“Sweat-enhancing fabric” isn’t a style descriptor shoppers come across very often. As such, Emma Lou, a female-founded athleisure brand that employs heat-trapping technology in its apparel to promote health and wellness benefits, is a welcomed change and standout in a somewhat stagnant segment.
Los Angeles-based Emma Lou designs athleisure looks that lend themselves well to an off-duty model style that is coveted yet approachable. Featuring sets that offer thoughtfully designed tops, leggings and sports bras in muted, earthy color palettes, Emma Lou designs products made with the brand’s “Glow Band,” a built-in sweat-enhancing waistband that reduces water weight, bloating, releases toxins and increases fat oxidation through heat-trapping fabric.
Launched in 2019 by Emma Vollrath, chief executive officer and founder of Emma Lou — who also goes by the epithet “Lou-Lou” — the brand uses recycled materials that are custom dyed, quick to dry and boast impressive shape retention.
Here, Vollrath talks to WWD about the origins of her brand, its heat trapping fabric technology and decades of style inspirations.
WWD: How is Emma Lou differentiated in the athleisure market? What is its mission?
Emma Vollrath: Health and wellness has always been a huge part of my life, and I wanted the clothing I designed for Emma Lou to reflect that. I felt that the athleisure market was a bit outdated, lacked innovation and didn’t provide any additional benefits for our health. When starting Emma Lou, I sought out to make clothing that is efficient and effective — pieces that are focused on the wellness space and accomplish something good for our bodies, both inside and out.
WWD: Tell us about the Glow Band. What inspired this concept, and what does it deliver for consumers?
E.V.: Pre-pandemic, I worked as a personal trainer, and most of my clients were women. I would start with going over areas the client specifically wanted to focus on during our sessions. The most common critique was targeted toward the lower stomach area — women were feeling bloated, holding excess water weight and, more notably, felt insecure.
There wasn’t a product I could recommend helping them safely get to those goals (while looking good doing it), so I experimented with some sweat-enhancing fabrics to safely increase your body temperature to help regulate the lower stomach area. A few months of testing, and I landed on a recycled thermoplastic — aka the Glow Band — which has proven to help manage toxins, decrease water weight and bloating, and comfortably holds you in so you receive the benefits of a healthy tummy, even post-wear.
WWD: Walk us through Emma Lou’s material selections. From a sustainability standpoint, how and why did you select the textiles featured in your current collection?
E.V.: Emma Lou’s pieces are meant to last with effectiveness, sustainability and style, top of mind. It was important for me not to compromise longevity or ethics when looking for my manufactures. Our athleisure is made with a recycled fabric and custom dye that holds great shape, color, and is quick to dry. Take our sets to your Pilates class, to brunch, Trader Joe’s…it’s ready for it all.
WWD: What are you most drawn to in fashion from the 1970s and 1990s, and how do those decades inform the brand’s aesthetic?
E.V.: What makes the period between the 1970s and 1990s (I also can’t forget about the early 2000s) so exciting is the experimentation with trims, fabrics, prints, etc. It’s the blueprint for current trends as details of these eras are popular with today’s aesthetics. To get super granular, some shows that really inspired me to create are the 1999 Gucci spring show, the ‘94 and ’95 Todd Oldham Studio show, and the 2002 Versace spring show. These are just a select few collections that changed the way I viewed fashion and encouraged me to be creative without being too caught up with the end results.
WWD: What’s next for Emma Lou?
E.V.: New fun, fresh, innovative pieces with custom prints and cuts that challenge what I have released so far. The next collections are sketched out, planned and ready to go, so it’s just a matter of time on how frequently they are released. Additionally, I’m working on getting Emma Lou into local SoCal boutiques and larger e-commerce retailers so my customers can find us a bit more easily, and better yet, try on the sets IRL.