Moscow Native Crafts Athletic Wear For Under Armour
Fashion is subjective, and certain styles or trends aren’t suited for everyone’s taste.
The same cannot be said about leggings.
A staple in Saturday vinyasa flow yoga class, at the grocery store, the gym and the lecture hall, leggings defy class, age and experience. It’s the perfect pant for many.
And if you’ve bought a pair of Under Armour leggings in the past few years, you can thank Alyssa Zekoski for that.
Through her job as technical designer at the athletic wear brand, the Moscow native crafts and constructs women’s clothing for top athletes and hometown gym-goers alike.
She knows every body is a work of art.
“I like to think of us as architects of clothing,” said Zekosi, who now lives in Baltimore with her husband, Keith Krupinski. “I love math, and I’m more of a problem-solver. I think that’s what I love so much about being a technical designer — working with numbers, making sure things fit perfectly and also the design. It lends itself to both sides of my brain.”
Whether creating long-sleeve, short-sleeve or tank tops or pants, shorts or leggings, Zekoski, along with her team members, receives a sketch of a garment first. She then designs a flat pattern using virtual prototyping and communicates with factories overseas on measurements and other specifications. When she receives the samples, the team fits pieces on live models and notes any changes to send back to the factories.
While typical fashion design involves ensuring a garment looks and wears well, Under Armour’s products also must adhere to standards of fit, comfort and performance.
There’s also more of a demand on athletic wear.
In 2017, the United States fitness industry brought in $30 billion worth of revenue, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, which also noted gym memberships increased 33 percent since 2008. Combine that with fashion’s love affair with “athleisure” — which blurs the lines between activewear and everyday clothing — and Under Armour’s pieces can be seen at spin classes or on nights out. Zekoski and her fellow team members assure each piece is ideal for either situation.
“We fit on a live model with a certain height (and) certain weight, but then our wear-test team is who goes out with the garments on and tests it out,” she said, adding the wear-test team consists of people with varying heights and weights. “They give us more in-depth feedback, and then we make the adjustments. ... We want it to look and feel good on everyone.”
Zekoski didn’t initially intend on a career in fashion. As a student at North Pocono High School, Zekoski began the college application process. She planned to study pre-med when she graduated in 2009 and aimed to become an anesthesiologist. At the last moment, something changed.
“It was getting down to the week applications were due, and I was like, ‘What am I thinking? I can’t even stand the sight of blood,’” she said, laughing. “On a whim, I changed to fashion design.”
Zekoski’s mom, Gloria, recalled the moment her daughter told her and her husband, Alan, about her change in plans.
“Her father said, ‘Fashion? What are you going to do with that? What kind of job can you even get?’” Zekoski’s mom said, laughing. “She did it, though. She showed him. We’re so proud.”
Zekoski enrolled at Drexel University and learned the basics of fashion history, design elements and more at school, but she also received the best hands-on experience during an internship with Abercrombie & Fitch in Columbus, Ohio. Zekoski worked with technical design in the tops department, focusing solely on T-shirts, tank tops and more. She found an advantage over the other interns as Zekoski stayed with the brand for six months — double the time of a typical internship — which is required through Drexel’s co-op program.
“I was functioning as an assistant technical designer by the end,” she said.
Her internship landed her the job at Under Armour, thanks to former A&F colleagues who remembered Zekoski’s hard work and talent. Two weeks before graduating from Drexel with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design, she started at Under Armour, where it took only a few years for Zekoski to climb the ladder to technical designer.
She offered the same advice to anyone looking for a career in the fashion world and stressed the importance of networking.
“Even if you don’t go to school for fashion or your college doesn’t require (an internship), reach out on your own,” she said. “You learn so much more hands-on when you’re working, especially in fashion, and you can make such great connections. Just show up and do a good job and they’ll remember you.”
Through her job, Zekoski frequently corresponds with overseas factories and often travels to meet with manufacturers in person in places such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Jordan. In between obligations, Zekoski and her colleagues find time to explore, too. She has taken a trip to Petra and floated in the Dead Sea.
“These are experiences I’m fortunate to have,” she said. “I love my job.”
Back in the states, Zekoski had the chance to work with tennis star Sloane Stephens during the athlete’s Under Armour sponsorship. Zekoski met and fitted the pro for custom designs at her Los Angeles home and then flew down to Charleston, South Carolina, to fit Stephens for a match.
Zekoski also noted designers can take home certain samples when the season ends and get an employee discount on merchandise. Under Armour headquarters contains a full gym, and workers frequently work out on lunch breaks or hold yoga classes on the promenade outside the office.
“I never really worked out until I started working here,” she said, laughing. “And I get to wear leggings to work. That’s definitely a perk.”
Zekoski hopes to continue to learn and grow at Under Armour, using her creativity and problem-solving skills to craft pieces. She doesn’t cite any specific goals, but leaps of faith seem to be her strongest suit.
“I don’t think I could have ever imagined this was what I’d end up doing, but I can’t imagine my life without it,” she said. “Trusting that instinct and making (the decision to pursue a career in fashion) was thing best thing I ever did.”
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT on Twitter
Meet Alyssa Zekoski
Residence: A Moscow native, she now lives in Baltimore.
Family: Husband, Keith Krupinski; parents, Alan and Gloria Zekoski; brother, Alan
Education: Graduate of North Pocono High School; bachelor’s degree in fashion design from Drexel University
Claim to fame: A technical designer for Under Armour, Zekoski crafts and constructs women’s athleticwear that must wear well and adhere to standards of fit, comfort and performance for top athletes and hometown gym-goers alike.