ABT's April Giangeruso On Her New Leotard Brand, Chameleon Activewear, And Collaborating With Her Co-Workers
If you keep a close eye on Instagram, you’ll have noticed a long list of American Ballet Theatre dancers posting shots wearing unusual leotards accompanied by the hashtag “#momtard.” And if your sleuthing skills are particularly superior, you’ll have traced them back to corps de ballet dancer April Giangeruso, who has been sporting brightly flowered and confectionary-printed leos in the studio years before making them available to her colleagues and the rest of the ballet world.
Giangeruso officially launched Chameleon Activewear, her new set of boldly designed leotards, earlier this month, and the reactions have already been overwhelmingly positive. “It’s so exciting to see other dancers happy in them, and to receive messages from students and professionals about how they love the prints and the way the leotards fit,” she says. Ahead, we caught up with Giangeruso for all of the details on creating her company (and the cutest #momtard story you’ll ever hear).
A Momtard Is Born
Ever since her student days, Giangeruso has wanted to wear fun leotards in the studio. But like most ballet dancers, she found the options to be limited. “I turned to my mom, who is an award-winning seamstress, and we developed patterns and perfected fits based on complaints I’ve had over the years,” she says. While at home in Ellicott City, Maryland, during breaks, Giangeruso and her mom Kathy turned creating the perfect leotard into their shared side project. “After about six months, we finally developed a leotard, and I started wearing her designs at ABT,” says Giangeruso. It wasn’t long until Giangeruso’s co-workers (and even her boss, Kevin McKenzie) took note, affectionately dubbing the patterned, boldly colored designs “momtards.”
Creating Chameleon Activewear
The full group of ABT dancers model their Chameleon Activewear leotards
“I noticed that I probably owned 500 leotards, and I was only wearing my mom’s because they felt the best,” Giangeruso says. “Then all of my ABT friends started asking, ‘Can you make these for us?'” Giangeruso started by gifting a few leotards to her colleagues for their birthdays, and eventually, her mom created a stockpile of 30 leotards for Giangeruso to sell during the company’s lunch break. “They were literally gone within five minutes,” she recalls. “I’d been thinking about creating a leotard company for a few years, and everything started coming together so organically.”
Once the ABT dancers starting posting photos in their momtards, word spread quickly, and Giangeruso began receiving inquiries on Instagram from dancers as far away as Australia and Korea. “There was just a huge vacancy for these lively, fresh, bold, and fearless styles, which eventually became my tagline,” she says.
A name change was also up for debate as the “momtard” moniker was sometimes met with confusion. “I was lying in bed one night and thought of the name Chameleon. Not only does it have the word ‘leo’ in it, but it’s an endearing term for dancers who are versatile,” says Giangeruso. Today, Chameleon Activewear is a family business: With Giangeruso focused on finding new fabrics and her mom overseeing production, she turned to her fiancé for logistics. “Blake’s a businessman, and he helped bring this project to life, mentoring me through it,” she says.
On How Chameleon(Almost) Predicted Gillian Murphy’s Pregnancy
While Giangeruso was in the process of coming up with a new name for the company, Gillian Murphy posted a photo on Instagram in a favorite momtard. “It was just before she was pregnant, with a caption like, ‘Loving my new momtard,'” says Giangeruso. “People were writing ‘Oh, congratulations, you’re going to be a mom!'” she recalls, laughing. Murphy ended up editing her caption, and Giangeruso changed the name. Now the momtard story is relegated to the site’s About Us page. “They will forever be momtards in our hearts,” she adds.
Collaborating With Her Co-workers
Isabella Boylston in Bella’s Holy Meow
Each of Chameleon’s models is named for and modeled by an ABT dancer. “I’ve always said that one of the greatest parts about being in ABT is that you get to work with your friends all day,” says Giangeruso. “I’ve been around these girls for years now, so I feel that I have picked up on their individual styles. When I was looking for fabrics, I had all of the dancers in mind,” she explains. “I didn’t want to have just beautiful styles or just funky styles, but for there to be something for everyone.”
Building The Brand
“We’ve started with leotards, and some are capable of crossing over into swimsuits and bodysuits that you can wear with jeans or shorts,” Giangeruso explains of the current lineup. But down the road, fans can expect an array of activewear options—no doubt still following Giangeruso’s original emphasis on creating pieces with personality. “I had to start somewhere, but I named it Chameleon Activewear because eventually, I’d love to create an entire activewear brand with sports bras and yoga pants,” she says, adding, “The plan is to expand our sizing chart, too.”