After selling their chain of yoga studios to Lifetime Fitness, Ian Lopatin and Vanessa Lee were itching to spread the yogi lifestyle by producing casual, cool, comfortable clothing that can be worn to and from working out. Spiritual Gangster began as the house brand for their At One Yoga Studios and has grown into an international brand with products sold in Europe, Australia, South America and all over the U.S.
Words by Nerds spoke with Ian on the day of Spiritual Gangster’s big warehouse sale. We chatted about quality clothing, giving back, and building a retail business online.
Out of the Yoga Studio and into your Closet
After owning and operating At One Yoga Studios for 13 years and selling the chain to Lifetime Fitness, Ian and Vanessa still wanted to be involved in the Yoga community.
“After we sold the yoga studies we realized, hey, Yoga is still a booming business and there are a lot of people who love this type of apparel and love the vibe,” Ian said.
So the duo took the brand that they were selling in the retail portion of their studios and expanded the clothing line to offer it online as well as in various yoga studios and small boutiques in the U.S. and abroad. Spiritual Gangster’s clothing displays concepts from the yogi lexicon.
“It’s casual, cool, comfortable clothes but with positive messaging. Things like believing in karma, helping out others, and taking good care your body and your friends.”
Ian and Vanessa are firm believers in the concept of ‘you get what you give’ and practice this by donating a meal to charity for every piece of clothing sold through Spiritual Gangster.
“Basically whenever somebody buys some of our clothes they are donating to charity whether they know it or not,” Ian noted.
Spiritual Gangster partners with multiple charities including Feeding America, The Cambodian Children’s Fund, Phoenix Children First, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. But giving back isn’t just a business decision- it’s a way of life.
What’s in a Name?
Spiritual Gangster may seem like an oxymoron but the founders feel differently. Ian explained that the name exemplifies the business’ mantra.
“It’s our way of taking two things that people don’t normally associate and bringing them together. We feel like we’re bringing together a tribe of like-minded people that are spiritual, not by being religious or going to church but by doing activities that you like to do. Whether that’s yoga , hiking in the woods, riding a bike or surfing you can be spiritual by doing things that bring you closer to your highest self.“
Growing Up Online
In 2013 it’s imperative for your business to have a robust online presence. The team at Spiritual Gangster understands this and they are working hard to grow their brand with an active on-site blog as well as various social media platforms like Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram.
“We feel that we can reach the world through social media. For us we are just starting but it is definitely something that we are paying a lot more attention to. We are looking to grow extremely quickly and actively. It’s definitely something we are focusing on.”
Ian closed our interview with a poignant statement about his business philosophy. We think it would be a shame to leave out a single word.
“Our biggest message is that we want to be good examples in what believe. We want to make good products and give them to people. We are big believers in you get what you give so we try to give as much as possible. We want to provide not only the best product but the best customer service. I tell people our clothes are adult superhero clothes. My kid wears Spiderman or Superman or sometimes now even LeBron James jersies. Even when we give clothes away I say ‘Put this shirt on and do something nice for someone’ so you’re becoming the highest aspect of who you can be.”