A conversation with: PRAISE ENDURANCE

A CONVERSATION WITH: PRAISE ENDURANCE

Building on our ever-growing assortment of running gear, we had the pleasure of welcoming PRAISE ENDURANCE to our OTH Plateau location. Founded back in 2016, PRAISE found their footing in bringing a refreshing take on your every day running gear. Unflinchingly designed for designed for runners with an introspective look on design solutions, and an obsession with aesthetic execution, PRAISE ENDURANCE is here to make you rethink what running apparel should look, and feel like. 

We had the chance to sit down and have a quick chat with Patrick Elkaim, founder, and Mariana Garcia, head designer and creative director, to find out how the PRAISE ENDURANCE family came about. 

 

 

 PATRICK (FOUNDER) & MARIANA (HEAD DESIGNER, CREATIVE DIRECTOR) AT OUTSIDE THEIR POP-UP AT OTH PLATEAU
PATRICK IS WEARING GENKI FLEECE ZIP-UP + GABALI BEANIE | MARIANA IS WEARING COYOTE INSULATED VEST + ROOK HALF ZIP + GABALI BEANIE
PHOTO CREDIT: AIME-ELLE

 

OTH: Patrick, Mariana, it’s a pleasure to meet you!

P & M: Likewise!

 

OTH: As always, we like to do a deep-dive on all our interviewees to really get a sense of everyone's journey has been leading up to this point. Patrick could you tell me a little bit about how you ended up starting Praise? Based on an article we found on WWD back in 2016, it's been said that you were the head of a reputable denim brand back in 2014, how did your journey lead you from there to PRAISE?

P: Wow damn, you have a minute? Haha! Listen, it’s a long story. Basically, I was heading a denim brand for quite some time, and just to backtrack a little bit, I knew that I sort of had accomplished what I personally wanted to accomplish within the organization. I felt like I was at a point in my life where I sort of wanted a bigger and different challenge and I knew that was gonna be to start my business and to ultimately my own brand.

M: Pat has an extensive background in the garment industry, his family has always been involved in it. I believe what Pat is trying to say is that he really wanted to create a brand that comes from himself. PRAISE as we know it today is like this ongoing idea that two passions needed to be combined. Mixing his vast knowledge in the fashion industry, with his history of running for the past 12 years – he’s been training with a coach for that long, he’s ran several marathons and stuff like that. Personally, I'm surprised it even took him so long to put 2 and 2 together. 

P: But that’s the thing you know, it was more sort of accidental. It wasn't exactly in my plans to leave the denim brand to then start a brand like PRAISE. It definitely wasn't a straight line; it wasn't in my business plans at the time. When I left, I was  still working on licensed brands, with big clothing lines and it was never like “Oh, I’m gonna start PRAISE.” and that was it. I thought; "Okay, I'm doing all the legwork for all of these licensed brands, building them up...but they weren’t telling a story.

I was fine with that in the interim, but I always had my own brand in the back of my mind. So, I slowly, but surely started putting in the work into PRAISE. Even at inception when I started PRAISE, if you look back at our Instagram, it’s more lifestyle, and it’s always been lifestyle and casual.

But I was always asking myself the question;

“Why?”

“Do we need another brand?”

“What’s our message?”

“What are we trying to convey?”

PRAISE needed to have a purpose. I could not do more clothes without a story, without a purpose, without communicating a message. Ultimately, that's when PRAISE really started taking off for me. 

Eventually, we ended up selling quite a bit in Japan as a lifestyle brand but it's around that time that I started thinking that I wanted PRAISE to be associated with running. I had been running for quite some time, and it’s been a game changer for me. It’s therapeutic, it’s fun and not fun, and there’s so many things that you can apply from running in everyday life. I felt like even aesthetically, as a person in fashion, I was not finding my everyday style represented in my active and technical wear.

 


OTH: So that's how the brand took a turn away from simply "Lifestyle" to a more running focused aesthetic. Even then, in terms of aesthetics, PRAISE really stands out in itself. 

For those that have been following your growth since it's inception, back in early 2017 you were a lot more lifestyle/streetwear. You had coach jackets, you had jeans, denim jackets. Then, in 2019, you start to see a shift. A new PRAISE logo appears, the gear slowly starts to transition to a more runner's focused aesthetic. There are new campaigns, new branding. The shift was gradual, but you can see it.

P: That’s exactly it, and it’s been a work in progress. In late 2018, early 2019, we rebranded and Mariana joined, and we always say it. We had all these pieces to the puzzle and she just came in, put all those pieces together and just took off with it. It’s been amazing ever since.


OTH: That’s amazing! Mariana, can you speak a bit on what it was like for you when you joined PRAISE in 2019?

