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Warrior Within Designs

The Onesie Revolution Begins in Dogpatch

I’m in an airy warehouse space on a sunny spring morning in Dogpatch, surrounded by a dizzying array of fabrics — iridescent, animal print, denim, jacquard, you name it. This is the laboratory of Warrior Within Designs, a grassroots clothing company based in San Francisco that’s poised to take on the fashion world with a single garment: the onesie.

If you aren’t hip to the allures and enchantments of the onesie — a one-piece jumpsuit that emphasizes comfort while upping the ante on sex appeal and versatility — founders Jennifer Fritz and Maria Tabia are happy to give curious fashionistas a test drive with a custom fitting, which is precisely what I’m there for.

“You’re going to look great,” Tabia assures me as I mull over the fabrics and styles, trying to decide between the Mystique Reversible (an open-backed number complete with hoodie, for a touch of urban glamour), the Rider (a cropped-leg onesie that I can easily imagine pairing with my favorite boots), and the Original Onesie (an elegant, streamlined garment that promises a dancer-like grace to whoever dons it).

While the prospect of modeling a variety of outfits is as seductive as it is intimidating, Tabia’s guidance does the trick. She pulls a few different choices from the rack, and thus begins my journey.

It’s little wonder that Fritz and Tabia have coined the term “Onesie Revolution,” as their custom fittings frequently culminate in enthused clients walking away with an armload of wares and the sense that, with this single item of clothing, they can be as fabulous as they want to be.

The onesie is glamorous without being overly revealing, innovative without being too impractical, and comfortable without sacrificing style. After a morning of modeling and chatting with the founders, I’m pleased to add my name to Warrior Within’s growing roster of onesie zealots.

Like many stories about enterprises that started from the ground up, Warrior Within’s is inspirational. It was New Year’s Eve 2009, and Fritz decided to go out on the town wearing one of her own designs, which happened to be a onesie. Fritz, who had been working in real estate for some time, was astonished at the response.

“About a hundred different girls came to me that night and asked where I’d gotten the outfit,” she says. “I’d been wearing my own designs for years, and I’d been in a love affair with the onesie for a long time, but I never imagined other people would be so taken by it or that this was something I could make a career out of.”

That was the catalyst that gave Fritz the drive to pursue her dream, but she needed a partner. She enlisted in the help of Maria Tabia, a former public relations professional who says that together their “sense of uninhibited style helped us connect all these different passions ... and the timing was perfect, given that we were both transitioning from our [former] careers.”

By April 2009, Warrior Within Designs was under way. The duo’s introduction to the world of fashion was a catwalk event at City College, showcasing the work of 15 up-and-coming designers. While Fritz and Tabia were initially nervous, an arsenal of PR, sales and marketing skills — not to mention a new cadre of fashion enthusiasts eager to get their own custom onesies — gave them the necessary momentum.

Fast-forward a year: Warrior Within now has two trunk shows, two festivals, a benefit event in San Diego to raise awareness around breast cancer, a new retail website, and ever-increasing private appointments for custom fittings under its belt.

While the challenges of starting a business and building a cohesive mission are seldom easy, Fritz and Tabia have already accumulated two more full-time staff members — head seamstress Jenny Kolb and in-house production assistant Jeremiah Collins — as well as a team of specialists, ranging from marketing to graphic design.

Unlike most mass-produced clothing lines, Warrior Within makes an effort to keep designs fresh. “Onesies are unique; we always say that no two are exactly alike,” explains Fritz.

“Once we get a new fabric, there’s no guarantee that we’ll get it again,” she says. “Of course, we’ll always have our classic fabrics, but we make an effort to cycle through and make our clients understand that their options are both fleeting and infinite.”

While the first onesies were more flashy and nightlife-oriented, Fritz and Tabia have branched out to include other lifestyles including urban, casual, and daytime. The current collection features 18 distinct styles. Professional and maternity onesies, as well as the first “mansie” (a male jumpsuit, “we’ve been receiving lots of inquiries from men,” explains Tabia), are in the works.

Warrior Within’s client demographic runs the gamut — from professionals of all ages to dancers and other types of performers — a testament to the versatility and range of their designs.

“When women put on a onesie, it enhances their confidence in themselves and their bodies,” Fritz says. “It’s fantastic for all body sizes and types. It’s just a matter of finding the right cut and fabric.”.

Custom fittings are often emotional and necessitate a great deal of shared trust and conversations on what to enhance or hide.

“It’s a very personal process,” says Tabia, who notes that a custom onesie ranges from $125-200.

While Warrior Within has officially planted its flag in the onesie domain, it also boasts a dapper lineup of tops, pants, skirts, and dresses.

“We hope to do more mass production of these other items, with a strong emphasis on spreading the onesie love and keeping our custom fittings at the center of what we do,” Fritz says.

When it comes to dispensing words of wisdom to fledgling entrepreneurs and anyone else with the verve to act on a big idea, Fritz offers some unfaltering advice: “Talk about your passion with everyone, then act on it — that’s when the magic happens.”