Raphael Javaheri and The Beginning Of… Merge Activewear and Street Style

Photo Courtesy - Megan Sistachs

Athleisure trends are more popular than ever with shoppers across genders and age groups, and it’s clear that activewear is no longer just for the gym. Serious athletes and casual movers alike want garments that can transition from the gym to the streets — which is where The Beginning Of… comes in. The Beginning Of… is a fashion-forward activewear brand offering garments that are ergonomic and on-trend for affordable prices.

The brand’s offerings include high-neck and scoop padded sports bras and bralettes, contoured leggings, cropped shirts and jackets, maxi dresses and bodysuits in white, lilac, terracotta, granite, light blue and washed grey and blue colorways. The styles are seamless, moisture-wicking and designed with doubled-layered fabrics to add extra support and compression, making them appropriate for all forms of exercise. No matter the garment, central to the brand’s message is the creation of high-quality garments that empower wearers to reach their goals in the gym — and outside of it, too. Product names like the “Get Up and Go” bra, the “Killin’ It” bodysuit and the “Superhero Girl” leggings offer inspiration and confidence to wearers, and the brand’s sustainable values ensure that The Beginning Of… products are positively impacting the earth as well.

The Beginning Of… was created by fashion industry veteran Raphael Javaheri, who brought his 30-plus years of experience in fabric production and distribution to the activewear brand. Below, Javaherti shared his distinguished career in the fashion industry that led him to establish the brand, how The Beginning Of… is unique from other activewear brands and what the brand’s future holds as it continues to expand its offerings and reach.

Tell me about your background in the fashion industry. What drew you to the activewear industry?

I was a third-generation textile company, initially. I migrated to New York in 1978 when I was 14 years old for my cousins’ Bar Mitzvoth. There was a revolution in Iran, so we never went back — we stayed in New York as tourists. My father was in the textile business and had offices in Italy — for many years, we imported fabrics from Italy and distributed them in New York. We moved to Los Angeles in 1989, where I worked for my father.

In 1991, I was reading Women’s Wear Daily, and there was an article about this new-age fabric called Lyocell, which later became Tencel. I contacted the company [featured in the article], Courtaulds, and told them that I had a textile degree — and if they gave me the fiber, then I would work on it and develop it with them. Long story short, we sent the fabric to weaving companies that we knew in the Carolinas. At the time, we were importing fabrics from Japan and dyeing them in Los Angeles at a dye house. The issue with Tencel, in the beginning, was that you could finish it, but it would pill again.

After nine months of trial and error, in 1992, we became the first company to develop commercially viable, large-volume Tencel fabrics in the United States. We were selling to Jones New York, Liz Claiborne, Perry Ellis and other brands. Within two or three years, we had sales offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Tokyo, Osaka, Melbourne and Sydney. All we did was Tencel — Tencel by itself and with cotton, rayon, in denim, printed and yarn-dyed.

After many years of growth — during which everything was made in the USA — the government suddenly passed NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), and all of the United States dye houses died. We had to reinvent ourselves.

How did your business adapt and respond to this change?

We took our know-how and knowledge to Korea. It took us about six months to a year to establish factories in Korea, and then our business actually grew again — at the time, we were able to add more products at lower prices that were equal in quality. We got some really nice volume in our international business.

Fast forward to 2006, China was let into the WTO (World Trade Organization), and that was the beginning of the end for us in Korea. Most of the Korean companies were public companies, and they started going out of business because Chinese companies would undercut them. Our customers told us that if we wanted to keep our fabric orders, then we had to make private label full packages. We resisted as long as we could, but we were losing orders and had no other choice. Things were changing.

We got into doing packages. It was good, because we knew the factories that were shipping the fabrics. [Those factories] would give us styles and tech packs to do costing and samples, and as long as the fit and the price was fine, then we had nice orders. Our clients were Kellwood Company, Wet Seal, Deliah’s, JC Penney, Sears and other brands. We had many nice domestic accounts, but starting in 2013, these publicly-traded companies went out of business one by one.

