When you think about how new leotards are made, do you imagine a giant factory full of machines, cranking out masses of leos? Or do you picture someone’s Mom sewing elastic into a one-of-kind leotard design? At Snowflake Designs, we’re in a wonderful place between those two stories. We’re big enough to produce a lot of leos so you have a wide selection at great prices, but small enough to care about every leotard.
More Like Project Runway than Production Line
Our gymnastics leotard business is much more like a fashion design house than a factory. If you’re a fan of the competition TV show Project Runway, then you know that the designers go from idea to design to runway-ready in a day or two. But that’s just TV magic isn’t it? No, we’re able to take our new leotards from idea to prototype to commercially available production in a matter of days or weeks as well!
When you wear a Snowflake Leotard, it’s athletics, it’s competition, and it’s also fashion. We know that choosing a leotard is a complex blend of comfortable and functional fit (no leotard wedgies!) as well as a personal preference for fun and color.
Here’s how new leotards go from an idea, into production, and then to you… all within our family-owned and operated manufacturing facility in California.
Where New Leotard Ideas Come From
We get our ideas and inspiration from gymnastics of course, but also from color and fashion trends. For example, we know that you love purple leotards from our Leotards Survey. But you also love all the variations from aqua to turquoise. You are “on fleek” with that trend of beautiful shades of blue-green from aqua to cerulean to Tiffany Blue©. Our mermaid collection is a shining (shiny?) example of some of those colors.
We’re also inspired by our sport, of course! Gymnastics for girls brings strength, grace, and beauty together in one package. Like our athletes, we like our designs to be strong and bold as well as beautiful.
While we’ve got our own design ideas and trends, we still love to watch the Olympics to see what other countries are doing. One of LaDonna Snow’s favorites from the 2016 Rio Olympics was a leo worn by Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands.
Of course, our own fabulous Team USA showcased another strong trend in gymnastics leotards where the more bling the better. Yes, those were genuine Swarovski crystals, nearly 5,000 of them on each leo! It’s beautiful but expensive. Incredibly expensive.
As designers who were also gymnasts, gym moms, and coaches, we understand the cost of outfitting a gymnast. It’s why we work so hard to make great quality leotards but control our costs. It’s also another reason why we do our grab bag special whenever we can (get on our email list if you want to be the first to know when we’re doing a leotard sale).
We use some very clever strategies to make even our daily workout leotards beautiful, shiny, blingy, and sparkly without costing so much. For example, our Mystique fabric has a fantastic sheen and shine no matter what color. And, we use an extra-thick version to not only help your leotards last, but to enhance that shimmery look.
From Design to Pattern
Our new leotard design ideas have come from contests, someone on the staff, and our graphic design team. Or we’ll brainstorm a collection idea such as mermaids, red white and blue, or Rio. That sets the color palette and the overall theme to give our designers a whole lot of ideas.
The designer presents a series of sketches and we refine and narrow them down. The leotards which make the cut go to our cutting and sewing team. They’ll design a pattern and create a sewn mock-up so we can make sure our designs look as good in real life as they do on paper.
Once the prototype is approved, size patterns are created, ranging from toddler leotards to child’s x-small through adult x-large. Not only are the leotards themselves sized, but the designs need to be proportional so the embellishments, swoops, and swirls also have their own cutting patterns!
Leotards are cut by hand in our cutting room. There’s no machine stamping here! First stop after cutting is the heating department where the “tagless” tag info (logo, size, and materials) is heat-stamped to the back inside neck.
Then it’s the first trip to the sewing room. Each time the pieces go there, they are sewn one at a time, by a person. Not a giant factory machine. Most of our seamstresses have been embroidering by hand and using sewing machines since they were teenagers or younger.
If the leo has fabric embellishments, it goes to the fusing room where stripes and flourishes are laser cut then fused onto the leo. Back to the seamstresses where the designs are top stitched for quality and looks.
Now back to the embellishment room. This is where rhinestone crystals are added, including our iconic snowflake logo that you’ll find on the hip of every Snowflake Designs leotard. Some leos, especially custom and competition leotards, get theirs hand-placed by one of our artists. Others use a transfer sheet for accuracy. Then they all get hot stamped to permanently fuse the Swarovski crystal onto the leotard.
Back to the sewing room again for final assembly and sewing of the leg elastic. Tags and scrunchies (every leo gets a matching hair scrunchie) are attached. We also use a tool to scrape (hard!) the crystals to make sure they’re going to stay attached to the fabric.
The final assembly person also gives the leotard a final inspection to make sure there are no flaws. Everyone who handles a leotard in the production can reject a leo if it’s not perfect.
Shipped to You or Your Gym
When you buy new leotards from us, they are pulled from the rack and inspected yet again before they are packaged and shipped directly from the same building where they began as a simple idea. Or your gym may be ordering wholesale from us so you can see and try on leotards before you buy. Even if they’ve ordered dozens of leos, each one is inspected before it’s shipped.
Custom Leotards and Special Editions
Now that you’ve had this inside look at how new leotards come to life, you can see how your customized leotards, whether for one person or a gymnastics team, can get done on time and within your budget.
It’s also how we make special, limited edition leotards like our #TexasStrong leotard. Even as the flood waters were still rising and the toll of Hurricane Harvey was just starting to be felt, we were hearing from gym owners. Our founder and CEO, LaDonna Snow was in Fort Worth, Texas for the Gymnastics Association of Texas Annual Conference
“Gyms in Houston and the surrounding cities were devastated. Not just damage to the buildings, but to the equipment, and their inventory,” said LaDonna. “And of course the gymnasts themselves may have lost their homes and their belongings. We felt it was important to help these boys and girls get back into the gym as soon as possible. Gymnastics training makes kids strong and resilient, not just physically but mentally. We wanted to help them get their normal routine back as soon as possible.”
LaDonna met with representatives of the Gymnastics Association of Texas and offered to create a limited edition “Texas Strong leotard” with 50% of proceeds to be donated to their recovery funds. She called her team back in California who rendered the design, created a prototype, and shipped it to LaDonna in Texas in just two days! She approved the design and the fundraiser was on.
Texas gym mom and professional photographer Phyllis Domingo of Phyllis D Photography took this and other photo of the leo and it was up and ready for sale on our site in less than a week.
To date, we’ve sold more than 400 of these special edition new leotards and raised over $8,000 to help gymnasts affected by Hurricane Harvey!
Custom Competition Leotards
We use this same process to create custom competition leotards for teams and individuals. There’s nothing more satisfying than making sure a team or individual not only gets a great fit on their leotards (a very important feature), but also gets a look that makes them feel confident.
We were especially thrilled when Jade Carey, who wears custom competition leotards from Snowflake Designs was named to the U.S. Women’s Team for the 2017 World Championships being held October 2 - 8, 2017 in Montreal, Canada.
We’ll be watching closely for inspiration and we hope you will, too!