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THE PERFECT FIT Reading company creates outfits for Olympic gymnastics team

Simone Biles, a member of the 2016 U.S. women’s gymnastics Olympic team, competed in a red GK Elite Sportswear leotard adorned with 5,000 Swarovski crystals during her balance beam routine at the U.S. Olympic trials.

When the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team walks out onto the floor of the arena in Rio de Janeiro in their sleek and shiny leotards this week, the work of a Reading manufacturer will be walking out with them.

When the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team walks out onto the floor of the arena in Rio de Janeiro in their sleek and shiny leotards this week, the work of a Reading manufacturer will be walking out with them.

The $1,200 Swarovski crystal-studded leotards made by GK Elite sportswear may be the most envied and coveted uniforms among women gymnasts.

A division of Elite Sportswear LP, a privately held company headquartered in Reading, GK Elite is the world’s leading women’s and men’s gymnastics and cheerleading apparel designer and manufacturer. Its sportswear is distributed in nearly 40 countries and has been worn by international Olympians and world champions for more than 35 years.

The company has been creating the U.S. Olympic men’s and women’s gymnastics team’s competition gear since 2000, as well as for other countries, including this year’s gymnastics teams from the Netherlands and Russia.

The factory employs more than 400 people, which includes seamstresses, pattern makers, cutters, embellishers, fabric testers, fit specialists, graphic designers along with management and numerous other positions.

In June, the company bought Dolfin, a major swimwear manufacturer in Mohnton, Berks County, which makes the swimsuits worn by Melanie Margolis, who will compete in the 800 meter free relay and 200 meter individual medley at the Rio Olympics.

Kelly McKeown, executive vice president of design and corporate affairs at Elite Sportswear, called the Dolfin acquisition “a great growth opportunity.”

Elite Sportswear’s high visibility and international reputation has become a mainstay in economic development boosters’ pitches to woo other manufacturers to the region.

“We love this company,” said Pamela Shupp, president and CEO of the Greater Reading Economic Partnership. “When we are dealing with companies that have an international reputation producing high quality products that are so visible, that is such a great story for us to tell other manufacturers looking at the area.”

GK Elite has created the signature lines of more than 10 Olympic athletes, including retired Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin, now a commentator for NBC, and collections for several members of the current women’s Olympic gymnastics team: Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman.

Wendy Solomon

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