This Toronto boxer couldn’t find gear made for women. So she created her own

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In 2019, Yin Qi Xie was off to New York City to live her dream. When the then-18-year-old Toronto native arrived at the Parsons School of Design, however, things didn’t go as she’d expected.

She had two experiences — one with a stalker, another in which she was blackmailed — that took a toll on her health. Xie, who previously practised ballet for 14 years, stopped exercising and taking care of herself — she was at the lowest point in her life.

“I was adjusting to home sickness … and I just felt super-lonely,” Xie says. Then, she discovered an ad for a boxing class, and impulsively signed up.

“I went into it thinking I want to stop feeling like trash and get my life together and get (my) grades up and start pushing myself,” she says. “I didn’t want to be miserable anymore.”

The boxing studio, which was geared toward women, helped turn things around for Xie. She began eating healthy, sleeping better, attending daily classes — and soon felt a shift in her happiness.

“I found it extremely empowering because I was surrounded by women who inspired me and that I looked up to that were all chasing different things in their lives,” she says.

While Xie worked to rebuild her life and self-esteem through boxing, she faced a new challenge: “we couldn’t find equipment that fit us because martial arts and boxing is a male-dominated industry.”

According to Xie, a typical pair of boxing gloves is too long for women’s arms. Since women generally have smaller wrists than men, their fists are not in contact with the gloves at all times, and are thus unable to absorb impact properly, which can cause injury.

“(Many) women have to use kid-sized gloves because they can’t find gloves that fit them,” Xie says. “A lot of the gloves on the market are designed by men for what they feel like women would like — so it would just be hot pink and black.”

"A lot of the gloves on the market are designed by men for what they feel like women would like — so it would just be hot pink and black,”  Xie says.

Xie decided to put her product-design skills to use. She began surveying women about what they were actually looking for in boxing equipment and apparel and set off to create products to serve them. She took a gap year, moved back to Toronto, and launched her company, KoStudio. Xie also began documenting the behind-the-scenes on TikTok, where she quickly amassed thousands of followers globally who cheered her on.

With nearly 100,000 TikTok followers, some of Xie’s videos have gone viral — and that means trolls. The hate comments, she says, are always from men who say her company is sexist, that there is no need for a women’s boxing brand. Even more dispiriting? Xie receives messages daily from girls and women who share that they want to begin boxing but are scared to go to a male-dominated gym alone.

Those kinds of comments make me sad,” Xie says. “Women shouldn’t be held back … in life because they feel like there’s no community there for them and they don’t see themselves represented.”

Yin Qi Xie plans to return to New York City in the fall, to continue studying product design, and working toward developing more women’s boxing equipment.

Xie is intentional about creating that community, spending much of her time connecting with women boxers — or those who aspire to practise the sport, and answering their questions. KoStudio created a series of guides for women, including a beginner’s guide to boxing, and frequently shares tips, encouragement, and stories of women fighters who’ve overcome hardships, all in an effort to help more people “fight like a girl.”

Xie hasn’t attended an in-person boxing class since the start of the pandemic, but trains at home and occasionally attends online sessions at the gym where she first learned to box. Despite starting KoStudio, Xie shares that she was self-conscious about posting videos of herself boxing, but developed the courage to do so after her community rallied around her, sharing their own videos to make her feel more comfortable.

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KoStudio, which she describes as stylish and minimalistic, launched its first collection this month, with a range of pastel boxing gloves, sports bras and hand wraps, along with dual-layered shorts (to prevent flashing mid-workout). The company’s models are all women from their online community, who are diverse in athletic ability, background and size.

Despite starting KoStudio, Xie shares that she was self-conscious about posting videos of herself boxing, but developed the courage to do so after her community rallied around her, sharing their own videos to make her feel more comfortable.

Xie, who works on the company full-time, says the launch exceeded her expectations: “I didn’t process that I had (a tangible business) until I was packing orders for three days straight because most of the work I’ve been doing has been online.”

She plans to return to New York City in the fall, to continue studying product design, and working toward developing more women’s boxing equipment.

While the majority of KoStudio’s consumers are in the U.S. and international, Xie wants to make a difference closer to home, too. She has partnered with United Boxing, one of Toronto’s inclusive boxing studios, to provide equipment for their outdoor boot camps during the lockdowns. Xie is proud to help provide the women of her hometown with the confidence to feel comfortable in the sport that has given her so much.

“Boxing taught me how to take hits, and it gave me the confidence to fight for what I wanted,” Xie says. “(Women) should be comfortable and confident in pursuing anything they want in life, and they should be able to have the support to do so.”

KoStudio, which Xie describes as stylish and minimalistic, launched its first collection this month, with a range of pastel boxing gloves, sports bras and hand wraps, along with dual-layered shorts.

Get in the ring

Want to spar a little? KoStudio founder Yin Qi Xie shares her top three picks for the most inclusive boxing gyms in the GTA.

Big Hit Kickboxing Studios

The entire team at Big Hit Studios consists of women coaches and the studio makes a concerted effort to welcome newbies. The gym has TV screens that demonstrate every exercise during class so you can double-check your form. Big Hit keeps the lights low during classes and plays hip-hop, rock and house.

DROP Boxing & Athletic Wellness

DROP Boxing is a woman-owned business that focuses on creating a space that feels inclusive by catering to beginners through a helpful FAQ on the site and modifications for all skill levels during in-person classes. The gym currently offers virtual classes, too.

United Boxing Club

United Boxing offers a range of classes including technical boxing and competition, as well as boxing challenges, and has online options during lockdown. Classes consist of a warm-up, dynamic body-weight exercises, combinations on the bag or pads, and core work, and they’re suitable for all fitness levels.





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