Solely Fit is the latest athletic apparel line offering pieces that not only provide support and come in handy when it’s time to break a sweat, but are also trendy and fresh, for appeal inside and outside of the gym. The way we think about athletic wear has undoubtedly changed in recent years: No longer do we shop for workout clothes with one function in mind. Solely Fit provides versatility for the athleisure lover.

Stefania Okolie, who is of Haitian and Nigerian heritage, is the designer behind Solely Fit. Currently a reporter for ABC 13 in Houston, Okolie launched the brand mid-pandemic and hit the ground running. Its first collection, “BLACK,” is a minimalistic chic capsule comprised of exactly what it sounds like, but with trendy twists—an array of sculpting, all black designs (a color the brand says is “the epitome of boldness and fearlessness”) with finishing touches such as shimmering fabrics and bold cutouts that capture the eye. With Solely Fit, Okolie emphasizes the fact that, contrary to popular belief, activewear and luxury can and do coexist. “[Activewear] can have a couture feel and look to it, embody beauty, chic, and boldness, all while catching your sweat through intense workouts,” Okolie says.

“Entering this market meant I was going to have the ability to inspire women, create for women, and most important, help tell the story of who we are as women.” —Stefania Okolie

The brand, birthed in Arizona and made in Los Angeles, offers workout gear with both women empowerment and comfort in mind, employing a signature, 4-way stretch fabric that lends to free movement and flexibility. With athleisure trends on the rise, Okolie’s designs effortlessly take on a dual-functionality role. Zendaya recently graced the cover of InStyle wearing a Solely Fit bra top paired with a Romeo Hunte suit, styled by Law Roach. If you can wear it with a floral pants suit, you can wear it with anything.

ESSENCE got a chance to speak with Okolie about the inspiration behind Solely Fit, and the importance of quality activewear for women.

ESSENCE: Why did you decide to go into fitness apparel?

Stefania Okolie: I know how empowered it can make one feel to be fit in all areas of life. Fitness alone embodies so many things that can make someone feel confident in themselves: strength, power, boldness and fearlessness are just a few. Entering this market meant I was going to have the ability to inspire women, create for women, and most important, help tell the story of who we are as women.

Where did the idea for Solely Fit come from?

The idea for Solely Fit initially came from small ideas I would get in my head for certain pieces of clothing I was looking for to lounge and/or work out in, but could not find. My imagination has always been so active with designing ideal styles that I felt would make me feel powerful and more compelled to be active. I started looking at the bigger picture—the fact that I could create something that would also open the door for other women to be in this space as well.

How have you managed being both a reporter for ABC 13 and designing for and running Solely Fit?

The truth is I am still trying to balance my job as a full-time reporter while taking on and running my own business. Some days feel unbearable and I honestly just have to stop and cry. Over time, I have developed some structure and time management, but not every day is perfect. I typically try to plan my week ahead on Sundays with a task list for each day, but working in the very fluid news industry, things can and will change quickly and often. That means certain tasks will not be done and they will pile on to the next day. I have the mentality that some days are just going to be straight up crazy. I mean 6 a.m.-to-midnight crazy. When I mentally prepare myself for that type of day, I can usually get through it smoothly. I have found that meditation, prayer, positivity and constant reminders of “one thing at a time,” will put me in a state of calmness.

What’s next for Solely Fit?

Growth. I want to continue showing people that Black women can grow as leaders in the fashion industry, especially in the sector of activewear. I want to continue growing Solely Fit into a brand and a community for strong women to feel comfortable and confident in themselves. I want the brand to grow and compete on the same playing field as other major activewear brands. I want Solely Fit to be considered a “small business,” but a major brand designed by strong women for strong women.

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