IMBRACE Snow. Photo Credit: Jordan McGibney
IMBRACE Snow. Photo Credit: Jordan McGibney

Geoffrey Hanson Reveals Imbrace’s Winning Formula in an Exclusive Interview

June 7, 2024

This year, the FIT Sport Design Award for Sport Apparel Design of the Year was deservedly won by Imbrace, a brand that is transforming athletic wear. Leading this revolution is Geoffrey Hanson, the designer whose unique blend of experience and creativity has brought Imbrace to the forefront of the industry. Geoffrey, a lifelong sports enthusiast with a passion for skiing, tennis, martial arts, running, cycling, and the gym, found his inspiration out of personal necessity. The brand name, an old spelling of ’embrace,’ perfectly captures the essence of their products—offering support and comfort.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Geoffrey to learn more about his journey, the challenges and triumphs of creating the award-winning IMBRACE Snow leggings, and what’s next for the brand. From collaborating with 4x Olympian downhill skier Chemmy Alcott to making thoughtful choices about materials and sustainable design, , Geoffrey’s story shows how personal experience can bring professional innovation.

Join us as we dive into the mind of a designer setting new standards in sports apparel. Geoffrey shares his insights on the key moments that shaped his career, the creative process behind Imbrace’s standout products, and valuable advice for aspiring designers aiming to make their mark in the industry.

IMBRACE Snow. Photo Credit: Jordan McGibney

Geoffrey Hanson of Imbrace // IMBRACE Snow. Photo Credit: Jordan McGibney

We’re eager to learn more about your illustrious background. Could you share with us the journey that brought you to the forefront of sports design? What pivotal moments or experiences led you to establish Imbrace?

I’m 64 years old (surprise!) and have bad knees. I did a degree in 3D design in the early 80’s. I like to think there’s been a design element in everything that I have done over the years – though at times the link has been tenuous. Up until 2020, I was a builder/developer for 18 years.

Imbrace came about through a need – my own. I have bad knees. It got to the point that when I went to the gym I would wear a pair of leggings with knee braces on both knees. One day I was doing squats and got annoyed that I was having to continually stop and pull up the knee braces because they were slipping. I thought; ‘Why doesn’t someone put the knee braces in the leggings’ and that was the seed that grew into Imbrace.

You worked closely with 4x Olympian downhill skier Chemmy Alcott to create the IMBRACE Snow, can you tell us how this partnership contributed to the final product’s design? 

Working with an elite athlete was quite an eye-opener – very positive and fast-paced.

Chemmy joined us as a brand ambassador in October 2022 just after we launched the original legging. Chemmy saw that the design could be modified to create a snow sport focused garment that would address the specific needs of snow sport users. She proposed the idea in November 2022. By May 2023 we were finalising the design for production!

Her understanding of the physical demands of skiing helped us to focus on what was needed in a high-performance base layer to enhance the skiing experience.  Chemmy is all about finding well-being solutions that work with the body.  Her experience of having to get back on skis very soon after the birth of her second child led her to discover how an adjustable postpartum belt could help her stabilise her core and give her the confidence to be back working as a TV presenter on the slopes within 12 days of giving birth! The adjustable high waist uses the idea of a postpartum belt to help the wearer switch on their transverse abdominal muscles to create a strong core. It also provides spinal and thoracic support, keeping muscles across the lower back warm. This concept leads to better alignment and posture. Both genders have pockets for heat pads that target the muscles of the lower back, and the women’s design has a pocket at the front to provide heat to help soothe period discomfort.  The 3/4 length style was an absolute ‘must have’ as Chemmy will only have her sock between her boot and shin. We also redesigned the knee brace to remove the bulk behind the knee.

Working on the world’s first snow sport-focused support and compression leggings must have been challenging, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced while developing the IMBRACE Snow?

Julie Greengrass of Greengrass Design took the ideas that Chemmy and I presented to her and made sense of them. Julie and I ‘storyboarded’ different elements and ideas and distilled them down to three ‘workable’ ideas. We mapped out and followed a careful development plan perfecting each element as we went along and then pulling them all together.

It seems like such a small thing but the biggest challenge was removing the bulky material behind the knees while keeping the integrity of the knee braces. We tried around a dozen prototypes before we were happy.

IMBRACE Snow. Photo Credit: Jordan McGibney


What factors influenced your choice of materials and design features, and how did these choices enhance the overall performance and comfort of the leggings?

The key design features were worked out before we considered materials. Aside from the physical design concept we work to a philosophy that we apply to all of our designs. Functionality, Longevity, Value.

  • Functionality – it needs to do the job as well as possible within the constraints of the overall philosophy.
  • Longevity – the garment needs to last, so materials need to be chosen with wear and tear in mind. Most of the materials used are not sustainable but I would argue that the quality of the leggings means they will last.
  • Value – anyone can create an expensive garment that performs well. The trick is producing garments that are affordable and that ‘do the job’ beyond expectations.
    We already knew that the neoprene panels with the high tensile poly mesh outer layer were robust and would bear the brunt of falls successfully. The base material was chosen for comfort, and its ability to withstand punishment – the fact that it is 77% recycled was a bonus. HEIQ Smart Temp. temperature regulation technology is a feature of the leggings along with their anti-bacterial treatment to reduce washing.

How important is sustainability to your company, and what steps have you taken to ensure it is always at the forefront of any project?

Sustainability is important. But we have to be realistic. We need to balance function with the materials that meet the design brief.  We believe quality equals longevity and reduces the need to replace. We are continually looking at sustainable options to replace some of the materials we use in our design – but they must perform at least equally well as the non-sustainable.

We have a garment repair and upgrade agreement with a company so that we can help customers keep their leggings going for as long as possible.

Given the dynamic nature of the sports industry, how do you stay ahead of trends and continually innovate to meet the evolving needs of athletes and consumers?

We’re quite lucky – we have products that fulfil a ‘need’. So we don’t feel pressured by the vagaries of trends and fashion. We are firm believers that customer feedback is key to our innovation and development and highlighting potential new markets.

Congratulations on winning the FIT Sport Design Awards! How does it feel to receive this award, and what impact has it had on you and your team

One word; Fantastic! It was completely unexpected and it has given all of us involved in Imbrace a real shot in the arm.

What does the future hold for you? Are there any upcoming products or innovations that you can tell us about?

We launched a new multisport legging called Dynamic+ in January. It is a variation of the original recovery legging using what we learned developing the snow sport legging. It’s a very exciting product with some features and innovations that are completely unique in the market. They share the same targeted compression panel layout as the snow sport legging. Rather than having a structured waist, it is a more conventional soft shell – the women’s has heat pad pockets like the snow sport legging and the men’s an elasticated waist with drawcord. We’ve found a way to make sure that the waistband does not slip, ever, period.

The current Dynamic+ is a full-length legging – we have a 3/4 length Capri style in the works which will be available in limited numbers in June.

We are currently seeking investment to take Imbrace into new markets – the USA and EU in 2024/25 and beyond in 2025/26 and expand the product range to appeal to a wider audience.

IMBRACE Snow. Photo Credit: Jordan McGibney

Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring designers who want to make it big in the sports design industry?

The great thing about being a designer is that you see things differently.

Always question; why is it made that way, how can it be improved, and is there a solution to this problem?  Imbrace is an example of ‘can it be done differently or better?’

The sports design industry is so exciting. New technologies, materials and processes are driving incredible innovation.

It’s an exciting time to be involved or get involved in this industry.

My design ‘hero’ is James Dyson – look what he did by asking; ‘is there a better way?’