SOAS is in the business of smart fashion for female runners and triathletes.
Shrink it and pink it. It’s the phrase those in the athletic apparel industry use when describing women’s running and athletic clothes. Simply take a man’s tank or short, shrink it down to fit a women’s body and dye it pink.
But Kebby Holden and Stephanie Swanson of San Diego knew this was all wrong from the first time they tried on a triathlon outfit. The big pink flowers all over the run tank and the fit of the shorts were all wrong.
Looking back, Holden remembers Swanson telling her, “These clothes suck. I don’t know why I have to decide between black and pink.”
Instead of choosing black or pink they decided to put their design and business backgrounds together and create their own women’s apparel line.
Just a few months later SOAS, a clothing line for women in triathlon and endurance sports, was born. “SOAS is named after the iliopsoas flexor muscle,” Holden says. “The shape of the wing over the ‘O’ in Soas is the shape of the muscle and we thought it worked really well with triathletes because of the three parts of triathlon and two transitions. Steph was having issues with her hip flexor and was getting her psoas adjusted and was like, ‘that might be a fun name.’ We dropped the P and it has been a fun name.”
Unlike any triathlon clothing line before, SOAS apparel is tailored to fit a woman’s body and in designs fit for a woman’s taste—not what male designers thought women wanted.
“We wanted to get away from shrink in and pink it,” Holden says. “We wanted to be cute and also take the racing very seriously.”
Expanding the hem of the shorts to avoid cinching the leg, taking out the muffin-top creating elastic waist band, extending the length of the bike top to avoid a peek-a-boo lower back, Holden and Swanson created the perfect fit for a woman’s body.
But it wasn’t just fit Holden and Swanson were worried about. The outfits needed to be functional and fashionable as well. They made sure the pockets were deep enough for a water bottle and a phone, yet still aerodynamic, and put flattering and fashionable (non floral) prints on the shorts and shirts.
“It’s smart fashion,” Holden says. “The kits are cute but they also work really well. Steph always says, ‘It’s so dorky running around in spandex anyway. You might as well look cute in it.’”
Recently SOAS expanded their reach from exclusively triathletes to cyclists as well as runners, offering run shorts, singlets and arm warmers that fit, are functional and fashionable with features such as a pockets connected to the bikini liner in the shorts so keys don’t jangle, strategically placed seams so there is no worry about chaffing and cleverly positioned patterns to create a sliming silhouette.
“Each piece really fits a women’s body specifically,” Holden says.
Enthusiastic that women have become the fastest growing segment of running and triathlon, Holden and Swanson are excited for what Soas can offer women in the future.
“Next up,” says Holden, “are sports bras, swimsuits, cold weather jackets and maybe even running pants,” Holden says. “And all of the pieces will always mix and match with all of Soas’ designs.”
This piece first appeared in the December issue of Competitor magazine.