An Ironman Wedding and Fashion-Forward Tri Gear: Melissa Moo Harkins of MooMotion

Yesterday, I shared my thoughts on a cool new line of triathlon apparel for women: MooMotion.

Now, as neat as the line is (and it’s definitely worth checking out), I have to say I was just as taken with its creator, Melissa Moo Harkins. Heck, just a few lines into her bio, you learn that she spent almost a decade on Wall St. before enrolling in — and graduating from — Parsons School of Design and launching MooMotion.

Oh, and she married her husband at the finish line of the 2010 Lake Placid Ironman. So clearly the world needs to know more about her, right? Right!

melissa moo harkins
When you find someone who’s ditched Wall St. to become a designer and got married at the finish line of an Ironman, you HAVE to do an interview. It’s FBG law.

Interview With MooMotion Founder, Melissa Moo Harkins

Triathlon and fashion might not seem like an obvious pairing to a lot of people. Can you say a bit about how you got into each? I was never fully satisfied with the fit and look of available women’s endurance gear. The onsie, white lycra, flashy logos and girly prints just weren’t doing it for me … and don’t even get me started on the fit! After spending years on Wall street I attended Parsons School of Design with the goal of combing my interests and creating a company that provided more options for women. With the amount of time and energy spent training and racing, we should absolutely LOVE what we wear. I’m passionate about working in an industry that supports athletics and that promotes a healthy body image for women.

What was the impetus to creating a company that merged these two things? And why triathlon rather than something more mainstream, like yoga or running in general? My goal was to serve the female endurance community, which is a small but rapidly growing niche. As a new and independent business owner, it’s a feasible scope and it’s what I know and understand. As a small business, I want to offer something uniquely made for this niche. A MooMotion athlete is not afraid to sweat and appreciates the quality, fit and construction while putting in the long miles. She certainly doesn’t take herself too seriously because let’s face it, we are all clad in lycra and you have to have a sense of humor about it. Plus, for selfish reasons, I always have a supply of awesome gear for myself … which at times makes it that much easier to get out the front door!

What do you feel you’re bringing to the industry that’s not found elsewhere? My business supports local manufacturing, and I am involved with every aspect of the design, production, packaging, marketing and sales process. I have a passion for a quality product, and I’m constantly striving to make improvements based on feedback from my customers and retailers. I work with many independently owned retailers that appreciate the flexiblity of a smaller company and strive to offer unique products that differ from the big-box retailers.

What is your No. 1  focus when working on a new design? Comfort is my main priority, and style is the icing on the cake! I want women to feel and look great in the clothes and get motivated to get out the door. Realistically, my brand is not a one-stop shop for every woman, but I love being able to provide more options for women of different shapes and sizes. I strive to put the best quality product out to market.

Now, enough about business — YOU are a fascinating topic on your own! How did you go from Wall St. to where you are now? I enjoyed my previous career but was not inspired by it. I wanted to run my own business in a creative field. I always knew I wanted to attend Parsons and finally had the courage to do it! From a trading floor to design school — you can only imagine the change of environment! I loved every minute of it and was inspired by some of the most talented designers and instructors in the world.

Tell us about the wedding. Please, all about it. My husband and I knew we wanted an non-traditional wedding and since we were both signed up for IMLP, we thought it would be a perfect way to start a marriage! Training, hard work and endurance — makes sense, right? We made a mini-vacation of it and had our immediate family there to cheer us on throughout the race. It was a long day, but I enjoyed every minute of it. As I rounded the finish line chute, they placed a veil and flowers on me, and I ran across the finish line. We tied the knot right after the race and then celebrated with pizza, beer and cake.

You’re a three-time Ironman finisher. What keeps you coming back to something so punishing and difficult? I love the training process and how it always manages to keep my life organized and keep me efficient with my time. I love training in the early morning while NYC is still asleep and being outdoors and in-tune with nature. I have never been one to obsess over race times or PRs but instead enjoy racing at my own style and pace. Lastly, I love being around my fellow athletes who are each there for their own personal reasons and trying to accomplish the same goal.

What would you say to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps, either regarding the business or your triathlon successes? My advice is to be realistic about your goals and do what works best for you and your own lifestyle and goals.

Where do you go from here? What’s next for you and for MooMotion? I am currently working on new designs and sourcing the latest fabrics for the 2015 season. I am constantly getting feedback from customers and retailers on how I can continuously improve the line. On a personal note, I’m pregnant with my first child and am down to my final weeks. I’m sure this will take the whole life organization/schedule to a different level, but I’m looking forward to the challenge! Lastly, MooMotion has a full season ahead filled with expos and races. I’m looking forward to the season and can’t wait to see my designs on the road!

[Editor’s note: Since this interview, Melissa has given birth to a beautiful baby girl. Congrats on your tiny triathlete, Melissa!]

Anything else you’d like to share that you think our Fit Bottomed Girls readers would like to hear about? I know that triathlon can be an intimidating sport for many, but I encourage you to go for it! Preparation and a positive attitude are the keys to tackling it!

Way to go after your dreams, Melissa! We love it! Anybody else got an inspiring story like this to share? —Kristen

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