As a skater with the Angel City Derby Girls and an avid CrossFitter, Micki Krimmel knew one thing: female athletes care about their workout pants. Good workout leggings are “the most important piece of performance wear,” she said. The options she saw on the market weren’t great, however, especially for women bigger than a size 12 or 14. “They either fall down when you run [or] when you jump, you’re constantly pulling them up, or they’re see-through, or they show sweat,” she said. “There’s all these things that make women feel less than confident when they’re working out.”
Krimmel, who’d previously founded and worked with a number of technology startups, decided to take matters into her own hands. She started Superfit Hero, a line of — as her tagline puts it — “fashion-forward, body-positive performance clothing” fitting sizes XS through 3XL. The brand launched with a Kickstarter campaign this summer and raised more than $55,000 — well above the goal amount necessary to get the leggings into production. The pants are now available for pre-order at $89 a pair.
Performance leggings, manufactured in Krimmel’s home base of Los Angeles, are Superfit Hero’s flagship product. With a high waistband, a wicking supplex fabric, and accent patterns in either silver or (thanks to the Kickstarter’s success) gold, the leggings are designed for both fashion and function. But Superfit Hero’s not just about selling clothes. The company’s media deeply embraces the message that badass female athletes come in all shapes and sizes. Krimmel’s written about the need for fitness to be “more accessible, inclusive, and empowering for women,” and Superfit Hero’s blog profiles women like a 17-year-old former figure skater who struggled with her size until finding a home in roller derby, an Olympic hammer thrower who bared it all for ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue, and a UK-based personal trainer whose blog post debunking fitness myths recently went viral.
On why starting with leggings makes sense: Looking around Los Angeles gyms, Krimmel noticed that every woman had a pair of great leggings — but they’d pair them with any old tank top. As she talked to active women, she learned that leggings were key to performance and confidence for all, especially those outside the traditional athletic brands’ size ranges. “For larger women, you can find leggings, but they’ll be made of cotton or they won’t be really high-quality performance material,” she said. “They’re cute, and you could see yourself wearing them to get coffee — especially if you have on a long tunic or something — but you’re not going to run a 5k or go to CrossFit in them. And that’s the thing. Larger women want to feel confident when they work out. And you know, when you’re wearing your best workout clothes, you feel like you’re going to do better in the workout. It boosts your confidence, and then it starts a virtuous cycle.”
On testing and tweaking the Superfit Hero design: Krimmel’s design process involved a lot of testing with athletes in many sports — derby, CrossFit, yoga, running — and across her full size range. “We took a very technology approach, an iterative approach, to the pattern,” she said. “The way it usually works in fashion is you’ll make a size — it’s usually like four or six — that will be your fit model, and you’ll make that pattern, and if it fits her you’re like ‘OK, cool,’ and you size it up for everybody else. But that doesn’t really work. We created samples in every size, and we had athletes in every size wear them and test them and give us feedback, and from that we made tweaks to the pattern to make sure that it would work for all these activities and all these different body types. That was like a three- or four-month process. That’s a development process they don’t usually see in fashion, but I really wanted to get the one flagship item right.”
“When you’re wearing your best workout clothes, you feel like you’re going to do better in the workout. It boosts your confidence, and then it starts a virtuous cycle.”
On picking her size range: Krimmel’s gear currently fits sizes zero to 26 — but she’s not necessarily stopping there. “Every additional size you have is more inventory that you have to carry, and it creates a lot of risk, which is why a lot of these brands don’t offer larger sizes,” she said. “I’m betting that their assumption is wrong that there aren’t customers out there; I actually think that there are. I know there are. I’m going to 3X and I’m waiting for someone to ask me to make more sizes.”
On how her own athletic history shaped Superfit Hero: Krimmel didn’t discover her athletic self until college. “When I was a kid, I was not an athlete at all,” she said. “I liked to read books and I was in drama — I was that girl —and I didn’t know that you could do both of those things.” In late college, she started running and going to the gym, running a marathon at 24 and then transitioning into long-distance cycling and tackling the AIDS LifeCycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. But she wasn’t following a regular fitness routine until she tried roller derby. Years later, she’s found herself on the team ranked 8th in the world. “As I got more competitive in roller derby, I realized I needed to be stronger and fitter to be better at roller derby, which is why I started CrossFit,” she said. “CrossFit and lifting weights, that’s the thing that really changed my perspective on fitness. I mean, roller derby got me part of the way, but lifting weights is what really got me all the way there because I stopped tracking the number on the scale and I started worrying more about how much I could lift.”
On why roller derby stands out as a body-positive sport: Krimmel said part of her motivation in starting Superfit Hero was to spread the roller derby ethos that strength and fitness come in all sizes to women in other sports. “Derby is this super-inclusive community for everything — for your body type, for your sexual orientation, and even gender fluidity,” she said. “It’s a very open, accepting community. It started off as a very punk rock, DIY, garage sort of thing, where people didn’t want to be told what to do, and it was all fishnets and tattoos. It’s not that any more — I mean we hold onto some of that, you know, but most of that’s gone — but the inclusiveness and the openness is definitely still there, thank god.”
“CrossFit and lifting weights, that’s the thing that really changed my perspective on fitness. … I stopped tracking the number on the scale and I started worrying more about how much I could lift.”
On reaching out to Lena Dunham: During the Kickstarter campaign, Krimmel Photoshopped a cape onto the Girls creator in an attempt to get her attention on Instagram. It hasn’t happened yet, but she’s determined to get Superfit Hero leggings into Dunham’s hands somehow. “I’m a huge fan of hers,” Krimmel said. “She posted a long time ago about fitness and how she uses fitness not to lose weight but just to stay sane. Her quote was ‘It ain’t about the ass, it’s about the brain.’ I just love her.”
On what happens next: With the Kickstarter finished, preorders have launched on the Superfit Hero website. A full online store with additional products is set for launch in late October or early November. Eventually, Krimmel wants to partner with athletes in a variety of sports to create extensions to the Superfit Hero line.
MICKI KRIMMEL’S LIGHTNING ROUND
Favorite superhero: Wonder Woman. “I think she was the quintessential feminist — of that time, anyway.”
Non-clothing gym bag essential: a jump rope
Fitness trend she most wants to try: aerial silks
Last great thing she read: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Go-to food: eggs — for breakfast and hard-boiled. “I carry them with me all the time, just in case.”