The term ‘athleisure’ may be relatively new but the concept is anything but. Pioneered in 1980 when businesswoman and former model Debbie Moore launched the clothing side of her dance studio, Pineapple, it has grown into a global trend. To celebrate Finery’s collaboration with the brand, we delve into the archives, discover the inspiration behind the new collection and catch up with the inimitable Ms. Moore.
“I’m completely passionate about clothes,” states Debbie Moore. For many women, this would simply mean they have wardrobes fit to burst with the spoils of their latest shopping trips but for Debbie, this sentence carries much more weight. For nearly 40 years, Debbie has overseen Pineapple’s eponymous clothing brand and has been the driving force behind moving it forward (not to mention running the dance studios). If you’ve ever worn a pair of stretch cotton leggings while working out, you’ll have Debbie to thank. “Very soon after opening we saw that the dancewear was made of nylon pique or shiny nylon and the dancers were getting sweaty and I thought ‘you know, they need some performance fabric’.”
Inspired, Debbie went straight to Lycra creator DuPont to suggest pairing the material with cotton. Initially creating a leotard and leggings (or footless tights as they were then), she went on to design skirts and dresses to wear over the leggings. While this may sound mainstream now, it was revolutionary back in the early Eighties. Until then, Lycra was strictly used for underwear and swimwear. “We were the first people to use Lycra in outerwear.”
It is this sense of innovation that made Debbie the ideal partner for Finery, a feeling that was also shared by Debbie. “It was wonderful to have done this collaboration with Finery.” Initially attracted to us by our Forever Pieces collaboration (which saw key industry insiders create their wardrobe basics), Debbie quickly came to the conclusion that she doesn’t just have one go-to item. “It didn’t take long before we realised I had more than one or two forever pieces, so in the end the collection grew with all of our wonderful classics.”
Centred around eight signature items, Pineapple X Finery includes leggings, joggers, bodies, dresses and jumpers. One thing which instantly established itself as a priority was the quality of the fabric. “It’s always been very important that it’s tactile,” says Debbie. Senior Finery designer Pandora Bahrami agrees. “The main things we used were cupro-based fabrics which have a really soft, luxurious feel.”
Paired with colours pulled from Pineapple’s archives – think wisteria-like pink, washed black and deep navy – and the collection takes on a slightly retro feel but with a thoroughly modern vibe. “I’m so happy, because the fabrics are great,” enthuses Debbie. “It’s like the perfect capsule collection.”
The concept of a capsule wardrobe is important, because that’s always how Debbie envisaged her clothes be worn. Inspired by the dancers who visit her studio, Debbie deliberately created items that could be layered; a concept which formed the starting point of this collaboration. “They are a constant source of inspiration,” says Debbie. “From the beginning they have customised and layered their clothes.”
According to Debbie, the key to successful layering is having a dancer’s sweater. It is, she says, ideal for covering up on days when you don’t want to show off your waist in a skin-tight body. “If you are a bit uncomfortable that this wonderfully supporting fabric is revealing too many bulges, there you go – there’s your dancer’s sweater.”
Being intuitive and so keenly aware of what women want from their clothing put Debbie in a very unique position back in 1982: not only did she float her company on the London Stock Exchange but became the first woman to do so. The resulting image of Debbie in a ra-ra skirt and jumper surrounded by suited men has become iconic. “Someone said ‘move back everyone, we can’t see her’ and that’s how it happened. Afterwards we were amazed the photo was front-page news in every newspaper. I didn’t know we were making history!”
Now back in control of Pineapple (she re-bought it in 1988), Debbie is still aware of the blocks women have to overcome but is also quick to point out that attitude plays an important role in success. “When everyone said it wasn’t possible to do this, I would ask them to suggest a way round it.” Considering Debbie’s achievements – on top of her modelling and business careers she has also been made an OBE – it’s fair to say that this approach worked.
But what is her stand-out item from the Pineapple X Finery collection? “One of my favourite pieces at the moment is the slip dress because it is such a kind of uniform for me.”