M: Sure! So, I joined PRAISE in 2019 as Creative Director & Lead Designer. I was at a point in my career where, similar to Pat, I felt like I was missing something. I was doing kids wear, which I loved, from conception to in-store activations, etc. But it wasn't until I met Pat earlier on in this venture with PRAISE that I realized that what I needed was to take part in a brand that had a soul. I felt that PRAISE had the beginnings of that, and Pat and I were curious to see where PRAISE could go. I think very early on it clicked that PRAISE was something special, and it stated with the people behind the brand, and with its genuine mission.

That’s why I always push to design conceptually, so there’s a design story behind everything we do and obviously the running comes with it. It’s just easier to create stories that always relate back to the PRAISE narrative. Everything has had something that branches out from running, but it’s a concept from running in itself. 

OTH: I assume it's the same thing with PRAISE's latest collection, EVER CHANGE? 

M: Exactly! For our most recent collection, EVER CHANGE, it's really about embracing transformation just as nature does all the time. 

One of the things I’ve learned in my time [at PRAISE] about running, is that running has no age. Anybody who comes in at any time in their life can do it and get better at it too. It’s a transformation that I find intriguing, embracing that same evolution that nature has and applying them to ourselves. But the big difference is that we can create that exoskeleton to push ourselves and to grow and follow that change. And so that’s what the collection is in a nutshell. 

You have the connection to the outdoors with the earthy, chocolate-y palette, we really wanted to bring that natural take into sportswear. Which, I felt like I hadn’t seen so much of until this point. These palettes are seen in fashion forward brands but having them in running wear is a little bit different. So, it was interesting to put the concept into work and into running gear and style.

 

 


OTH: I think that’s one of the very eye catching things about the brand. A lot of the running gear that you’re going to find nowadays is either one or the other, it’s either muted or it’s the loudest colour your eyes will ever see. Now you have this nice in between with very nice tonal, earthy colors. 

PRAISE has always been very one to one with its consumer base. Part of your mission statement is, in your words; “Unflinchingly designed for you. We’re not scared to review and reiterate on a previous design.”

Was your design process always like this or was this something that came as the business went along?

P: As soon as we connected running as part of PRAISE and we’ve been designing conceptually, we also design with a certain need. Our collections and what we design into is about the day in the life of a runner and what they are wearing at that time. We’re lucky to be here on the east coast where we have four full seasons and basically when Mariana and I are talking about assortment plans, technicalities and what we’re going after, we always think about what we are wearing for running at that time, how we're wearing it, and when we’re wearing it. 

I think also ultimately, the way the process is done, is as we grow our fanbase, the PRAISE Fam, we also grow our assortments. We extensively test all of the products beforehand. For example, we just dropped running leggings and they were tested all of last year through our ambassadors, team, and running fam. We looked at how we could make this product super technical and suited for winter running conditions. So these are things that come to mind when we designing for our next collections. 

Sometimes we want to go into a category, but we have to ease into it and see how the response is. An example of this is our 3-layer jacket, the Sycamore, which had a full test run and was supposed to drop in the spring.

M: It was actually supposed to look entirely different. After many revisions, we thought about making the jacket more of a unisex fit which for us is really important. We thought a man might wear it like this, but how would women wear and how would anyone beyond binary wear it? The process took over a year but we’re super proud of the outcome. It fits everyone really well. It’s exactly what we needed it to be; lightweight, waterproof, adjustable, and with reflective detailing for safety. 

THE SYCAMORE JACKET, A WIND & WATER PROOF 3 LAYER JACKET.

P: It has all the features we could want and that's another aspect I love about our gear. Part of the design process behind PRAISE gear was that, previously, I was using my running gear just to run. I had a drawer at home and I would only use my running shorts and tees just to run and that was complete nonsense to me.

Now, the Sycamore, the Abaddon shorts or Diablo shorts, I would wear them to run, but you could also wear them and not look like you're about to run and look good. You can look good in both ways, even with all the technicalities and benefits of a running short. The Sycamore, I wear every day but I could go for a super harsh run in -20 and a few layers and that jacket will work.

M: In a sense we want to make sure we have less garments but that work better. For instance, the top I’m wearing now (the Rook) is a mid layer but I’m wearing it just as a normal top. I think there’s something interesting about that duality in your wardrobe. 


OTH: You've mentioned designing for functionality, unisex sizing, and on top of that, PRAISE donates 1% of all sales to 1% for the planet. All aspects that are important for a brand to stay futureproof, does tackling all these aspects it make it additionally difficult to hit all of these points when you’re designing?


M: Not so much so. When you go back to when we’re writing the story about PRAISE and the things that matter to us; one thing that we bring from running is that it’s very accessible, it’s diverse. From the very beginning, this has always been part of our core values, so we've always designed to meet those requirements.

Not all of it happened at the same time, however. 1% For the Planet only came around a year ago. It was naturally part of our progression. When you run, you are always outside, interacting with your surroundings. We are aware of nature and the planet. It was the same with unisex sizing. As we progressed, we thought about what our core values were, about how inclusive running is, what we can bring in. That's how diversity became a very important point for PRAISE.

