Kristine Deer | Owner + Designer of K-DEER
One of my greatest pleasures is to meet women entrepreneurs and learn about their personal journey that manifested an idea into a business. Kristine Deer’s story starts with a change in career that challenged her sense of self and steered her onto a road of self discovery. And on that path she found the gift of presence through yoga which changed the direction of her life. Kristine’s passion transformed into a desire to share her love for yoga and fashion around the world – and K-DEER was born.
One of my favorite leggings line is her Signature Stripes. Each one of her Signature Stripes is named after an inspiring woman and supports a cause that is close to her heart. Kristine’s intention is to create a platform and community that inspires others to give back. For each sale of their Stripes, a minimum of 5% of proceeds goes directly to causes raising awareness and creating positive change for individuals and communities in need.
K-DEER has raised $70, 000 to date. Yes, I love that.
The brand reflects exactly who Kristine is – on the inside and out. She is a woman that walks the talk and celebrates her style with purpose and mindful values…and I am honored to share her story with you.
I love your backstory on how K-Deer was created. Can you tell us about your corporate work background and how you envisioned your fashion career at that time – before K-Deer?
I studied fashion at Syracuse and upon graduation hunted down a job in NYC. It was much harder than anticipated and so I freelanced and took any job I could in order to get my foot in the door and learn all different facets of the fashion industry. I was never dead set on owning my own company but after watching the corporate world swallow up designers and creative people, it clicked as an option when I lost my job and started to see with a different perspective.
When you lost your corporate job, what were some of your feelings at that time and how did you work through that life change?
I was upset at first, losing a stable income and the relationships that went along with the company was impactful. Having not much else to do but search for work, I went to Bikram Yoga and it became a comfort and motivator. I reconnected with my body and got to know myself as a 24 year old, no longer a high school athlete, college student and everything I used to be. It was a fresh start and it was hard.
Would you say that yoga helped you find your spirit and creativity? How does the practice of yoga center you?
Yoga was an escape at first, then it transformed into an opportunity over time. It reignited a level of discipline that I lost and it also turned my creative spirit up once I needed to solve a problem: I had nothing to wear to class!
What was the specific “Aha” moment that put an idea into your mind to make your own yoga pants?
The ‘aha’ came from frustration and absolutely hating what I had to wear for hot yoga class. My old soccer spandex shorts were getting stretched out, stinky and as my body continued to change, they just no longer fit. My sister was a swimwear print designer and would bring me fabric samples to play with. It made complete sense and logic to use a fabric that was meant to get wet, unlike all the other brands at the time using cotton and polyester based fabrics that stretched out and retained the “hot yoga funk”.
What steps did you take to put your design idea into a sample?
I made patterns from scratch, cut and sewed up samples during the day and then wore them to class in the evening to test our the design. The next day, I’d make adjustments to the fit and design and try again the next time I went to class.
What was the epiphany that encouraged you to take your idea and make it into a company?
I offered shorts to friends and yoga teachers at my studio to try and when the feedback became consistently empowered, I realized maybe I wasn’t the only one that would benefit from my design.
Your first “office” was your childhood bedroom – at what point did you know that it was time to move out?
I realized it was time to move into a real space once I hardly had room to live and work. Fabric was everywhere, thread clippings were everywhere and after making over 800 pairs of shorts by hand, I was also starting to see that this was something that could be sustained with the right next steps. I’m so grateful my parents allowed me to stay at home as I kicked off K-DEER; I worked all over the house and knew it was time to give my mother a break and get into a real office.
As you moved forward with your business growth plan, were there any difficult choices or setbacks you had to overcome?
All choices and decisions, when you are making them for the first time, are difficult. Sometimes your decisions feel like a setback because you can’t predict the future to know if you made the right one. Self-doubt is enemy #1 in entrepreneurship. But it’s also a necessary evil to make sure you’re on the right path; questioning and evaluating your choices is key and being patient with making decisions is the icing on the cake.
Who is currently on your K-Deer team? I hear they are all fierce women ;)
We have a kickass team of women who embody the K-DEER spirit everyday. I’m so blessed to have such dedicated, hard working women in my life and as a part of the K-DEER family. Speaking of family, my sister Trine is our creative director and I am really lucky to be able to work with her everyday too. My cousin Jamie is also on the team and has been with me since I moved out of my house and into the studio, always watching out for the good of the business and me.
I know that you make all your apparel in the USA, was it more expensive to create and maintain your brand integrity than you originally thought?
I’m sure it is less expensive in ways to do what we do overseas. But the reality is, there is no price on integrity and we are so proud that we continue to and are able to manufacture and source all our materials in the US. We measure our bottom line not by profit, but by impact.
What is your entire athleisure line now? And where is K-Deer sold (retail, wholesale, internet, yoga studios)?
