Bits 'n' Pieces: Designer sews up deal with REI

By Ashley Swanson, Columbian features news coordinator

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The dream of many clothing designers is to walk into a store and see their design hanging on the rack. For Stephanie Lynn, owner and designer of Vancouver's Sweet Spot Skirts, that dream is now a reality, and it's another milestone in her mission to vanquish boring athletic apparel.

In March, outdoor company REI picked up her line of six pure cotton skirts for their 44 stores across the country. And they're already placing a second order.

All thanks to an REI employee who was an avid skirt-wearer.

"It was pretty serendipitous," Lynn said.

When they got the call from REI to show their skirts, designed for bicyclists and runners, Lynn and her marketing manager walked into the Kent offices with just a box of the product. "We were a bit green, if you want to put it nicely," Lynn said, laughing. But it has been her confidence and a forward-facing attitude that's inspired success.

"Naysayers, if you're not getting on the train, we'll leave you behind. This train only stops once," Lynn said. The former Mt. Hood Community College women's basketball coach is now looking to foster entrepreneurial spirit among others, especially women.

Lynn also introduced REI representatives to frequent collaborator and apparel company, Run Pretty Far, owned by Jennifer Hughes from Vancouver.

"When you elevate your teammates, you play better," Lynn said.

Lynn is planning an entrepreneur class to help women develop business ideas, with a first session April 24 and a follow-up four weeks later at her downtown store, 105 W. Sixth St.

She wants to pass on the knowledge that has helped her succeed. She's also planning a junior entrepreneur class for the summer, aimed at children and young adults.

In addition to growth in Washington, Sweet Spots Skirts is launching a pilot program of independent sales representatives in other areas to sell the company's skirts to dealers, with women currently in Oregon, St. Louis, Mo., and Boston.

"They are each their own company. We want to empower women to be entrepreneurial," she said.

Lynn is currently fine-tuning her latest Sweet Spot Skirt line, "Fast 'N' Flirty."

"Other running skirts made me look fat," she said, unafraid to admit that at 5 feet 6 inches tall, 175 pounds and 48 years old, she was not the so-called "ideal" shape of marathon runners. She set out to design a skirt that was both attractive and figure-flattering.

It's designed strictly with runners in mind, created from a nylon-spandex blend with a stretch waist band to create a "cascade over the rear" effect for the wearer, Lynn said. Silicon has also been added to the waist to keep the skirt from sliding down, along with a scalloped hem line to enhance movement.

The running skirts got a road test last year with Lynn's Hood to Coast Relay team, where they built up buzz on the trail. The initial 100 skirts sold out after the event.

Between promoting at trade shows, marathons and bike events, Lynn is preparing jacket prototypes and tights for tonight's Couve Couture fashion show. She will be showing 14 looks during the event, and some of the models are her former basketball players. Tickets to Couve Couture, 6 p.m. at Gravitate Design, 1012 Washington St., are $25 through http://couvecouture.com, or $30 at the door.

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.