Growing up, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, Nancy Rose, alternated between dreams of achieving elite Olympic gold in gymnastics and sketching her way to fashion fame. But when an injury derailed her Olympic dreams, she turned to her other lifelong passion of fashion design. And yet, it was her gymnastic background that eventually led her to create Nancy Rose Performance, activewear that blurs the lines between feminine fashion and athletic function with a bit of edge. We caught up with this Montclair mama of three to talk about the path to launching her line, how her time in the gym influences every piece she creates, and her go-to spot during the pandemic for family dinners with her boys.
featured image via Carley Storm Photography
You have a background as a nationally-ranked gymnast and also an impressive career in the fashion world. Tell us how those two passions came together with Nancy Rose Performance. How did you initially create the concept, and what was the process like bringing it to life?
Gymnastics and fashion were always my passions. As a kid, when I wasn’t at the gym, I was always styling my look, drawing sketches, or playing dress-up. At the gym, mainly because I was on an Olympic path, it was all business. My leotards had to fit right to focus, and wearing quality garments was essential—that stuck with me when I set out to create my activewear.
It may seem like activewear was where I was always headed. Still, when I first graduated from Parsons, I started my own formal and cocktail wear collection creating beautiful dresses and other special occasion garments. As time went on and my own life grew busier, I noticed very few options that transitioned well from your workout to the rest of your life. Most of the choices were not feminine and lacked the detail and the fit I wanted in my clothes.
I figured I was not alone and shifted gears to create fashionable, versatile activewear. Right from the beginning, the focus was on fabric and fit. The materials had to be strong and durable yet soft and wearable. I wanted a sustainable product that would hold up over time. As part of my design process, I always spent a lot of time on the little details, finding a way to make each piece unique. I took the techniques used in constructing high-end garments and translated them into activewear. My time in the gym played a big part in the process because I wanted to create something aesthetically pleasing yet functional. Everything I made was wear-tested, and if it could not perform to our high standards, no matter how much I loved the look, it would not make the cut.
Especially over this past year, athleisure wear has become like a uniform for many moms, transitioning from an at-home workout to Zoom calls to everything in between. What did you feel was missing in the performance/athletic wear space, and how is Nancy Rose Performance different?
It’s interesting because it’s hard to remember life before leggings, right? But when we got started, athleisure was not even really a thing. Over the past few years, it’s grown tremendously as a category, and the pandemic moved athleisure front and center. I’ve always focused on fabric technology, garment construction, and interesting details without sacrificing fit and functionality. Each season has taken us down a different path—we’ve done strategically placed cuts, draping, gathering, mesh appliques, metallic foil prints, carefully placed ruffles, laser cuts, and more. This season, you’ll see a lot of vintage-washed and hand-dyed one-of-a-kind garments.
Can you share some of your favorite pieces you’ve created from your line and what you love about them?
Oh, that’s tough—there have been so many favorites over the years. Our PowerLux material is like nothing else you’ve ever tried and been around since the beginning of the line. It’s got smooth lines, is moisture resistant, core compressing, and has UV protection and in every collection. Our newest PowerLux style I’m obsessed with is our Moonshine Pant in Lipstick – I love the color and the dyed effect of how the black dye lays over the hot pink.
Our super-soft sweatshirts always top the list for their flattering look and different details. One style we’ve reimagined a few different ways is our Althea Sweatshirt. I love this style in washed black. I love the cut of this sweatshirt, and it has an edgy-cool look- slightly curved at the waist with side slits. I dress this up with jeans or wear it with matching sweats or leggings around my house and town.
Maybe it’s because of my days in the gym, but I am a big fan of halter tanks. Our Flow Halter (in black) is my longtime favorite go-to tank for its flowy shape, and it always makes me feel good with leggings or jeans. And I can’t say it’s my favorite yet, but I’m excited about our Good Lovin’ Tank coming out soon. I love the graphic, and the shape of this tank makes it so easy to wear with everything.
How has the pandemic has shifted your role as an NJMOMpreneur, both as a business owner and mom?
I’m so fortunate that I had already moved our offices from Midtown Manhattan to the heart of Montclair in January of 2019. I had done that for a lot of reasons, but the biggest was for a better balance. I love what I do, and I love working in an office away from my home, but with three boys, it became increasingly difficult to be there for them. So, when the pandemic hit, I could be home, and even now with them still home from school, I can focus on new designs and the business. I’ve had to shift my ideas around work and productivity, work some less traditional hours than I had before, order more pizza, and get more comfortable with all the virtual technology. Being at home also has its merits. My kids see more of the effort I put in to accomplish something, and I hope they are inspired to mimic that in their pursuits, whether on the ice (they play hockey), in school, or their professional lives in the future.
Tell us about some of your favorite local businesses and why you love them.
My favorite I miss the most right now is The Wellmont Theater. Music is so important to me and is a heavy influence on my life and even my designs, so living in a town with a live music venue feels like a gift. I love De Novo—I take my team there for holiday dinners. The menu is just so delicious, and I’ve never had a bad meal. Daikichi is my sushi go-to—having moved to Montclair from NYC, we were so happy to have such fresh, delicious sushi nearby. And Egan & Sons is the best, and they do everything right, even during the pandemic. The parking lot with socially distanced tables, fire pits, and tents were the key to getting us all through those dark days. At Egan’s, even with three boys, you can always find something for everyone.
If you could go back and tell yourself something when you were first starting as an NJMOMpreneur, what would it be?
There are so many things, but I think the most important thing would be that it will be hard. There will be stretches where you feel like you are just pushing uphill each step of the way, and you will want to give up. But I’d also tell myself that it is so rewarding and fulfilling to wake up every day and love what you do. And it’s pretty great to see someone on the street wearing one of my designs!