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How Activewear Label Live the Process Landed in Barneys Its Very First Season

Longtime fashion publicist and Live the Process founder Robyn Berkley tells us how she spotted the luxury activewear trend, and how she convinced Barneys and Net-a-Porter to carry her line in its first season.

Welcome to Fitness Week! All week long we'll be posting stories about fitness, with a distinctly Fashionista spin. 

When fashion publicist Robyn Berkley sent out the obligatory "moving on" email after leaving Kelly Cutrone's firm People's Revolution more than three years ago, the fact that she was "moving on" to become a yoga instructor in Bali was both jealousy-inducing and not all that surprising. (This was, after all, at the peak of Eat Pray Love's popularity.) But what was surprising were the moves Berkley made when she returned. While she slowly began repping clients once again -- including SLT and Sophia Webster -- she also launched her own health and wellness site, Live the Process, in May 2013. Less than a year later, she introduced a line of elevated activewear under the same moniker, featuring leggings in muted florals ($150), corseted leotards ($225) and sports bras with mesh detailing ($95). 

Live the Process was almost immediately picked up by Barneys, and when Net-a-Porter launched Net-a-Sporter in July 2014, the collection served as its centerpiece. (Nearly all of Net's models in the promotional imagery are wearing Live the Process.) Given the widely reported growth potential of the activewear market, Berkley's timing couldn't have been more right. I recently spoke with her to discuss the impetus for the brand, and what she hopes to make of it. 

Let's talk about how this all started. 

I’ve been doing PR and marketing for about 15 years, and I’ve always been passionate about launching new brands. I spent seven years at People’s Revolution, where I was able to work with some of the most amazing brands and travel and experience and learn from Kelly [Cutrone], who I find extremely intelligent, dynamic and interesting in how she works and what she brings to the table. About three or four years ago I got really into nutrition and wellness. Once you know what feels good why would you want to feel bad? I started doing a lot of intense yoga and other types of fitness, as well as practicing relaxation and calming techniques. That was around the time Juice Press had opened, and I met the owner. I noticed that more wellness-y things started popping up in a more commercial way. I thought, this is quite interesting. Then, a friend of mine who was working at Baron & Baron told me she was taking a leave of absence to do YogaWorks’s teacher-training program in Bali.  I applied for the program and was accepted.

So you quit your job and moved to Bali for a couple of months. 

Yes, it was super intense. More intense than I ever thought. But right off the bat, I knew what I wanted to do next. I wore a lot of American Apparel during my program, and found some super understated stuff at local places in Bali. But I wasn't the person who was wearing Lululemon. It never felt completely right for me -- I was more into Capezio and dance clothing. So I began toying around with the idea of creating fitness clothing for a more focused individual. 

What was the first step when you got back? 

Well, I wanted to create a content platform first to showcase people I admired in the wellness community. Something that gives people advice in a way that's not preachy. Simultaneously, I needed to make money, so I started working with SLT on their launch, and worked with them for two and a half years. That catapulted into five or six clients. We launched the content site in May 2013 with 22 contributors. 

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Why start with content, not product? 

I thought that launching the collection at the same time would blur the vision. I know in building the brand you have to have some sort of soul, some sort of art. Information is as important as the quality of the product that we’re selling.

When you did decide it was time to manufacture something, how did you figure out the production stuff? 

I knew how to get to from Point A to Point B, but my business partner, who I met in November 2012, has a background in production. His family is in the business. Everything we do is made in the U.S., and we pride ourselves on that. 

You got a lot of press very quickly, which makes sense since you know better than anyone how that part of the business works. But what about sales? How did you handle that? 

I hard launched our collection February 2014, and Barneys was the first retail that wanted to carry us. I simultaneously pitched a bunch of stories to the press and was featured in the New York Times, Women's Wear Daily, etc. Everything began slowly falling into place and then, a friend put me in touch with Net-a-Porter, and we were part of the Net-a-Sporter launch in July. We legitimately sold out on Net in two days! But it's still the beginning. Retailers are looking to incorporate [activewear] into their contemporary floors, which is tricky. Right now, we're focussing on sales, and I'm not a sales person. So nothing is easy, it's a lot of work. But at the same time, it's great.

Establishing a strong brand seems to be very important to you. Maybe more than anything else. What are you doing to further cement what Live the Process is all about?

All of our items come in a mesh pouch scented with Karma, which was designed for us by [olfactory branding company] 12.29. We're also working on a few collaborations, our first being a collection with the David Lynch Foundation and Alyssa Miller. It's a way to give back in a creative way. And I want to expand domestically and internationally. Retail, for us, is the ultimate. I saw this niche that was wide open three years ago, and now a lot of people with money have seen it, too. But we have our own way of doing it.