Scouting Report: Tokalon Clothing provides a blank canvas for activewear

Tokalon Clothing Tokalon Clothing is a Des Moines-based activewear clothing company that offers custom apparel. Photo courtesy of Tokalon Clothing.

The newest company to the Des Moines startup community is a clothing company offering customizable, trendy clothing options.

Combining an entrepreneurial ancestry and work experience in the apparel, merchandising and design industries, Brian and Lea Leopold founded Tokalon Clothing in the Spring of 2017. After living in Southern California and Minneapolis, they moved to back to Iowa and into Des Moines in November.

Named after one of the most prestigious vineyards in Napa Valley, Tokalon Clothing is an activewear clothing brand meant to sweat in but still be fashionable. Brian said their clients in Minnesota were typically gyms and boutiques with front retail spaces and studio space in the back. But, he did say they did larger orders for corporate clients.

“We were able to develop an assortment of blank styles but then allow our customers to customize,” Brian says. “They can pick their own fabric, you have these silhouettes where you find the stuff that is trending. Then you can add your branding or an expression on the front.”

Here’s the scouting report:

Fashionable for…anything

Tokalon Clothing
Lea and Brian Leopold, the founders of Tokalon Clothing with their son Benji.

Lea says she’s worked for clothing brands such as Lucky, Christopher Banks and The Gap, along with smaller boutiques in New York while Brian says he’s always wanted to start his own business, he’s just been looking for the right opportunity.

After years of working for somebody else, they found their opportunity.

“We saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between this leisure trend where yoga pants replace denim,” Brian explains. “So everybody is wearing this style and it had infiltrated every corner of the industry except cycling.”

So they set out to create a fashionable clothing brand for cyclists.

“It’s women who are not competitive cyclists and the competitive cycling kit doesn’t fit their lifestyle,” Brian says. “That was where we started…”

He says they initially got an amazing response and did great sales during the 2017 RAGBRAI. But because they had no experience in the cycling industry, they made bad assumptions.

“We assumed that we would go into bike shops, show this assortment and the first feedback from customers,” Brian said. “And that was not the case, we found that most bike shop owners and employees love bikes and turning wrenches. Once you start talking about trends in women’s fashion their face turns green.”

So they pivoted and developed Zuma Blu—a full athletic line—to compliment Tokalon Clothing.

“This is a program that is unlike anything out there,” Lea says of Tokalon Clothing. “It’s truly custom for each individual. A gym can come to us and design their whole assortment without having any experience or connections. It’s really a service that doesn’t exist in activewear.”

Brian and Lea both said they were still trying to figure out the best ways to reach new customers.

“Initially what we thought was we would target these studios and it started with a lot of cold calling,” Brian said. “Then just through word of mouth, we’ve met with some corporate clients who place simple, big orders. And those are the ones who got Tokalon off the ground.”