Guest of Honor: Alexis Ring - Founder of Lexi Miller Apparel

 

During our Tap Takeover Launch Party we'll continue the tradition of interviewing one of our favorite entrepreneurs.  This time around we've invited Alexis Ring to join us and tell us her story of starting her own apparel line; Lexi Miller Apparel.  In her own words below you can get a taste of her journey to becoming a designer, entrepreneur, and industry disrupter in the cycling apparel world:

 In the beginning of 2009, I was working at my dream job at a residential interior design firm in San Francisco.  I had just run my first half marathon in a pretty decent time and was preparing to train for the San Francisco Marathon.   A few days after that finish, I couldn’t even run a block.  Even worse, sitting was nearly impossible without excruciating pain, which made workdays very trying.  I would go from physical therapy to work in tears.  A disc injury was the culprit, and I was advised not to run anymore.  Begrudgingly, I started swimming again and even more begrudgingly took up spinning--UGH.

Quite soon after that, San Francisco was feeling the effects of the recession, and new clients suddenly stopped coming in.  I was laid off.  Then, my dog suddenly died.  He was my buddy, my weekend adventurer, and he was only 4.  And then I had to give up gluten, which meant no more après-ski beers, and no more bagels and pizza; less tragic than the aforementioned events but still a tragedy for a Jersey-born girl! 

I felt like I was losing everything that I loved.  I had no choice but to find new passions, rebuild my life, and get the train back on track, but a new track.  I got a new dog, and I started a new business planning and designing events.  I took on interior design projects.  Things were looking up, but I was itching to get outdoors.  However, I was conflicted.  The presence of road biking in the city was huge, and it was alienating.  Guys in their electric blue, green, yellow, fuschia, logo-d out “kits” made me feel like it was not the sport for me.  The few women I saw on the road sported hideous versions of pink-flowered, ill-fitting spandex. 

But at the urging one of one non-pink-and-flowers girlfriend who rode, I went shopping for a bike, which was my first awkward experience with the cycling industry.  Shop after shop was manned (no pun intended) by some hipster know-it-all who was all too happy to spout off a bunch of technical information and try to up sell me for reasons I did not understand, because my last bike was a purple 10 speed, circa 1987.  When did riding a bike get so serious, so technical and so expensive?  At one particular neighborhood bike shop, the sales guy sent me out on a test ride but he had the saddle set a bit high.  So when I coasted to a stop, my foot was so far off the ground that I fell over and took the $3,000 bike with me.  Condescending folks later told me that $3,000 was not a lot to pay for a bike…whaaaat??

Eventually I encountered a female sales associate, took the plunge, and bought a bike, clipless pedals and all.  She warned me that I would have one “OH SH*T” moment where I would be unable to clip out fast enough and I would fall over.  Just one, she promised.  I did have my very public, very real “OH SH*T” fall right on the busy San Francisco Marina.  I promptly scooped my body and my pride off the sidewalk, found some coordination and some confidence and I was off.  I loved the freedom, the climbing, the descending, and the fact that a bike could take me for a 50+ mile journey on a Saturday.  Within 5 months, I had ridden through Patagonia, completed numerous century rides, climbed tens of thousands of feet, and I was hooked.  

Meanwhile, I was constantly searching for decent women's cycling clothes, not great women's cycling clothes, because there was no such thing.  I sought out the best of the worst, meaning the plainest jerseys and shorts I could find among the flowery, fuchsia mess that saturates the marketplace.  I was so disappointed.  I just wanted to not be embarrassed to be seen by someone I knew.  Was that too much to ask for?!

Out of frustration, I started casually talking about the idea of creating my own line of women’s cycling apparel.  To my surprise, so many people knew someone who knew someone who had started a clothing line without any prior experience in the industry.  The common thread among these women was that they started a business because the marketplace did not offer what they wanted.  These women were solving problems and they were motivated by their passions.  I had a chat with Jen Hinton of Carve Designs, who so generously gave me enough information to be dangerous.  Funny enough, she also started out as an interior designer.  A google search for led me to my first textile vendor.  A craigslist ad led me to my patternmaker.  Slowly but surely, I was making progress.  

One vendor gave me “the talk”: a cautionary tale of a now-defunct label’s demise.  He told me that a particular women’s brand failed because women need to see a garment in 8 color ways, and that company could not keep up with the cost of producing so many color ways.  I wholeheartedly disagreed (while feigning agreement, of course).  Said company made ugly garments in 8 color ways, and had a horrible name.  That is why they did not sell.  I believe that women want to see something well made, technically sound, and beautifully styled in a few on-trend color ways.

So that covers the "how".  Back to the "why".  Lexi Miller has deeper meaning, beyond spandex and beyond cycling.  I’m not sure if I ever would have gotten into road biking had my life not been derailed, but I do believe in silver linings, and making lemonade when life gives you lemons.  Those beliefs in transformation, potential and resilience reside in the depths of Lexi Miller.  I want other women to fall in love with road biking like I did, and feel like they have a place in the sport, even if they don’t race or belong to a team or a club.  I want other women to realize their potential, to discover a new passion, and to get outdoors.  I want them to feel like themselves, not a watered down version of men, not like 12 year old girls, but like the smart, sophisticated, multi-faceted badass, beautiful women that they are. 

xo Alexis

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