Meet Cassey Ho. Fitness instructor, YouTube star, best-selling author, and now proud designer and CEO of POPFLEX Active. Phew that's a lot of hats to wear! How does she do it?! She tells us about her dreams, challenges, and how the POPFLEX Peony Garden Collection was born. Get to know the mastermind behind it all as we pick her brain and get the inside scoop!
When did you first become interested in fashion design?
As long as I can remember! Maybe 8? I have these huge binders at my parents house filled with evening gowns and wedding dresses that I would design whenever I had free time. Sketching was my hobby.
Did you go to design school or are you self-taught?
Self taught. Growing up, my friends labeled me as "the artist" or "the drawer" and lunch they would ask me to draw sketches of them in the clothes we all wanted to buy! I believe "Clueless" was in at the time, so there was a lot of knee-high socks and berets! It wasn't until college that I took one class on fashion illustration. That was so incredible to finally learn how to perfect "fashion anatomy" and work on things that I've always had trouble with - hands and faces.
What or where do you like to draw inspiration from?
Inspiration is everywhere. I teach fitness classes and take fitness classes all the time, so I am always looking at what the other women are wearing. I see how they move in the materials and if it looks flattering and comfortable. I also draw inspiration from nature a lot. The colors that appear in the wild go so well together already - so bam, there's your color palette.
How would you describe your style?
My style depends on what kind of day it is at work! Sometimes I'll head into the office in a ponytail, booty shorts and a tank top because it's a YouTube film day. If it's a meeting day, I'll put my hair up into a fluffy top knot and wear a fitted romper with jewelry and heels. Overall though, my style is girly. I love flowers, lace, flowy fabrics and anything that makes me feel like a damsel!
Describe the POPFLEX Peony Collection in 3 words.1. Romantic
How is the POPFLEX Peony collection different from your first activewear collection BODYPOP?
GREAT QUESTION. BODYPOP will never be forgotten as it was my very very first activewear baby. But when you do things for the first time, you can make mistakes. I'm going to be really open and honest and say that when BODYPOP came out, we rushed to the finish line. I really wanted to release it at the end of the summer, and because of my ambition, we did not give the project enough time for thorough testing and inspection. I trusted my project managers and partners at the factories to do their part and deliver me a near-perfect product. But oh boy, was I wrong.
We ran into many issues on the quality end which I am not proud of. It was not intended, but it happened because I didn't have a full time employee overseas to manage the whole project. There's only so much you can control.
Additionally, BODYPOP was priced alongside popular yoga and activewear brands like Lululemon and Lorna Jane. The amount of time, effort, fabric, and labor it took to create the first BODYPOP collection surely justified that higher price point. However, I listened to the outrage on pricing from the community and it made me sad. It also made me realize that too many women were feeling excluded because of that price. And that I needed to do something about it.
So...since the initial launch of BODYPOP, I've been on a mission to figure out how to bring the price down and make the quality of our clothing even higher. So many people told me it was impossible - charging me to make a basic legging at the price I was trying to sell it to customers at! We traveled. We studied. We researched. We listened. We argued. We learned.
And in the end...
We found a way to make it work. We sourced EVERY single thread, trim, ribbon, and piece of fabric. We know EXACTLY where everything came from. No middle man.
We had one of our own employees overseas managing and checking the entire process to make sure no fabric was wasted and no extra, unnecessary steps were taken to create the garment. We made sure the garment sewers and our factory partners were happy. We built real relationships. We did it genuinely from the bottom up.
Let me just say that a lot of the activewear you see out there is INSANELY overpriced. What you're paying for is all the marketing they did to make you feel luxurious in those clothes. Don't buy into that.
So...with the launch of my second baby, I wanted to shock the activewear industry with what was possible.
When you wear POPFLEX for the first time...oh boy are you going to be BLOWN AWAY by the softness of our fabrics, how they compress your muscles just right, and how gorgeous and flattering they are on a woman's body! POPFLEX is the ultimate marriage of design, quality, and price.
What have you learned about the world of fashion design since your first oGorgeous yoga bag line?
This is a funny question, because when I first started designing yoga bags, I thought there was some US federal regulation on bag sizes and I spent like an hour on google trying to find the documents for that! Haha. I later realized that there are no limitations or regulations to design. You can go wild and crazy! Then you learn how to make it work functionally and figure out how to make it work price wise (for your customer) by choosing the right materials.
How do you want your customers to feel in your designs?
Beautiful. Powerful. Unstoppable.
What do you say to people when they accuse your models of "not being real"?
First of all, let me say this once and for all: none of our models are EVER retouched or "photoshopped". The phrase "she's not real" doesn't really make sense to me because you're a real, physical human being no matter if you're thin, "normal", or a bit curvier!
For our debut POPFLEX shoot, I wanted to work with a professional, seasoned ballerina to really bring out the life in what my designs were all about. Kylie embodied everything I envisioned - passion, strength, grace, beauty. Pairing her with Jacquelyn, a professional dancer and yoga instructor was just an explosion of girl power! What I'm concerned with is not how their bodies look. I want pointed toes, ultra flexibility, power and a girls who can inspire other girls to never give up on a dream.
How do you find time and balance to design with everything else going on in your life like your blog, creating YouTube videos, teaching POP Pilates, posting to social media, etc.?
Passion can really make you achieve some incredible things. That, and an app I used called Trello. I write down everything I have to do, and then, I do it!
What is the biggest challenge of being a designer?
I think the real question here is "What's the biggest challenge of being a designer and a CEO?" A lot of times, the 2 will battle each other out! The designer in me may want to use some special fabric that costs $50 a yard but the businesswoman in me is like "Yeah, no one's going to buy that legging for $200!"
If your parents would have accepted your dream in becoming a fashion designer from the start, would you go back in time to attend design school?
I think if my parents had not been so darn relentless in making me become a doctor, I would have probably attended fashion design school for sure. But you know what, things happen to you in life for a reason and the fact that I am where I want to be (even though it took a weird, winding path), that is all that matters and I appreciate it everyday.
What's your biggest dream for POPFLEX?
My biggest dream!?? Ok well I'm just going to be silly and say it. I would love to see my fave girl Taylor Swift wear POPFLEX! I would die. Haha, but for real now...I would love to actually see someone wearing POPFLEX just randomly. Someone I don't know and who doesn't know me. Like imagine at a Starbucks or at the airport. Oddly enough, through the hundreds of thousands of water bottles, yoga mats, bags, and clothing we've sold, I've have yet to see a single person wear any of my designs outside of the gym (aka out in the wild.)! It'll happen one of these days I hope!
What advice would you give to young designers and entrepreneurs?
You don't need a lot of money, a degree in fashion design, or a whole team of people to work for you. As long as you have an idea, you can and will make it happen. Google has been so helpful in teaching me everything I didn't know! Other tips: go to the library and borrow some books! Get an internship and learn what you can. And find a mentor who will guide you.