Mary Bemis - Reprise Activewear
Mary Bemis is the #girlboss and founder behind Reprise Activewear - a line of plant-based activewear aimed at addressing the widespread use of synthetics in workout clothing.
Mary’s journey creating Reprise is a bit unexpected - but that’s what I think is so cool about it. We often arrive at our passions and interests in the most unlikely ways, but in the end we always seem to land exactly where we’re supposed to. Drawing on her passion for environmentalism, social impact, and education - Mary has created a line of clothing that is functional, stylish, and good for our planet. (I mean, talk about a winning combo!)
Each piece of clothing is made from a mix of sustainably sourced wood pulp and is manufactured locally in New York City. Her mission is to empower you in your holistic health journey by always providing the best in nontoxic performance materials.
Mary and I connected at the end of 2018 and I was so excited to jump on the phone to chat with her to learn more about her brand and her story. I can’t wait for you guys to learn about the inspiration behind Reprise, the impact Mary’s passion for environmentalism had on her decision to start her brand, check out her products, and bring a little more sustainable activewear into your life!
I'd love it if you'd introduce yourself, what you do, and what you're working on.
Mary Bemis and I’m the founder of Reprise Activewear, a line of plant-based activewear aimed at addressing the widespread use of synthetics in workout clothing.
How did you get started?
I don’t come from a background in fashion, but had moved to New York when I was 22 to work in Finance. I was working in what I thought at the time was my dream job, until I ended up totally burned out, working 14+ hour days, and completely miserable. I ended up quitting my job in Finance in order to find something that made me feel more fulfilled and happy, though I wasn’t sure what that was yet. On my way out of that job, a friend has recommended the book “I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was” by Barbara Sher and that book really changed my life. It walks you through a bunch of exercises in finding what you really love to do, what brings you joy if you could have any job in the world. This is when I realized I wanted to do something more creative, that also had an environmental mission.
What inspired the work that you're doing?
It’s kind of a funny story but I had recently moved apartments in New York and I was trying to make some space in my closet so I started selling some clothing on Poshmark. I remember wanting to be as detailed as possible and trying to list things like where it was made and what it was made of. I realized a lot of my clothing was made from polyester, though I didn’t know what that was and how it could be made into both a legging and a comfy sweater at the same time. When I did some research I learned that polyester is simply plastic, and that just didn’t sit right with me that I was buying so much hidden plastic, especially in my workout clothing. I decided to do a search for plastic-free workout clothing and when I couldn’t find anything available that fit my style, I decided to launch Reprise!
What is your biggest passion? Do you feel like you're living your passion and purpose?
My biggest passion has always been environmentalism, but I feel like only within the last 2 years did I really start living in line with this passion. I grew up as the kid who would run around the house and turn all of the lights off that weren’t being used to save energy. As climate change has become more of an urgent topic, I knew that I needed to find work that put me closer to this issue. My biggest goal with Reprise is based around education; teaching that leggings made from polyester and nylon come from non-renewable crude oil that goes through a pretty toxic production process, and that leggings shed thousands of microplastics into our waterways everytime we wash them. I feel the most connected to my mission when I get the opportunity to teach, using Reprise as a platform, and people walk away not scared or intimidated, but with a sense of empowerment of how they can make a difference, whether that’s by looking for better materials, shopping secondhand or using a microplastic catching device.
What is your joy blueprint? What lights you up, brings you joy, and makes you feel the most alive?
The thing that still brings me the most joy is connecting with others who share this same passion! Reprise started as an idea that I had in my head that I was too afraid to share even with close friends because I felt major imposter syndrome trying to start an activewear brand with no prior fashion experience. Once I decided to take the leap and start the company, I’ve met so many amazing people who are also driven by the same passions. I still meet new people all the time and we talk at length about our specific shared interests and I love that part.
How do you live intentionally? Are there tools/resources/practices that you rely on to help you stay mindful and grounded?
It is important for me to practice what I preach in terms of plastic use. I’ve made a lot of simple switches like using a bamboo toothbrush, beeswax food wrap, and bringing metal utensils to work with me. These might seem like small efforts, but they help me feel more aligned with my mission.
I will say, however, that it is also important not to be too hard on yourself with this! Nobody’s perfect - I still have many days that I don’t have time to meal prep so I’m out buying takeout in plastic containers or forget to bring a reusable water bottle. The idea is really to just be aware and recognize you’re doing everything you can and honor your intention to help.
What would your younger self think about what you're doing now?
I’m not going to lie she would be so surprised. My college age self, and maybe even high school self, always saw me moving to New York to work on Wall Street. I had a very narrow definition of what it meant to be successful when I was younger and I really was never really the entrepreneurial type so I think I would be surprised at the major left turn, but happy to see myself doing something I really love doing, and being successful at it!
Do you have a go-to mantra or affirmation?
I have a few that I usually say to myself, but my current favorite is the background of my phone and it says “Do what you love.” It is important to remind myself that although building a business isn’t easy and takes a lot of work, it’s worth it 10x over if it’s something you truly get joy out of.
What is your biggest dream?
My biggest dream right now is to continue to grow Reprise to the point that it can become my full-time job!
To learn more about Mary and Reprise Activewear you can connect with her on Instagram @repriseactivewear Facebook @repriseactivewear Twitter @repriseactive and on her website https://www.repriseactivewear.com
Joy Corner is a new interview-style blog series brought to you by Seek The Joy Podcast. Our mission continues to be a desire to share your stories, truths, joys and inspiration in your words. We invite you to join our corner, and share your joys, passions, and moments of inspiration as we continue to seek the joy, together. Join this series here