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Behind the Design: Meet Jolene Danielson, Director of Technical Product Design, and learn about our inclusive design philosophy.
behind the design video
behind
the design
Meet Jolene Danielson, Director of Technical Product Design, and learn about our inclusive design philosophy.
behind the design video
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Jolene sitting on a chair
Q & A:
How long have you been designing clothes? And specifically focusing on an inclusive size range?
I've been in the industry since 1998. And I've been pretty much working on inclusive sizes since, wow, my whole career. I started on intimates and bras and there's such a wide range there, so I've always been fitting and working through a full inclusive size range. And that's how you get really used to the body. I've worked in manufacturing, too, which taught me not to just fit one size but to really look at all sizes.

What inspires you about designing an inclusive-sized range of product?
It’s always been a passion of mine. I’m from the Midwest, and I grew up seeing all different body types. Not necessarily women who are more active or less active, but just larger sizes. There’s a stigma that if she’s a size 12 or above, she’s not active. But I’m a size 12 and I’m super active! And a decade ago we weren’t making cute clothes for all body types.

There’s just not much out there for women above a size 10. Especially activewear. More and more brands are waking up to this, and it’s helping people feel more comfortable with their bodies and the shopping experience overall. The world is opening up to the fact that we need to develop ideal product for every body.


We're focusing on the customer and understanding what she wants. Providing fashion that’s quality-driven, with great fabrics, and a really good fit in all size ranges.
What are some aspects of designing for inclusive sizes that you and the team are doing differently at Athleta?
We're focusing on the customer and understanding what she wants. Providing fashion that’s quality-driven, with great fabrics, and a really good fit in all size ranges. We’re not cutting it off at a 10, but going up to size 26. A lot of brands cut off sizing at L or XL, which is just not inclusive.

Or some brands that do go above a 10 have a separate line, called “Plus” or something similar. But they are different garments. We’re doing it differently at Athleta. We're not sending her back to a corner of the store to find her size. We’re building our most-loved styles—over 350 to start and more coming monthly—up to size 26, and you can find them in the same spot you’ll find your size 6.

It’s an emotional experience. You want to be able to find anything in your size and not be limited, and that’s what inclusivity is about. You have all the same options.

Walk me through your design process—how do you design for the perfect fit?
Let’s take a sports bra, for example. When we fit sports bras, we make the straps appropriate for her body and her size. We continually refine to provide the same aesthetic for all sizes, but maybe we have to make the strap a little wider. We don’t just add extra fabric, we see how it performs on her body. So I’ll fit her, and then have her take it home and let us know how it performs, so we can refit as needed. We’ll have an official wear test at the end of the process, but also all along the way so we can iterate, get feedback, and perfect the fit.
Let’s take a sports bra, for example. When we fit sports bras, we make the straps appropriate for her
It’s an emotional experience. You want to be able to find anything in your size and not be limited, and that’s what inclusivity is about.
body and her size. We continually refine to provide the same aesthetic for all sizes, but maybe we have to make the strap a little wider. We don’t just add extra fabric, we see how it performs on her body. So I’ll fit her, and then have her take it home and let us know how it performs, so we can refit as needed. We’ll have an official wear test at the end of the process, but also all along the way so we can iterate, get feedback, and perfect the fit.

It’s an emotional experience. You want to be able to find anything in your size and not be limited, and that’s what inclusivity is about.
We work really hard to understand our customer – what does she have to say about the fit? We’re very customer-focused, and nothing compares to hearing it right from her if she likes or doesn’t like something.

What aspects of the new product are you most excited about?
The grading and proportions. So, think about a bra's shoulder strap-say you're a small and your strap is narrow. Now, say you have wider shoulders, maybe you're a size 12 or 18-you don't want a tiny strap. You want one that is proportionate to your body. Overall we're looking at proportions and understanding what that means to women who are size 6 and 14 and 18, and so on.

Understanding how proportions grade-there's an art behind it. We'll fit a size small, and then a size large, and then we compare that to a size 20-how is it hitting the body? They should all proportionally fit the same.

We focus on the art of patternmaking and proportions. And we don't just focus on one size and scale from there. We fit for every size-in person and digitally on 3D avatars. That's the real inclusivity piece, and that's what sets us apart.

Jolene using measuring tape
What is the benefit of being an active woman designing for female athletes?
I wear the product daily. We all do, so we understand the fabric and the fit in a whole new way. There's a technique of patternmaking, and our team at Athleta is amazing at knowing what the ideal technical aspects are to the pattern. But then we take it one step further to really understand how it performs on the body. We take a personal approach, as women who wear the product. We have skin in the game.
Jolene using measuring tape
What are your hopes for the women wearing our new styles?
I’m just so excited about this launch. The fact that we’re going to have activewear out there that’s quality and fits the woman who’s larger than a size 10 when there’s such a gap in the market. We’re offering our customer a truly inclusive experience with the best fabrics and fit and performance. Whether it’s a sports bra or performance legging or a run short, even swimwear, she’s going to have that option available to her. And we’re doing it the right way, by truly listening to what our customer wants in her perfect fit.