When Milena Walston moved to Raleigh 14 years ago, she had trouble finding workout clothes she liked.
Walston, a former dancer, exercises five times a week and has the discerning eye of a woman who built a career in fashion. She previously worked as a department store buyer and later as a division manager for Gap.
“I noticed a huge void here,” Walston, 49, said of the local selection for workout gear. So she tapped into her buyer skills and started combing the Internet for pieces that were high quality, fashionable and stand the test of time.
She used her research to open Lisana Activewear, a boutique in North Raleigh’s Lafayette Village that specializes in high-end sportswear and “athleisure” – pieces that can transition from the gym to everyday wear.
Athleisure apparel has been rising in popularity, with major brands like Nike and Lululemon offering leggings that can be worn in places besides the gym.
At Lisana Activewear, which opened Nov. 13, Walston picks out styles from around the world that she thinks customers will like. The store’s inventory includes Koral Activewear from Brazil, Vie Active from Australia and CHILLBYWILL from Los Angeles.
The Lisana staff puts the clothing through intensive tests to make sure it can perform during all kinds of exercise. If it doesn’t meet Walston’s standards, she sends it back.
“We push nothing on a client we wouldn’t wear ourselves,” she said.
In addition to stylish clothes from around the world, Walston and her staff cater to their customers in unique ways. Through the store’s concierge service, a sales associate will bring handpicked items to a customer’s home to try on.
“You’re not going to come here and be on your own,” Walston said.
Items in the store range from $36 to over $100, but Walston said she makes the experience worth the price tag.
“If you’re paying (over $100) for a legging, I think you need to be able to use it in more than just the gym,” she said.
Most of Lisana’s pieces can easily be worn to run errands. Walston said she often wears leggings from the store out to dinner and other evening events, and no one can tell she also wears them to work out.
Walston also pays attention to more technical aspects of the clothes with the help of Madeline Brown, one of her sales associates.
Brown, 22, is a senior in N.C. State University’s College of Design and Textiles. She knows about fabrics and uses that knowledge to help Walston pick pieces for Lisana.
She also runs Lisana’s social media accounts and is being mentored by Walston to one day take on a leadership role in the store.
“It made me nervous, but a good kind of nervous,” Brown said of training under Walston. Brown originally thought she would go into the furniture industry but was drawn to Lisana’s mission.
“(Milena’s) passion and drive uplifted me,” she said. “It’s cool to start with a company and grow with it.”
About the series
The North Raleigh News and Midtown Raleigh News are publishing a series of stories about locally owned businesses in Raleigh. Do you know of a business you’d like to see featured? Email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more
Lisana Activewear is located in Lafayette Village at 8480 Honeycutt Road, Suite 116, Raleigh. The store can be reached at 919-307-3933.