Highly Sought-After Designer Barbara Clarke Ruiz Drops Activewear Private Label Collection at Kohl's
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Highly Sought-After Designer Barbara Clarke Ruiz Drops Activewear Private Label Collection at Kohl’s

(Photo courtesy of Barbara Clarke Ruiz)

Serial entrepreneur Barbara Clarke Ruiz is one of the most sought-after apparel designers in the activewear industry.

(Image: Kohl’s)

With over 20 years of experience, her portfolio of bold and versatile athletic apparel and sportswear designs has now inspired the latest Tek Gear capsule collection at Kohl’s.

“I am filled with gratitude and truly humbled by this opportunity,” Clarke Ruiz tells BLACK ENTERPRISE. “This is one of my childhood dreams and if my Mom were still here, she would be so very proud of me.”

The limited-edition collection features vibrant colors and buttery soft fabrics for men, women, and kids to stun in. From body-positive fits to statement-making prints, Ruiz designs “thoughtfully.”

“Whenever I design collections, I hope that people will love them and with Kohl’s, it is no different! This collection will be a vehicle that would allow customers who haven’t shopped in Kohl’s before to visit the store and be introduced to some new fashion-forward items that could turn out to be wardrobe favorites,” she says.

“Thoughtfully designed, I want the collection to inspire and uplift anyone who has ever had a dream and followed it.”

Clarke Ruiz, the CEO and creative director of BCSWIRL, Inc., talked more with BLACK ENTERPRISE about the collection and her entrepreneurial background.

(Photo courtesy of Barbara Clarke Ruiz)

How does your background in branding and consulting give you the leverage to further explore your creative entrepreneurial endeavors, including the Tek Gear capsule collection?

When I pitch to a new client, it is my list of global clients, my portfolio, and my hybrid ability to design across many categories and speak to the market that gives me the advantage.

I was presented with the opportunity to design a capsule collection with Kohl’s by an executive who hired me at another company over 10 years ago. We re-connected on Linkedin and the rest is history—creating new products, new brands, and new collections, while getting to utilize all my transferable skills.

(Photo: Kohl’s)

How does your passion for fashion design align with Kohl’s inclusivity and body diversity goals?

Our philosophy is the same regarding all shapes and sizes being beautiful and being celebrated. We agreed that it was important to use a curvier fit for this collection to make sure that every woman was represented. This ultimately culminated in an extensive range of sizes up to 3X.

My vision was clear about not wanting a lot of bodycon silhouettes so, instead, we offer a sports bra and capri, allowing the Kohl’s woman or man to live in the clothes with comfortable soft fabrics and a looser fit. Both of which were a priority for the BCR collection.

(Photo: Kohl’s)

In the fashion world, we have seen designs stolen and rebranded. How do you stay motivated to continue to own your designs amidst all of that?

First, it is terrible and completely unethical when someone takes another designer’s hard work and passes it off as their own. It casts a dark cloud over the fashion industry, and it can make any designer feel apprehensive about sharing their work.

But despite moments like these, I still try to stay motivated to continue my work through my creativity, the process, and the collections I am designing. I am passionate about what I do in the activewear space, and I must be true to that. I cannot worry about the things I cannot control or change.

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in entrepreneurship that still help you today?

The transition from starting my premium dog treat company to opening my design studio has been a journey full of twists and turns. I started BCSWIRL, Incorporated, my activewear design studio, about 20 years ago, and I started Lick You Silly pet products approximately four years ago.

Since the start of my career, some of the biggest lessons I have learned have been to listen to my gut, to not be afraid to step out on faith and to ask for what I wanted because I was disappointed every time I did not. I also learned that contacts and relationships are social capital and must be handled with care.

What advice do you have for aspiring designers who want to work with global brands?

If you want to work with global brands, tag them in your posts and connect with brand managers on Linkedin. Be clear about your requests to these companies and write a compelling email. If writing isn’t a strong suit, hire someone on Up Work or Fiverr to help you write it.

These companies are constantly being pitched so, make sure you can bring unique propositions to the table. It may require you to send the email numerous times but above all else, don’t give up. Your blessing is on the other side.


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