Can you tell readers what this is about?
My book is essentially a “how to” guide for young aspiring dancers who are considering a professional career. It is also, in part, a memoir in which I share stories of my own pre-professional struggles and mishaps. It is meant to be informational and inspirational at the same time.
I found that on my own way to becoming a professional, as I find now in students of my own, that there are so many essentials that go untaught; such as: the in’s and out’s of the stage and backstage, studio etiquette, auditioning skills, injury prevention, healthy diet and nutrition, stage makeup and hair, pointe shoe preparation and maintenance, handling criticism and stress, etc.
My goal is to provide some insight into these areas so that young dancers are ready to cope with these challenges before they are contracted into a company. All of the information I provide will prove useful in their continued years of study as well.
3. Who can benefit from reading this book—and why?
There is something in my book for pre-professional dancers and students of all levels and age groups. I provide standard information that every young dancer will find that they need to know later on, as well as advice and tips that they can use during their student years. I think it is so important to be well prepared to enter a company, and that being well prepared will ensure a start “on the right foot”. A career in ballet, as wonderful as it is, is full of challenge, dedication, frustration, and sacrifice. My goal is to ease young dancers’ transition from student to professional – even if it is just a little bit.
4. Can you share a piece of advice for young dancers?0
TwinkleTies are designed to add a little sparkle to tap shoes, while being practical. The product is hand-made, and can also be used for gym shoes or even as a ponytail holder.
I thought these would be especially fun for a young dance student. The ties really are cute, and my 7-year-old niece was most definitely eyeballing them when I took them out of the package. You can choose from blue, green, pink and crystal.
I think these make a great alternative to the typical ties used for tap shoes, which often come undone at all the wrong times. A really super-cute idea, and easy to use!
Pass the word–comment below and enter yourself into a drawing for a giveaway! I’ll send a pair of red TwinkleTies to the lucky winner!2