top of page


Written by Emma McDonnell


Since 2015, Varley has been at the forefront of the activewear industry, creating pieces that modern women can sport while feeling comfortable and chic. Since the global climate has allowed time to prioritize health while working from home, activewear has become an absolute necessity. For insight into the athleisure world, we spoke with industry leader and co-founder of Varley, Lara Mead, about all things activewear, her favorite workout, and her romantic connection to Santa Barbara.

1.Tell us about Varley.

We are an activewear and lifestyle brand for the modern woman. Varley draws inspiration from California to London to create collections that are highly technical with an elevated yet understated aesthetic. The form and function of each piece has to support the current multi-tasking lifestyle. As our women continue to grow, so do we. 

2. How did you come to start Varley? 

My husband and I began Varley in 2015. At the time Ben was working in finance and I was working as a TV agent, but our dream was to spend our working lives together, building a brand that we are both proud of and that would also allow us to travel. We were on one of our very first holidays together in Santa Monica when the idea came to us to start an active lifestyle brand inspired by the intersection of fashion and function. We partnered with Bandier, Carbon 38, and Bergdorf Goodman to put forth a small, initial range of bras and leggings. 

3. What inspires each collection?

I’m inspired by how women move and live, so I aim to make them feel comfortable and supported in each piece. We design each collection like a capsule that women can shop from and add to their existing wardrobes. Creating investment pieces and focusing on quality is of the utmost importance. 

4. You split your offices between London and Los Angeles. Do you think this influences the designs? 

Absolutely. Europe has always been a little behind LA in its acceptability of athleisure. Women across the pond desire a polished look that can still comfortably take them through their daily routines. LA has always had the cool factor, so these two combined creates the perfect style.

5. If you could go back and do something different, what would it be?

I don’t believe in doing things get as much out of mistakes as you do from successes.

6. Best advice you have ever received?

Comparison is the death of happiness. Focus on yourself and your own goals.

7. Why do you think athleisure has taken over the fashion world? 

In my opinion, athleisure got its start in the 70's, when synthetic fabrics such as nylon and lycra were developed. There was a fitness boom in the effort of not only feeling good, but looking good. Since, an increase in boutique fitness studios and big-brand gyms created a need for elevated sportswear. Also, the way we now work–having flexible hours and travelling into offices–promotes the desire for comfort while doing so.

8. What are your future plans?

We are hoping to reach a much broader customer base. Our approach to sustainability is one that is constantly updated and improved, one that is the sum of many parts. It’s about our processes and factories in addition to the fabric sourcing. Our minimal waste policy mitigates  the negative impacts of our industry on the environment, while ensuring we don’t compromise design or function. We pledge to educate our team through facilitating a more sustainable workplace, which includes rideshare incentives, corporate recycling guidelines, sample donation programs, and volunteer work.  

9. What is your favorite type of workout? 

I started competitive track running when I was 9 years old, and I have always loved it. These days I enjoy slightly lower intensity training such as pilates, swimming, and tennis.

10. What is your go-to healthy meal? 

We love a roast chicken in our house. It’s an easy regular meal that pleases the whole family. My kids like all the English roast lunch trimmings. I enjoy mine with roasted vegetables or a green salad.

11. Which philanthropic movement is closest to your heart?

We are steadfast in our donation of clothing and samples to Movemeant, a foundation empowering girls and women to build confidence and self-worth through exercise. Now more than ever, mental health and staying active must remain a priority. Looking after one another is a part of our brand DNA that we will forever stand by..

12. What are your favorite things to do in Santa Barbara?

I visited Santa Barbara for the first time on my honeymoon. We stayed at the Four Seasons, which was a real treat. We walked miles exploring the coast line, rode bikes, spent hours in the batting cages, and ordered lots of room service, as well as some legendary clam chowder from Brophy Brothers!


Recent Posts
bottom of page