Photo Courtesy – Megan Sistachs

How did you transition from these previous roles in the fashion industry into the creation of The Beginning Of…?

After being in this business for more than 30 years, and being on both sides of selling fabrics and designing and producing garments, I thought, “Maybe it’s time I roll the dice for myself and launch my own brand.”

In April, we launched our website, thebeginningof.com, and our Amazon shop. We took our best-selling styles and upgraded the fabric qualities and finishes. We also used some sustainable and recycled fabrics. All of our garments are dyed with dyes that are AZO-free (so there are no carcinogens) and PFSA-free, which means they are free of fluorine.

Where did the name The Beginning Of… come from?

It means the beginning of the chapter. You can fill in the blanks [after the ellipsis] any way that you like. The Beginning Of… is a new journey, a new venture or the next chapter of your life or your business.

What is the brand ethos behind The Beginning Of…?

We offer premium-quality activewear that is on par in quality with Alo Yoga or Lululemon — but at half the price. The Beginning Of… is factory direct and made in vertical mills. Especially in these inflationary times, we want to give people value for their money. I knew that now was the right time to launch [the brand] to offer the right trends. For example, most of our styles have 3D textures and patterns as well as tensions that are strategically placed to hold or accentuate curves and offer extra support with double-layer fabrics. We don’t skimp on our fabrics — everything is heavy, washable and high quality.

Tell me more about the brand’s current collection.

In order to meet minimums of size and color [at this stage of production], we currently can’t offer sizes XS or XXL, because it would be too much inventory. Rather than taking orders and bringing in goods, we’re front-loading our inventory based on our own projections. In order to have a safe business [our current offerings] are sized with split-sizing — XS/S, S/M and L/XL — because our fabrics have great stretch and recovery.

What does “performance by design” mean to your brand?

When we were thinking about the collection, we asked, “What will be our brand’s DNA?” Anyone who does sports wants to see results — that comes from performance. We are designing the performance [of the products], from the garments’ fibers to tension, construction, weight, dye processes and finishing, as well as making sure that there are no harmful chemicals used in manufacturing. This thoughtful ethos, which is our version of performance, is included by design — we have [made these efforts] consciously and create our products purposely.

What activewear trends are customers most excited about?

The biggest trends that I see — and what people are responding to most — are activewear garments that have textures and specialty finishes, colors and dyeing techniques. Customers are also responding to ergonomic garments. The Beginning Of… offers ergonomically contoured garments that fit perfectly. I have one of the best tech designers in the Los Angeles area [working with The Beginning Of…] — he was the head of technical services at Guess, where he managed eight tech designers. He is dialed into how to make the garments fit perfectly for our customers.

What can the fashion and athletic clothing industries learn from one another?

The athletic industry is the fashion industry — if people wanted to wear plain outfits to exercise, then the multi-billion dollar athleticwear industry wouldn’t be around. Customers are responding to looking different, owning performance athleticwear and wearing garments that are fashion-forward yet comfortable. We’ve taken our seamless experience and even have designed dresses that can be worn after working out. These dresses don’t wrinkle, are light and look great because they fit perfectly.

What would you say confidence means to you?

To me, confidence means having high self-esteem, believing in yourself and and being uncompromising in those beliefs. To be confident, you have to go after your dreams and your goals.

What’s coming up next for The Beginning Of… ?

We are looking to continue to grow our brand’s sales and turnover. We hope to become more size-inclusive and add more size options once we can do a higher volume of business. We plan to add cotton activewear garments, layering options in made with high-quality cotton and other performance-knit fabrics. We will be exhibiting at the Active Collective trade shows in New York City and California and the Magic trade shows in New York City and Las Vegas in August and September. We plan to grow our distribution to specialty boutiques and stores, have an online presence through our own direct-to-consumer website and on Amazon.