At five years old, Holly Corey would always choose drawing paper and crayons over any toy.
“I would design and sketch my gymnastics leotards,” she said. “And although I never met my great-grandmother, I’ve been told many stories about how she was a seamstress in Italy who would sew clothing for wealthy families. She was allowed to take home the families’ old clothing, which she would repurpose for her own family.”
For the next 20 years, Corey’s love for fashion only grew, and she did everything she could to build her skills and sharpen her designer instincts.
After graduating in 2012 from the WVU Davis College with her bachelor’s in fashion, dress and merchandising, Corey moved to New York City, one of the most well-known fashion capitals of the world. This had become a familiar place, as she had just completed her three-month WVU internship in NYC, working with Mandy Coon, designer of the widely recognized bunny bag, and experiencing the city’s premier fashion event of the year: New York Fashion Week.
Corey landed a full-time job in the Garment District of Manhattan, working for The RealReal, a San Francisco-based authenticated luxury consignment company.
“I needed a ‘regular job’ to pay the bills,” said Corey. “I didn’t really enjoy it, but it gave me the opportunity to continue interning with Mandy Coon and other designers after I was done with the workday. It was a great learning experience.”
After two years of living and learning as much as she could in New York, Corey decided it was time to move on. So, after a one-year stint in Pittsburgh, where she gained valuable experience working in alterations, Corey made her way back to West Virginia, returning to her Charleston roots.
“My plan was to move to New York and stay there permanently,” Corey said. “But after two years, I just didn’t love it as much. It felt so ‘cold’ at times, with so much cement. West Virginia is so pretty. And it is, after all, where I initially found my inspiration.”
It was that inspiration that led Corey to starting her own company. The challenge for her was determining what she wanted to sell.
“Working in New York opened my eyes to the struggles, risks and the high cost to open and maintain your own fashion design business,” Corey explained. “So I decided not to pursue the typical high fashion route.”
Drawing from her own childhood experiences, which revolved around gymnastics and dance, Corey decided to launch Holly Corey, an activewear clothing company with an online retail store that specializes in dance, gymnastics, yoga and Pilates. Corey aimed to create functional, yet affordable, pieces that give athletes the confidence to achieve their full potential.
“As a former competitive gymnast and dancer, I know how important having the right clothing can be to performance,” she said.
Also key to performance is positive self-image, and Corey makes that a primary focus.
“A lot of children are so self-conscious, even at such a young age,” Corey said. “So I wanted to create relatable pieces that are fun and make them look forward to every practice and competition. It is spandex, after all, and it can be tough to wear!”
Each piece is designed with a specific sport in mind. Corey personally designs, patterns, cuts and sews each item to ensure utmost quality. Her goal is to provide her clients, who range from wholesalers to individual buyers, with unique items in limited quantities.
In terms of the journey ahead, this is just the beginning for the Holly Corey company.
Eventually, Corey would like to expand the business, reaching a point where she can partner with clothing manufacturers. And her ultimate goal: arrive at a place where she is able to financially give back to her community.
“I would love to sponsor young girls and give them the opportunity to experience gymnastics and dance,” said Corey. “Both sports can teach fundamental qualities of hard work and drive that can be applied to their future endeavors.”