Our collection is concise but growing every season! New prints and styles come out 3-4 times a year and we retail off our website and sell wholesale to accounts around the world. Yoga, barre and spin studios as well as fitness centers, gyms and clothing boutiques span from the US and Canada to Chile, Denmark, Switzerland, Singapore, China and Australia.
How did you introduce K-Deer to the world? You have an amazing social media community – what are your secrets in terms of publicity and marketing your product?
The secret isn’t really a secret. It’s authenticity. It’s walking the walk and not just talking the talk. It’s showing up and being honest, real and transparent about who you are, what you do and why you do it. Social media has connected me and K-DEER to people around the world; Facebook was the initial way to network with the Bikram and Yoga community and Instagram has furthered our reach in terms of all types of fitness to all walks of life from the stay-at-home mom to celebrities and their trainers.
What was the biggest learning curve in terms of starting your own business you can share with other inspiring women entrepreneurs?
My hardest learned lessons have been about letting go of old thought processes, taking action when it feels impossible to make decisions and remembering that nothing is permanent and you can always make changes to your mind and decisions. Having a business wasn’t the goal at first; the goal was to share what I loved with as many people as I could reach and the business just fell into place. I was patient and fiscally conservative, as I continue to be while also making decisions that support the growth of the business.
Have you experienced a “low point” and if so, how did you rally yourself to get back on track?
I remember sitting at Farmhouse in Cresskill when I checked my Instagram feed to find @k.deer was tagged in the comments in a picture on Athleta’s feed. The striped leggings in the image resembled our stripes in the most striking way and my heart sank. I thought the absolute worst. I had never been in a situation like this before to know exactly what to expect or how to handle it. Over the next few weeks, the chatter online got louder and as though my prayers were answered, our fans on social media put so much pressure on Athleta that they removed the 3 copy-cat styles from their shelves and website. What felt like the lowest of low points, turned out to be a tremendous lesson in gratitude and community.
What has been your greatest success or "high point" with K-Deer?
K-DEER successes are the million little things that add up to make this journey what it is. It’s the email from a customer telling us a story about how she finished a marathon at her fastest time because she ran down a women wearing stripes- and had to ask her where she got them from. It’s the picture on Instagram that reveals a confident, empowered woman wearing a size 3XL, celebrating her beauty, her body and commitment to her happiness. Success is being able to donate over $70,000 since starting K-DEER, bringing awareness to causes and charities that make a difference in our communities. Success is seeing kindness shared through our Stripes, watching friendships form over pants that put smiles on faces of everyone around them.
*Below is a photo of K-DEER at TAPS Gala wearing the Susanne Stripe which is dedicated to Lieutenant Colonel Susanne M Hiscock of the United States Air Force.
Instagram Post April 13, 2017
Last night we attended the #TAPSgala in true K-DEER style. ???? Rocking our Susanne Stripes under our gowns was an empowering, constant reminder of this organization's dedication to the families and children of our fallen soldiers and service members. @anaish and I were accompanied by Jaymee and Cheryl Hodges, parents of Sgt Christopher Hrbek of the US Marine Corps, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. This morning we visited Chris in Arlington National Cemetary and felt so honored to be among the many brave who gave their life to protect our country's freedom. Thank you, Cheryl and Jaymee, for joining us and sharing your experience, stories and wisdom. Thank you to all our military and service members who serve, protect and sacrifice for us all. And a special thanks to @susanneschulzhiscock for being our stripe and introducing the K-DEER family to the TAPS family.
When you are not working, how do you spend your day – what do you enjoy most on your downtime?
I enjoy my non-work time, although sometimes it’s hard not to think about work when it’s such a big part of my life. I do yoga and barre- I love being outdoors and working on my freckles- I’ve got a few books in rotation- and if I can, I travel! I have friends around the country and don’t mind packing my passport at least once a year. My family is also a huge part of my life so spending time with my parents, sisters, niece and nephew also fill me up with love.
When you look back now at your journey, can you now see how divine intervention made it all possible?
Absolutely, I feel really grateful for all the times I was given a challenge to overcome, for it’s created opportunity and allowed me to grow and evolve into the woman I am today. It’s about perspective too- seeing the positive in anything that happens is what continues to attract good people, experiences and energy to you in your life.
Jennifer Marchetti, Founder/Owner of PowHER Network and Ridgewood Moms Media Group, is an entrepreneur, connector and inspirational speaker. She is an online business expert, ideal marketer and a master at creating action plans for personal, professional and community growth for women. She was recently interviewed on CBS News for the power of the Ridgewood Moms community. She has also been featured on FOXNews, WB11 and featured in Parents, People, Pregnancy, BabyTalk, The Bergen Record, The Star Ledger, The Ridgewood News, The Internet Mommy and Women of Personality, received celebrity exposure and featured in over 200 print and online media outlets.