Can This Modest Activewear Line Fill A Void, One Running Dress At A Time?

Photo: Courtesy of Chanabana.
The modest fashion has expanded greatly in the past few years. Luxury houses like Dolce & Gabbana are finally realizing there’s a lucrative market (and, subsequently, tapping into it); Uniqlo has turned out a few modest collections, while other fast fashion retailers, such as Mango, and brands like DKNY have rolled out Ramadan-specific looks. Even for those who aren’t dressing modestly for religious or cultural convictions, a more covered-up aesthetic has seeped an array of designers' collections, even if it's not a mainstream fashion movement yet. However, there’s still a lot of room for expansion when it comes to modest activewear. Designing skin-obscuring pieces for activities that demand a wide range of motion is inherently challenging. The current range of options are really limited, populated by the likes of Veil, a Kickstarter-spurred collection of hijab-equipped sportswear. (Plus, much of the conversation about, and new options within, the modest fashion market has focused on Muslim customers seeking modest garb.) For Chana Rachel Weinberg, the impetus for launching Chanabana, a line of modest activewear specifically designed for running, came out of her own difficulties finding suitable garb to work out in as she became a more observant Jew. She specifically honed in on comfortably modest and agility-accommodating workout gear. (Interestingly, Weinberg's decision to create a line came about after she became increasingly devout and increasingly passionate about running.) Ahead, Weinberg fills us in on the process of creating exercise gear for the modest set, and what lies ahead for the brand. How did Chanabana come about?
“I actually launched Chanabana as an answer to my own discovery for the need of a line of attractive, modest active wear for women in 2014, when I returned to Israel for my final year of fashion design studies at the Shenkar College of Engineering, Design, and Art. At the time, I was going through a period in life where I was becoming more religious. I suddenly found myself with nothing to wear for running, and I was running on a regular basis. The other modest runners were out there running in jean skirts — and for running, I wasn't willing to compromise on comfort and style for modesty. "This was when I came up with my first running dress: a sleek, long-sleeved, knee-length dress, made of Lycra, with white running stripes along the back and sides. This dress made me feel absolutely amazing, and I would wear it for all my runs along the beach, getting attention from fellow runners. Later on, I came up with a trendy running skirt, which has attached leggings, and a running set, which includes a skirt and coordinating sport top. Since then, I continue to expand the line to meet customer needs.”

Did you look to any specific athleticwear brands to inform
Chanabana’s aesthetic or fit?
“An Australian sportswear brand, Lorna Jane, was my first inspiration for starting my own line of women’s activewear. Lorna Jane incorporates stunning color combinations and textiles that look amazing and totally motivate a person to go out and run. I worked in Australia most summers during breaks from my fashion design studies in Israel. I would wake up every morning with anticipation to go for my daily run to start my day, usually clad in Lorna Jane’s apparel. That was also the beginning of my great love of running.”
Photo: Courtesy of Chanabana.
Who is the target Chanabana customer?
“A woman in her mid 20s to 30s who has a busy lifestyle and who values health and modesty. Also, I target women aged 40 to 60 who seek sporty, complementary apparel that they can wear to the gym or for an outdoor walk, and then proceed to daily errands without having to change their clothes." What characteristics did you focus on while designing the running dress?
“I wanted to create a dress that would be fashionable, modest and flattering. I was also always more into skirts than leggings and figured, why not create a dress for my runs? I chose the color combination of black and white because it’s classic and slimming. I eliminated the side seams and draped the dress with flattering flowing cuts to give it a feminine, unique, and flattering look. I wanted the dress to have the look we find in the sports world, so I draped lines around the side and back and added a trim insert of black mesh in the sleeves.” What distinguishes Chanabana from the sparse current landscape of modest workout brands?
“Chanabana specializes in running wear, and the pieces are made of an extra-lightweight, quick-dry material, unlike brands which claim to be multipurpose — for swimming and running — so they’re made of heavier fabrics." How do you hope to expand Chanabana?
“I want to promote my online shop and run a Kickstarter campaign to get the word out. In addition, I would like to start hosting cultural events to promote my product, and continue expanding the line by offering a larger selection of styles.” Have you gotten any memorable feedback from customers so far?
“One of my customers walked up to me in synagogue to tell me how amazing her sports set is and how it saves her the headache of a wearing a heavy and frumpy skirt to her coed gym.”

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