It’s a widely accepted fact that yoga can increase your flexibility and provide relief from stress, but for London native Donna Rossiter, her practice was also the catalyst for a complete personal and professional 180. After years of moving through poses before heading off to her 9–5 as an account director at an ad agency, Donna started to notice a growing gap between what she was doing day to day and what she was passionate about. “I was working on a big global drinks brand, and I used to joke to my friends, ‘I get up and practice yoga every morning, and then I go and sell alcohol to kids all day.’ There was an inconsistency in my life,” she says.
Then one day, all of that changed. “I quit my job and just kind of left London,” Donna explains. “I went to India for nearly a year and practiced yoga in Mysore, which is the home of ashtanga yoga. That life I was living before kind of dropped away, because I couldn’t feel any meaning in it anymore.”
The stars aligned after Mysore, when what was supposed to be a quick trip to Bali to visit a friend led Donna to meet her now-husband. Her time in Bali also held the key to unlocking another dream: creating Satya Yogawear, a yoga clothing line aptly named after the Sanskrit word meaning “truth.” Made exclusively from cotton fabrics, Donna’s pieces are all about comfort and simplicity—two crucial elements for any yoga practitioner on a journey to discover what truth means to them.
I started working on it in 2009. I’m not a fashion designer—I don’t have that kind of training—so that’s how being in Bali was meant to be. The first year I was there, I connected with a tailor named Komang and we started working together to create my designs. I’d draw, pick fabrics, and throw out ideas, and he’d create them.
Initially, I was just making what I wanted to wear for myself, but then people started to be like, “That’s nice! Where’d you get that?” And I’d be like, “Oh, I made it. Do you want one?” Then one day I got a wholesale order from a yoga center in Thailand and I was like, “Huh…that’s interesting.” I set up my Etsy shop soon after.
How has your background in marketing shaped your business?
Working in marketing for such a long time—about 12 years—was a real benefit to me when I created the company. I had this inspiration to create yoga clothing, and I had some experience on the business side. Being creative and running a business are actually two quite different paths, and two quite different skills. I feel like that’s why Satya Yogawear has been successful, because I’ve had those two aspects of experience and inspiration in my life.
I still work with Komang. I trot in with my drawings and ideas, and we talk through them. My production manager, Pande, is always involved too. She speaks really good English, so she helps with the communication. After our initial meeting, Komang creates samples, and I’ll come back a few days later for a fitting session where we make tweaks and changes.
From there, I put together a full order with the production facility. I don’t like using the word “factory” because I think it brings up connotations—especially in Asia—of a sweatshop. It’s not. It’s a small, family-run facility in the middle of the rice fields and the jungle. It’s really nice, and they pay their workers really well, which is an important consideration for me.
It’s awesome that you’re able to collaborate so closely with everyone.
I feel really fortunate. We all have dreams, and we all have ideas of things we want to create, but to actually be given the opportunity to create them is really special. I feel like Satya Yogawear was more of a path that unfolded, rather than me being like, “I want to do this and I’m going to do it this way.” I’ve never approached life like that. I approach life as more of a surrendering to what’s possible and what’s available, rather than trying to make things happen.
That reminds me of something I read on your website about living in the flow.
Yes! Life is like a river, and you have to allow it to carry you along. I’ve experienced times where I really have felt like I’m clinging onto the side desperately; after I had my daughter was a good example of that. Wanting life to slow down, and not quite knowing how to let go. Or wanting to swim upstream, and being like, “No, I want to go over there!”
But life doesn’t work like that. The way I see life is that it’s flowing, so you have to jump in and let it take you where you’re going, enjoy the ride, and steer it in the best direction you can. That’s a kind of yogic philosophy—living in your heart and living in your truth as opposed to living in your head and being a slave to all your crazy thoughts.
Speaking of yogic philosophy: Tell me more about ashtanga yoga.
What’s interesting about this style of yoga—or what kind of sets it apart—is that usually you do your own practice as a set sequence, and you practice every day, or six days a week. When you practice yoga every day, it starts to chip away at what’s not real in your life. You start to get into a much clearer alignment with what you believe and what you want. That’s why it’s so inspiring.
For people who might be thinking of trying out yoga for the first time in 2018, what items from your line would you recommend?
First I want to say that going to yoga isn’t about what you wear—but you do want to be super comfortable. That’s what my brand is about. It’s not what you look like, it’s how you feel, which is why everything I make is cotton. If you’re thinking about starting a yoga practice, you might need a nice pair of comfortable pants. We have several different styles: capris, full-length, stirrups, and a newer style that don’t have any lycra in the cotton—they’re meant to be loose and baggy. I also recommend wearing a comfortable, supportive yoga bra. I have two main styles of bras: One is a very simple cotton bra with a band underneath, and the other has two layers and four straps. It’s designed for additional support.
The very first collection I made was just six pieces: Two bras, two tanks, a pair of shorts, and a pair of capri pants. In the beginning, I sat there and thought, “What am I going to call them?” Sometimes yoga brands have these fancy names, but I didn’t like that. There’s a utilitarian aspect to me, and to Satya Yogawear. Because I practice ashtanga, there’s a counting you do while you practice, so I decided to use the numbers for that first collection. There’s the Ekam yoga bra, (Ekam means “one” in Sanskrit) or the Dve tank (Dve is “two”) and so on.
The second collection I did was more about layering, so I called that Sukha, which in Sanskrit means “soft, comfortable, and easy.” The third collection is called Saraswati, after a Hindu goddess who symbolizes knowledge. And my most recent collection is called Mudra. Mudra in Sanskrit means “to seal,” so the idea is to seal in the warmth and coziness of your yoga practice and take it out with you into your life.
Aside from your focus on comfort, is there anything else that sets your design approach apart?
I feel like I kind of evolve my designs, as opposed to recreating them. So the first six designs are still the basis of most of the patterns we create. For example, we’re creating a bodysuit for the spring collection that’s based on one of our tanks.
That’s so interesting. It’s almost like incorporating this idea of the flow into the pieces. They’re evolving, too.
Yeah, absolutely. We’re all in constant evolution. I certainly am—I’m not the person that I was when I first created Satya Yogawear. The brand is evolving with me, the designs are evolving with me, and I’m evolving with me. It’s about growing and moving through what feels right.
My New Year’s resolution is always the same: to be authentic, honest, and real. One of my hashtags on Instagram is #liveintruth. I think that’s my resolution every day. We can get so caught up in our thoughts and in what we think we should be doing. I try to take a moment to check back in with my heart and ask, “What’s real for me today? What feels right?” That’s yoga, and that’s available to everybody—that deeper level of reality and surrender.