We don’t want to go ahead and say we’re an eco brand, because as Pat always says, a fashion company in itself is not an eco-company. However, we do what we can to be eco-responsible. We ship everything in recyclable materials, we’re paired up with 1%, we try not to over order and we try to use absolutely all the raw materials we obtain so as not to be overtly wasteful.

We try to make decisions in house that support the mentalities that we carry forward. Our design process always stems from a need, a design solution. That's how all of these aspects, designing the sizing, the functionality and purpose of all our gear, really came about.

 

OTH X PRAISE MORNING RUN  | PHOTO CREDIT: JULIEN PAYETTE-TESSIER 

 

OTH: Do you guys have a really broad base for your collaborators and product testers?


M:  We have ambassadors that are in the active category, and Pat and a lot of his running friends, and myself, test most of the products. We’re trying to accommodate runners from the most casual to the most technical who’ve done it for a long time. So, for example, I’ve only been into running for about a year so I like to bring in a casual running perspective as well.

 

OTH: That's a point that we believe certain running brands seem to lose sight of. In designing exclusively for runners, it can sometimes be intimidating for casual runners to invest in gear that's exclusively running-oriented. Designing gear with all the technicalities required for running, while maintaining a casual, aesthetic vision is one of our favourite aspects of PRAISE.

 

OTH: The past two, three years have been pretty crazy for PRAISE. In the early days of PRAISE, you were originally stocked at retailers like Bred in the Bronx, Exclusiv Game out in Atlanta, and Footnation in Toronto. Fast forward to recent times, in 2020, your stockists has grown to include Renegade Running in Oakland, Urban Outfitters, Vancouver Running Co, Altitude Sports, Faux Movement and now, Off the Hook.

PRAISE has been growing at an incredible rate since the rebrand. What should your consumer base be expecting from PRAISE in the future?


P: Ultimately, the consumer will, in a sense, decide where we go and how far we go.


M: We also don’t want to take away from the fact that we work so hard. PRAISE is our baby; we think about it always. We want to make sure that all that hard work shows the way that we need it to, through our brand and through partners and retailers. It’s been key to getting PRAISE to where it is now… by making tough decisions but also making thoughtful decisions that stay true to PRAISE.

OTH: It's almost like you're completing Pat's sentences Mariana, the two of you seem to share a pretty close-knit relationship between Founder and Creative Director, how does that dynamic come to work when designing your collections? 

Does it start as an Idea in Pat’s mind? Or do you guys come together to make the collection happen? 


P: We work very closely together and we compliment each other's work a lot. We both have great visions and she’s a great storyteller and I’m more of on the merchandising and business side. We meet on the creative side of things and there’s no ego involved, it’s really about the best thing for the brand.

P: My simple answer to this would be a lot of conversation. It’s a lot of conversation between Mariana and I, in terms of what inspires us. Throughout the year we talk about so many different things and we have people over for lunches and we talk, so it’s always about a conversion. I think the storytelling part is definitely on Mariana’s part, though we mutually decide together on where we’re going, but the storytelling is hers.

M: I see creativity as an emotional process. I think a lot of the creative work that you put out has to come from real emotion. I can’t say that it’s always me, or always Pat, or both of us. Emotion is what inspires all collections.

Take, A NEW HIGH (the collection prior to EVER CHANGE), for example. We launched that collection earlier in Spring of '21. It was a very uncertain moment for everybody, at the height of lockdowns here in Montreal.

I had started running more seriously at that time. I was seeing other people doing it as a coping mechanism too, so I spoke to Pat about it. Looking back at that conversation, we used that emotion of a runner's escapism, and people discovering running for the first time, and put it to the drawing board. It’s little things like that that become concepts. Of course, there’s deadlines and whatnot so we can’t romanticize these concepts forever, we actually have to put them to work.

P: It’s also action, if you take A New High and people running through the pandemic, we were actually running every day. The whole city was shut down and we had nothing else to do but run every morning. We’d meet up with our friends and go, so it actually set us into action as we saw the effects that running had on us physically and mentally to cope with everything we had to live with for the last year or two. So, we’ve lived it and then we put it into concepts and stories.

M:  Exactly. I think that EVER CHANGE was a continuation from A NEW HIGH. Running was a way for a lot of us to help cope with the social distancing measures. EVER CHANGE led to the realization that running helped overall rather than just to cope with the pandemic. So, it was like building yourself from the outside in was a way of finding self-love and peace, which is where the exoskeleton idea was born.

OTH: So you really pull inspiration from just life and things you do, not just running.


M: The reality is that people run, and people have lives, and people live through different things. So, telling that story is what makes it so beautiful, and I love that at PRAISE we do that. I love that everything we do is through experience and emotion.

 

 PRAISE ENDURANCE — NOW AVAILABLE AT OFF THE HOOK.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP THEIR LATEST COLLECTION | CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT OUR PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE LAUNCH EVENT