Danville woman to launch modest activewear line this summer

May 7—DANVILLE — A Danville woman is seeking to fill a gap in the fashion industry and plans to launch her line of modest activewear this summer.

Ayana Ife's sustainable sportswear brand, Ayana Active, is designed for modest, fashionable women. It was created for women who are looking for a little more coverage, she said, whether due to age, sun protection, religion or for other reasons.

Ife's fashion design career began with her studies at Middle Tennessee State University where she was a fashion design major and a big fan of the show "Project Runway."

Ife said she got the courage to apply for the show for the first time around 2013. "I was just a girl with a dream," she said.

When she wasn't called for an audition, Ife said she decided she would apply every year as she continued to grow both personally and professionally.

The third year she applied, Ife got a call back and auditioned in Seattle. While she still didn't make it on the show that season, Ife said she learned to be true to who she was through that audition.

"They said 'tell us and show us who you are and be honest,'" Ife said.

For her fourth attempt, Ife took her modest clothing collection with her and went all the way to New York fashion week and came in second place on the season of the show, she said.

"I experienced a lot of personal growth during that time," Ife said.

Having graduated with her bachelor's degree, Ife went on to pursue her master's in Italy. Her thesis was on the viability of the modest segment in the mainstream fashion market, she said.

Ife was doing field research in New York when the pandemic hit and ended up coming to stay with family in Pennsylvania where she earned her master's degree virtually and made masks for donation and for sale, she said.

In a period where the world was shut down, Ife found it impossible to find a job in the fashion industry.

"During that time, I knew I could either fall down or do something about it," she said. "I started prototyping for Ayana Active."

Ife explained the brand was something that had been in the back of her mind for a long time as she initially used it for a project in a start-up class in 2009.

"I became invested here so when my job did call me back, I had some skin in the game," Ife said. "Working in Central PA has balanced me out."

Ife got in touch with Bucknell University's Small Business Development Center where she went on to work closely with Denny Hummer, assistant director.

Hummer said it has been a privilege to work with Ife.

"When I first met her, I was not sure I'd be able to offer any keen insights because it's such a unique industry, but one of the things we were able to help with were not just an incubator space, but also a network opportunity to be among other entrepreneurs and other partners like the SBDC and DRIVE to make sure she had all of the resources she needed to be successful in the launch of her business here in our community," Hummer said.

Within her space at DRIVE in Danville, Ife has made her modest activewear line — her first clothing line — a reality. She said she is pushing to launch late this summer.

The nine-piece collection will offer full-look options through matching sets with multiple colors and will be size inclusive ranging from XS to 3X, Ife said.

The goal is to continue growing the size range following the initial launch, the designer said.

"All of the tops are a little longer — tunic length, so they cover the hips and butt," Ife said. "The mesh on the pants have a lining so there is no skin exposure, but the pieces still fit a modern aesthetic."

The line is environmentally friendly with fabrics made from recycled materials and all production done in the U.S. with companies Ife deems have a certain level of integrity, she said.

"We are in the fine-tuning stage so that when we are ready to ship, it's go time," Ife said.

Ife said she has built a brand on social media and has more than 40,000 followers across platforms.

Locally, Ife has been going to events and building a following while doing custom work on the side including bridal gowns and some suiting, she said.

Ife hopes to see Ayana Active develop and grow post-launch and said she has considered expanding into lifting and swimwear.

"The big goal would be internationalization," she said.

Hummer said he is looking forward to seeing Ife's brand launch later this year.

"I am extremely proud of the incredible hard work she puts into this and I'm excited to watch this clothing launch come about because she has put so much effort and I know her success will be pretty amazing," he said.