Ancient Language Yoga Wear Made in the Berkshires
Ancient Language is the apt yet counterintuitive name of Annette Kramek’s fashion-forward company, which pioneered manufacturing clothes specifically for practicing yoga. “When I first showed some sketches to Kripalu in 1997, yoga wear was not even a category,” says Kramek, who began her career by designing high-performance activewear for Reebok and Warnaco. “Kripalu was my client even before I moved to the Berkshires eleven years ago.” Until last fall, Ancient Language was strictly a wholesale business with a design studio in the rear of the ground floor of Crawford Square at 137 North Street in Pittsfield. “People kept poking their heads in and buying things so, with my husband’s encouragement, I decided to try retail, too.”
Conveniently, the store is adjacent to the Yoga Depot studio, which provides a steady stream of customers for her silkscreened or appliqued T-shirts and tanks ($28 - $70), embellished and solid pants ($30 - $54) as well as jewelry by Mary Slack and April Jeks. “I’ve been trying all the yoga classes next door so I can discuss the different teachers with my customers,” says Kramek, who knows from personal experience the healing power of yoga and meditation. “When I was 30, I had a brain tumor,” she says. “After my surgery, the left half of my face was not moving. I had to tape my eye closed. My tongue was paralyzed. My mother took me to a Transcendental Meditation center and after two 20-minute sessions I began to have movement again. It was not spontaneous healing, but it allowed my body to relax and begin to heal.” She moved to Spokane, Washington, to recover and hang out with her high school friend Shelly Williams (who later moved to the Berkshires and now runs the immensely popular Haven Cafe in Lenox.) “We took yoga together to reconnect as friends,” she recalls. “And then I decided to use my activewear experience to start a yoga clothing company.”
It was the right idea at the right time. “I sold a tonnage for three years to the Living Arts catalog (now Gaiam), which was one of the first wellness catalogs, and when they decided to make their own line I had to branch out,” says Kramek, who came east to spend a few weeks at Kripalu. “I decided the Berkshires were for me and I never left.” She soon added clients like Canyon Ranch and Jivamukti, the red-hot New York City yoga center, and she recently added Club Med Sandpiper Bay spa to her accounts. (She also makes the T-shirts for Baba Louie’s, Haven and Shakespeare & Company.)
So how did she end up on North Street in Pittsfield? “I had outgrown my dining room table,” she says matter-of-factly, “and my husband said that I was a people person and would enjoy retail, which I do.” Customers appreciate that they can look in the back room and find Kramek cutting patterns or stitching up a pair of pants on an old industrial sewing machine rescued from a North Adams factory. “It feels very European for the designer to be working in the back of the shop.” And she’s found unexpected delight in being part of the Pittsfield revival and envisions a day when stores up and down North Street stay open late on Friday and Saturday nights so people can shop before or after going to the movies and dinner. “Pittsfield has great potential,” she says, “and I feel I am making a difference by being here.”
137 North Street, Suite A, Pittsfield; 413.445.4207
Wednesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Thursday ‘till 9 p.m.