K-DEER was born out of founder Kristine Deer’s love for yoga. Unable to find clothing that fit her increasingly sweaty lifestyle as a yoga student and certified Barkan Method instructor, Kristine put her fashion degree to work and started designing pieces in her childhood bedroom. Since 2011, K-DEER has grown into an internationally recognized activewear brand that’s backed by a team of great women.
“We set our standards for quality high – if it’s not good enough for us, it’s not good enough for our customers. We know that fit goes hand-in-hand with comfort and confidence, so we perfected it. Every pair of leggings has a flattering seam-free front and all pieces are cut from sweat-wicking material that’s light enough to make you feel free, but compressive enough to make you feel loved.”
Guided by yogic values, the people at K-Deer are passionate about giving back to the community and are mindful of manufacturing best practices. A portion of profits from their Signature Stripe leggings (check out #StripeSquad on their website https://www.k-deer.com) are donated to a selected charity with each pair named after an inspiring woman. The prints are designed in-house, while garments are produced locally in the US – a true testament to their small carbon footprint. Made from signature stretch fabric, their unisex activewear is designed to last. The innovative material won’t lose resiliency over time and will even shape comfortably around a growing baby bump. The company and products are an inclusive, body-positive brand that offers sizes XS-4XL in their women’s collection. Their kids collection carries the same prints from the main collection so parent and child can have colorful mini-me moments. Through their inclusive mindset, they encourage connection, positivity and giving back to their community.
“The K-DEER woman is all of us, she is strong, dynamic and mindful of the world around her.”
Born and raised in New Jersey, Kristine Deer graduated with Honors from Syracuse University with a degree in Fashion Design and studied abroad at the London College of Fashion. She then worked in the fashion industry in New York for a few years. At the peak of the recession, her employer was forced to close and she, like many others, was out of a job. The job market was extremely competitive and in an unexpected turn, instead of finding a new job, she found yoga.
“Fashion designers like me took a hit at that time. Divine intervention allowed me the opportunity to follow my heart…”
Practicing yoga 6 days a week, she struggled to find the right clothes to fit her increasingly active and perhaps sweaty lifestyle. She began sampling different styles of workout clothes and sharing them with other yoga teachers and other students for their opinions. Positive feedback fueled her with confidence to put her own design out there and she began to brand and market K-DEER, originally named K.Deer Haute Yoga Wear (a play on words for ‘hot yoga’ and ‘high fashion’).
The design ‘ah-ha’ moment was in creating the ‘Bum Bum’, an elastic free, raw edged short that covered just what needed to be covered and kept practitioners distraction free for all 90 minutes. There weren’t many brands on the market speaking directly to hot yoga and so Kristine realized she had a chance to show other women, something that would solve their hot yoga clothing woes.
“What began as my way of staying focused and comfortable in hot yoga, became the foundation of confidence, comfort and sexiness the K-DEER brand now builds upon every day.”
Ms. Deer started K-DEER with the desire to share those feelings of confidence, comfort and femininity with as many other women as possible. Starting off small, she sold the handmade style at her local yoga studio and began connecting to other studios and students around the world via social media. Within her first year, she made over 800 pairs of Bum Bums (the original style) by hand in her childhood bedroom, taking orders via the internet and sending them out through the local post office. Over the next two years, she designed and personally developed the shorts, capris and leggings which are the mainstream of the product line. The original flat front, high waisted bottoms quickly became a topic of conversation. It was unheard of at the time to see so much print on leggings but with carefully chosen designs on a unique high performance fabric, the K-DEER reputation was made and the brand began to get recognition for its uniqueness.
JOURNEY WITH YOGA
While evolving her yoga practice and as the brand was just getting off the ground, she also became a certified Barkan Method Hot Yoga teacher. The journey was as much about her self-discovery as it was about yoga.
“I learned so much about myself during training and as I began teaching; I saw K-DEER as an extension of me and opportunity to share my passion of yoga and fashion around the world.”
As the K-DEER brand expanded from hot yoga to other athletic and fitness pursuits including; spin, running, crossfit, surfing, paddle board and every other adventure in between, Kristine was able to see that women of all shapes, sizes and abilities build confidence and break through self-judgements.
“I feel so grateful that the thing that made me love and respect myself, became what helped other women do the same.”
Ms. Deer always set very high standard and if something isn’t good enough for her, it’s certainly not going to be good enough for a client. K-DEER carefully manufacture their apparel locally, in New Jersey and in the Garment Center of New York City. Season to season, the team would listen to feedback, make adjustments and improve upon the details that make each style successful. K-DEER is dedicated to using high quality, American made fabric that they print locally under strict eco-friendly guidelines. The team is committed to reducing their footprint on the earth by keeping their process local, efficient and low in waste.
The in-house K-DEER team is made up of 9 women, including Kristine’s sister, Trine. They always pushed each other creatively and supported each other professionally, so it was an highly beneficial addition to finally have her join the team in 2014. Trine has shared her incredible sense of color and print from her 13 years in the swim/print industry with the K-DEER brand. In addition, the values they learned as children (plus the yogic philosophy) have laid the solid foundation of an authentic and ethical small business. The rest of the team is all women, who have been described as “fierce, amazing women”.
“We are so excited to grow as a brand and do our part to continue and inspire more American production, introduce more of our creative strengths to our clients and help women feel as beautiful as they look in K-DEER.”
1. Do you think that it take a certain type of person to be an entrepreneur? What traits did Kristine Deer show? What do you think she needed to develop?
2. What barriers and/or setbacks did Kristine have and how did she overcome them?
3. Did Kristine utilize the Entrepreneurial Mindset and if so, how. Detail specifics.
4. What business model is K-Deer established on?
5. How did they develop key partnerships and how did Kristine use her existing network?
6. Identify critical resources Kristine needed and how did she and her team gain them?
7. What competition does K-DEER face and how do they set themselves apart?
8. What would you recommend for K-DEER’s next steps?