Interview with Designer, Emily Hsu


Angie Omata

Angie Omata

Co-Founder / Creative Director at simplyWORKOUT
Angie Omata

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Known for their signature tights in fun-loving prints (think mermaid, stars and cherries), Emily Hsu is an activewear brand that is making waves with the boutique fitness girl and dancers.  We had the chance to catch up with Emily Hsu, the woman behind the brand.

What is your background, and how did it lead you to starting your own athletic apparel line?

I actually graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Psychology but always wanted to be on the stage. So I moved to New York City to chase my dream and within a year made my Broadway debut in Miss Saigon. Since then I have performed as an actress/singer/dancer in over a dozen Broadway musicals in addition to television and film. I have always been an avid yogi and have always had a passion for fashion. After I had my two daughters I spent less time performing and in 2014, on a whim, I began sewing leggings for myself and my girls when I couldn’t find anything on the market that suited what I was looking for: high performance activewear with a superior fit, on-trend prints, and amazing price point. Through a lot of trial and error (I have no formal training in design) I came upon my signature high-waist legging. I love prints and I believe that your wardrobe should compliment your many moods and personalities – bold and spirited one day, sleek and sophisticated another. You should live your life with passion and you should dress to be noticed! Friends starting asking me to make them leggings and I used to sew everything by hand. Word quickly spread amongst my dancer friends, the Rockettes, and NYC fitness instructors and the demand grew. I decided to make a go of it and launch officially and it’s just been growing ever since.

Girls have gone wild over your mermaid designs on our site…how did you come up with that initial idea?

I have always loved anything sparkly or glittery so when I was shopping in NYC one day I came across the fish scale print and fell in love. I wasn’t sure if other people would like it or think it was too much but I just tend to follow my instincts. Everything I design is something I wear myself and feel good in. I knew I loved it so I added it to my line. The newer Pink Mermaid style started out as part of the girls’ line but a few customers requested it so I initially launched it as a limited edition style but it sold out so quickly that I added it to the line and I can barely keep it in stock!

Being the definition of mom-preneur, how do you find your balance? Do your kids help you with the business?

It’s hard to find balance….running your own business means you are working 24/7. But I love that I get to make the decisions and do what I love and create my own schedule. I hope to be an example to my daughters and show them that through hard work and the willingness to try and fail, anything is possible. You can write your own story and carve your own path. I try to do everything to the best of my ability. I also make time for myself to practice yoga or go to dance class. It’s important. My girls are still too little to really help me with the business but I make them model for me!

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What has been your most daunting moment in either starting your business, or as a performer on stage? How did you overcome?

I think the moments that are the most daunting in my business (or as a performer) are when you put yourself out there either through something you created or in a performance and you fail. It’s very personal and you have to learn to take rejection. And find the ability to still believe in yourself. I am learning everything as I go along and there are definitely mistakes. One time there was a very popular print that I had to re-order. I didn’t realize that the different base fabrications they use to print on could differ so much in stretch. I had an entire batch of over 150 pairs of leggings that ended up sizing completely incorrectly because the pattern was designed for a certain amount of stretch. Basically everything fit 2 sizes smaller than it was supposed to. I ended up with so many pairs that couldn’t be sold. But I learn from every misstep and it helps me grow as a designer and business owner. And I ended up donating all the super tiny XS leggings to the girls at my daughter’s ballet school and everyone was so happy to have new leggings. So you can always turn a negative into a positive. I believe that it isn’t your failures that define you but how you pick yourself up and continue afterwards that makes you who you are.

What are 3 things you never leave the house without?

My cell phone, Aquaphor for my lips, and either a clip or elastic to throw my hair up on my head. It’s not very glamorous but that’s the truth!


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