Ballerina Turned Businesswoman: Fusco Knitwear

Posted by on 03.25.2013

If you are a regular TENDUS reader, you have become familiar with the fact that ballet dancers are quite multi-talented.  I have introduced you to Cameron Dieck, New York City Ballet Dancer and  Échauffe™ Legwarmers co-founder, and Emily Bromberg, Miami City Ballet dancer and founder of FancyPants USA. Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Pennsylvania Ballet member, Holly Fusco who has a 6 month old company, Fusco Knitwear, providing high-quality customizable knit legwarmers to the ballet community.  Holly’s story behind her products, her creative process, and secrets for time management are not to be missed.

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Exclusively for TENDUS readers, receive a 15% discount on your order of Fusco Knitwear!  To order, visit Holly’s Etsy site to customize your legwarmers.  Then enter promo code Tendus13 in the coupon code field as you checkout.  

Offer ends April 2nd.

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Long Half and Half style. Photo by Brian Mengini

Long Half and Half style. Photo by Brian Mengini

RK: How did your new business venture come about? What inspired you?

HF: I initially started hand knitting leg warmers when I was a school student at Miami City Ballet. I acquired a lot of yarn during that time, and a lot of projects. I didn’t have the discipline to finish hand knitting the leg warmers after so long (it would take me weeks to finish one pair!) and eventually, I completely stopped altogether. Then I moved to Philadelphia to join Pennsylvania Ballet, and I still had all of this yarn and thought, “Hmm, I could do something with this!” I did some research and found a machine that was very user friendly and knits seamless tubes. I took a leap of faith and ordered one, fiddled around a bit, and bam! There’s a leg warmer business in my life now! I have also always had an interest in dance wear. I drew on what I loved about specific companies and realized that the customizable option was what interested me most; having a hand in what I was ordering, or in a sense, designing it myself. Looking at other dancer-owned dance wear companies like Yumiko, Elevé, Lignes, Ainsliewear, Vala Dancewear, Martha Chamberlain Dancewear and Abigail Mentzer Designs, seeing their success and stories, has made it seem tangible to reach my own goals of starting my own company.

RK: How do you produce your inventory and keep up with your high demand?

HF: The machine I use is really great. It knits the leg warmers extremely fast, and I hand finish the other details: the elastic and the hemline. Keeping up with the demand is really all about time management and scheduling. A long pair of leg warmers from start to finish takes me about 45 minutes. Whenever I have the chance, I am knitting. I finish work most days at 6:00 and I usually knit from 8-10:30pm. I also bring leg warmers to Pennsylvania Ballet to finish in-between rehearsals (Sew in the elastic, etc.) and I mail them out once a week on Saturdays. I think I have a good system going.

RK: What steps do you go through to create the perfect leg warmer? As a dancer yourself, you know we can all be very picky about what we choose to wear in class and rehearsals!

HF: I first had to find the right yarn. I knew I wanted the consumer to have a hand in the creative process, so I wanted a lot of colors for them to choose from. I also wanted yarn that was durable, resistant to pilling, warming, yet not suffocating. It had to be youthful looking to be relevant to a wide age range of clients, and a material that wouldn’t cause itching or allergies. That being said, my yarn is 100% Acrylic. Aside from the yarn, the biggest ‘trend’ I have been noticing with leg warmers is that dancers are actually safety pinning the leg warmers to their tights due to the lack of elasticity! This is terrible since the tights then have holes in them and the leg warmers aren’t doing their job. So I’ve found an elastic that is stretchy, yet secure. I sew the elastic into the leg warmers in a way that if needed, can be adjusted over time to be tighter or looser.

RK: How were you able to find time to found a company while working full time with Pennsylvania Ballet?

Medium Duo Stripe style. Photo by Brian Mengini

Medium Duo Stripe style. Photo by Brian Mengini

HF:  It has definitely been a process (and still is!) Sometimes, I need to remind myself that I have only been doing this for around six months! Luckily, the ballet community is a small one, and I was able to acquire the talents of some incredible individuals to aid me in my initial stages of starting the business. There have been a lot of late nights, and early mornings, emails and phone conversations. Whenever Pennsylvania Ballet has a layoff in-between programs, I use that time to knit extra inventory and brainstorm new ideas. I am so excited about the company constantly, that what one would see as perhaps ‘stress’ of working full time at my job and starting the company, isn’t really stress at all. I am able to blend the two together, which can’t really happen for most people. I consider myself lucky in that sense because it has made the word-of-mouth aspect of my business grow exponentially. I feel like I am constantly researching things for the business, and it only makes me more enthusiastic. I am extremely passionate about my vision for Fusco Knitwear, and this is the driving force behind my company. There is a bright future ahead; we are currently working on the website, and other exciting marketing materials that will go viral very soon!

RK:  Have your colleagues been supportive of your new venture?

HF: My friends at Pennsylvania Ballet, amongst other companies, have been incredibly helpful in my plans for Fusco Knitwear. They have lent their time for photo shoots, have offered their input on specifics with the leg warmers, listened to my ramblings late at night, and were my guinea pigs for the first few rounds of my test leg warmers! Now, most dancers in the company own a pair of Fusco Knitwear leg warmers, and seeing them around the studio everyday is a constant reminder to me of how lucky I am to have had their involvement in my process!

RK: In what ways do you hope that Fusco Knitwear will grow in the future?

HF:  Once my 700 immediate short term goals are fulfilled, I hope to expand my line with more warm up clothing options for adult dancers and athletes. I will always strive to have something unique and different for people to wear while still fulfilling the sole purpose of keeping someone warm. I have also dappled in leg warmers for children, and would love to start up a line for that age group. I am always coming up with what seems like far-fetched ideas for now, but if this process has taught me anything, its that making things come into fruition is always possible!

Medium Single Stripe style. Photo by Brian Mengini

Medium Single Stripe style. Photo by Brian Mengini

Exclusively for TENDUS readers, receive a 15% discount on your order of Fusco Knitwear!  Simply visit Holly’s Etsy site to order your customizable legwarmers and enter promo code

“Tendus13”

 in the coupon code field as you checkout.  But hurry, this offer ends on April 2nd, 2013 at midnight!

Stay up to date with Fusco Knitwear by liking them on Facebook • Fusco Knitwear on Etsy.

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