Devaney has founded Maät to try to eliminate the need for yogis to reach for in-class blankets to cushion their knees. Her Maät 1.0 leggings with built-in knee pads will be sold for $148 starting Wednesday on the company’s site. Additional colors and an additional fabric will be introduced for the holidays.
Nervous about starting a company and creating inventory during the pandemic, the company opted for a soft launch with pre-orders on Kickstarter last summer. Along with consumer feedback and building a community, that route allowed Maät to avoid the expense of advertising on Facebook and Instagram and to develop a customer base that was rooting for it, Devaney said. This fall, Maät will host some outdoor yoga classes to further connect with that community.
An official launch event for the media is slated for July 26 at Souk Yoga Studio in New York — Devaney’s favorite place to take classes, and also an operation that opened during the pandemic. The Flatiron District studio is unveiling a bar and café with the goal of building its own community. With more time to practice yoga during the shutdown, Devaney practiced more frequently at home but said she “seriously could have cried with joy” after being able to take in-person classes at Souk.
With 20 years of experience, Devaney is currently teaching people privately and not in a studio. An advanced student, she first studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology at the age of 16 as a high school graduate. “I remember a professor saying to me, ‘You are too young. You shouldn’t be here.’ I didn’t understand at the time, but I understand now,” she said.
Despite that, she earned an associate degree in fashion design and a Bachelor of Arts degree in production management. At first, she didn’t use those degrees, and after being scouted, Devaney started modeling — a Fendi runway show in the mid-’90s was a career highlight. She’d tried yoga to fulfill a physical education requirement at FIT, and she started to approach it more seriously after her modeling agent suggested yoga or ballet could improve her posture.
When she stopped modeling, she segued into teaching yoga. “One of the reasons I find that so interesting is that you really get to know people. Yoga is not just about moving your physical body. How you move through your yoga practice is how you move through life. If you’re somebody who gets frustrated in your yoga practice or are very hard on yourself, that’s how you are in life. We try to change your reaction to the practice on the mat, so that when you go out into the world you can soften your habits in the world, and that changes everything.”
Her yoga students have included J. Lindeberg and BLK DNM founder Johan Lindeberg, and Melet Mercantile’s Bob Melet. While teaching the latter, she started working a Friday afternoon shift at Melet Mercantile’s New York outpost because she loved vintage. When Melet mentioned he needed crocheted bikinis, Devaney offered to design 20 or 30. Pleased as she was that style-setters like Dree Hemingway bought the one-of-a-kind items, Devaney was less enthusiastic about how expensive they were, and found independent workers unreliable. “But I learned a lot from that. And it kind of opened my eyes to [the idea] ‘Oh, I do really like this,’” she said
Despite her ties to the fashion industry, Devaney said, “While I was trying to get this done, as someone without a name in the industry, I had a really hard time even getting people to speak to me.”
Her less-is-more yogawear launch was inspired by Patagonia and Lululemon. After meeting with a person at the sustainable neoprene company Yulex, they introduced her to a Patagonia employee. “It turned out to be like this web. When somebody couldn’t help me, they would suggest talking to this person. Then they would push me onto someone else. It took a really long time to get this done,” she said. “If you think about it, it’s a pretty obvious idea that this is needed in the market.”
Citing the prevalence of knee injuries worldwide, Devaney said even healthy knees — especially bony ones — could use some extra cushioning. As a bony-kneed person, who often had to readjust a blanket during classes early on into her practice, she often thought about the need for leggings with padded knees. Periodically she looked online for them, “There were brands making them but they looked awful. It would be a square thick pad that shifted around. I just got that from the reviews. I never bought them because they never looked like something I would wear.”
The knee detail of Maät’s leggings is inspired by a wetsuit with a moto-pant accent that Devaney once surfed in with great comfort while recovering from a knee injury. Referring to her new design, she said, “If you don’t have a knee injury, it’s a luxury. It’s like camping versus glamping, using a really thin camping mat or a luxe, cushy one.” she said. “It just feels great even if you don’t need it, and have never had any kind of knee injury. If you have bony knees, it’s even better.”