Leggings get artsy

Reality TV might seem an odd place to find inspiration.

But for designer Keri Wilson, that’s just what happened.

A self-described fan of the dating show “The Bachelor,” Wilson copied a photo of Ben Higgins, the most recent bachelor, and transferred the image up and down the legs of a pair of spandex yoga pants. Each image of his face was placed next to a picture of red roses. (In the show, the bachelor gives a red rose to each woman he selects to remain in competition for his love.)

After learning that Higgins was in Laguna Beach to shoot scenes with a woman vying for his heart, Wilson was able to deliver the pants to the television personality.

Then the leggings went viral, with Higgins and his fiancee showing the pants on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Actress Kaley Cuoco wore a pair featuring the two finalists’ faces and shared it on social media site Instagram.

“We could barely keep them in stock,” said Wilson, the owner of Laguna Beach-based Goldsheep Clothing, as she stood in the company’s headquarters off Laguna Canyon Road. “I’ve always loved pop art, and now I made my own art world and turned it into fashion.”


At Goldsheep Clothing, one of the most popular racks is packed with leggings that range from pretty to pretty funny: Some are loud prints overlaid with Mexican cobalt blue squares that look like tiles. Others are covered in Champagne bottles or cash and coins. The latter was worn by singer and songwriter Rihanna when she guest appeared on “American Idol.”

Wilson’s is a movement that blends eccentricities with fashion, she said, and it comes during a big moment for “athleisure,” the apparel industry’s term for the casual, athletic-inspired way of dressing rooted in leggings, tank tops and running shoes.

Before this, basic black leggings — or yoga pants — were considered workout bottoms.

Now, not only have they been adopted for everyday wear, but their once simple look seems almost passe.

Boutique fitness studios, running trails and gyms are filled with stretchy leggings in colorful patterns, often from brands that aren’t exactly household names.

According to market research company NPD Group, sales of women’s leggings advanced 18% in 2014, to $1.1 billion, with sales of “active” leggings growing twice as fast as leggings overall.

The flashier pant look, the better, Wilson said.

Wilson, who grew up in Laguna Beach, moved to New York City to study at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, FIDM. While there for three years, she designed for labels like Victoria’s Secret and Gap, but found that working in the fashion industry was less than glamorous.

But walking around the most populous city in the U.S. gave her an idea.

“I’d see thousands of legs and I thought: ‘Why not put street art on pants?’” Wilson said.

So she selected a picture of a sunset, took it to a copier and had it transferred onto a pair of black stretch leggings.

The process cost her $2,000.

After she moved back home to Laguna, the idea of transferring pop-art images onto pants stuck with her.

After a few years of trial and error, she founded Goldsheep Clothing, with inspiration from her 89-year-old grandmother, Shirley, who embodies individuality and independence, Wilson said.

Goldsheep stands for someone who is proud of his or her uniqueness and uses the gifts the person has been given and shares them with the world, she said.

With the help of 15 employees, sans a marketing and sales representative, the team collaborates on collections and promotes new looks on its Instagram profile, which has nearly 25,000 followers.

Cuoco, Wilson said, wore the leggings, posted a picture of herself in them to the actress’ website and then linked to the company’s profile page. What better advertising could there be?

Goldsheep, which usually makes 5,000 pairs a month, has also designed looks for WrestleMania’s women’s championship, rapper Snoop Dogg and supermodel Gisele Bündchen.

The handmade leggings, which are typically priced at $98, are sold in more than 350 stores across the U.S., including Barre3, CorePower Yoga and Evolve Fit Wear.

The line is also sold on the company’s website and is shipped to customers as far away as Singapore, Israel and Australia.

Customers may also order custom-made pants for special events like bridal showers and birthdays.

“Things just keep going for me,” Wilson said as she eyed a pair of leggings that depicted her grandmother’s smiling face. “When you’re positive, the universe just comes back. It’s just very fun.”

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Twitter: @KathleenLuppi