“Become Your Best”

1996 graduate innovates, inspires with athletic apparel company

By Brigid Hamilton, '06  |  Photos courtesy of Mary Thackston Evert, '96

A high school classroom. A Manhattan bistro. Dozens of fashion shoot sets. A yoga mat. Design school.

These are just a handful of the many stops along the way that eventually led Mary Thackston Evert, ’96, to launch her own athletic apparel line last year in South Florida.

“Teaching, presentations, fashion, fit modeling, and sales have all come full circle to what I do now,” said Evert, who oversees creative and design—along with sales, marketing, accounting, and even modeling—for Manmaker Sports.

Manmaker Sports prides itself on integrating function and style into every detail of its athletics bottoms, from stitching to waistbands, and on its vibrant prints.

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Seeing a satisfied customer wearing a pair of Manmaker bottoms is only the beginning.

“‘Become Your Best’ is our tagline. It encompasses how I feel about life and what I want for our customers. When you feel great, you look great, and you do great things!”

Athletic apparel is a competitive market, particularly for independently-owned brands. “Trends change so quickly,” Evert said. “I’m seeing more tights with high waists. This is a trend I’m jumping on for my upcoming collection. My reasons, however, are less trend-driven and more of an answer to customer feedback.”

This connection to her customer—understanding their needs, and seeking and valuing their feedback—along with Evert’s desire to grow Manmaker Sports into the trusted source for beautiful, quality, American-made athletic wear, drive her dedication to her brand, as well as many of her business decisions.

A launching pad

monarch-run-beachEvert, who grew up in New Jersey, describes Loyola as “a family affair.” Her three older sisters graduated from Loyola, and she was initially determined not to follow in her siblings’ footsteps. But in the end, she said she couldn’t help but choose Loyola for the Jesuit education and the opportunity to compete on a Division I swim team.

“I’ve always felt like my college education was not only a launching pad, but a safety net as well. It’s enabled me to feel confident exploring new paths, because whether I fail or succeed on any given path, a different option is right there around the corner.”

Evert took every opportunity to explore new paths after she graduated from Loyola in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in secondary education.

After two years teaching high school English, Evert moved to Manhattan to work in the fashion industry—first as a styling assistant and later as a model—and to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. After a number of intermittent styling jobs and countless auditions, she could barely afford to pay her rent. “What’s a girl to do? Find the busiest restaurant on the block and wait tables, of course!” she said.

Not long after, Evert returned to the fashion industry as a regular showroom model for Bongo Jeans, and it was in her work with Bongo that she learned about fashion sales. “As the jeans model, I was able to interact with every buyer that walked through the door. I absorbed all I could from each sales person and carefully watched the different sales presentations.”

Evert used what she learned as the showroom model to craft her career as a sales executive for Bongo Jeans.

After ten years in New York City, she moved to Boca Raton, Fla., and married her husband. Shortly after, she began to explore a growing passion, yoga, and went on to complete her training and receive certification as a yoga instructor. 

“Loving yoga, but not satisfied with the fashion I was seeing in the yoga studio, I decided to study fashion design at the Boca Raton Museum of Art,” where she said she was able to marry her two loves—athletics and fashion—to create a line of athletic bottoms.

But as Evert explains, Manmaker Sports is more than a yoga line. All apparel is made from an antimicrobial fabric that wicks moisture and has built-in compression for muscle support, and is suitable for men and women and for multiple sports—including yoga, running, and cross-training.

“I needed a name that didn’t sound solely yoga-inspired, because my vision was so much more than that,” Evert explained. A “Manmaker” is a training move commonly referred to in CrossFit circles. Evert’s sister, a CrossFit devotee, suggested the name. It stuck.

Bloom ocean redo - Copy

As she celebrates a year under her belt in the athletic apparel industry, Evert embraces the challenges that come with entrepreneurship, and she believes the rewards far outweigh the many hours spent making sales, learning more about Web-driven retail, and honing marketing and accounting skills for her business.

“It is so rewarding for me when someone notices and appreciates the quality of the product. It’s thrilling to create something and see someone enjoying it. For me, concept and design are the most gratifying.”

As busy as her business keeps her, Evert manages her time by priority: her six-year-old daughter, her husband, and her family come first, followed by her work.

“My family has always supported me emotionally and spiritually. It’s amazing the things we can do when someone says, ‘I believe in you.’”

In her second year of business, Evert is excited to expand her product line, starting this fall—including a top in this year’s holiday collection—and to building her brand in her local community and beyond.

“Receiving a Jesuit education was an incredible gift because of the high level of education, and also because of the character values that it instilled,” Evert said.

“Out in the business world, especially in sales, honesty and integrity define who you are. These values are what give me the confidence to proceed with resoluteness toward my goals. I’m not afraid to fail, as long as I know that I’ve acted with honesty and integrity.”

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