Former volleyball players serve up loungewear brand

Calibabas, co-founded by Penn State senior Alex Fortna, designs and sells harem-style pants with comfort and flexibility in mind.
Calibabas, co-founded by Penn State senior Alex Fortna, designs and sells harem-style pants with comfort and flexibility in mind. Photo provided

Two former volleyball players have teamed up to design a pair of pants have a story that stretches across the country, a few oceans and a trip to India.

The pants, meanwhile, stretch with the wearer. Dubbed Calibabas, they combine loungewear with athletic wear, baggier around the waist for comfort, tapered near the ankle for style and functionality.

Their creators, Penn State senior Alex Fortna and business partner Katie Messing, met in 2011 while the pair were members of the men’s and women’s volleyball teams at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. As athletes, they valued flexibility in their wardrobes. But their on-the-go lifestyle — classes, practice, meetings — demanded more than just the team-issued sweatpants they usually wore.

“Everyone we lived with was an athlete,” Fortna said. “So whether it was stretching or just walking around, we wanted versatility.”

On a trip to India, Messing bought harem parents off the street. They were cool and comfortable. They worked for her as a traveler and an athlete. The material dried quickly. It was breathable. She was hooked.

When Messing brought them back to California, the idea for Calibabas was born.

“When you travel internationally, you don’t always have a laundromat down the street,” Fortna said. “Sometimes you’ve got to wear the same pair of pants twice, so the material was important to us.”

Fortna began his college career at Penn State, but transferred to Pepperdine to play for the men’s volleyball team there. After two seasons in California, he returned to Happy Valley in 2013.

Besides working on the business from State College, Fortna works as a manager for the Penn State women’s volleyball team. Messing, meanwhile, moved to Newport Beach, Calif., where the pants were designed.

The unisex pants, which come in black and cost $54 for a pair, are one of the latest entrants into the growing “athleisure” market, which according to research firm NPD Group increased its sales by 16 percent in 2015. Morgan Stanley projects global activewear sales to top $350 billion by 2020.

Combining functionality and fashion, the trend is popular among millennials and big-name brands that cater to them. Everyone from Louis Vuitton to H&M now has an athleisure line.

Traditional athletic wear brands such as Nike and Adidas have unveiled fashion-forward designs, posting double-digit rate increases in sales for athletic gear since 2010, Fortune reported.

Calibabas’ product, which the company calls the “Earth’s Comfiest Pant,” flexes with the trend — and in its material.

Fortna and Messing are proof. He’s 5 feet 10 inches tall. She’s 6 feet 4 inches tall. They can wear the same size, Fortna, 23, said: “A big part of that is the material and the waistband.”

The brand launched a Kickstarter campaign in April and has more than doubled its initial $3,200 goal. Fortna said the company has sold pairs to places as far off as Denmark and Japan. A volleyball team in Spain contacted them to express interest.

With the Kickstarter ending on Thursday, the pants will be available for wider sale, Fortna said, on

But the company is still young. International shipping, for instance, they’re still figuring out.

“Some problems you don’t see until they happen,” Fortna said, laughing. “But if we’re big in Denmark, we’ll be happy to do it.”

Hobby shop to close

HobbyTown USA, 325 Benner Pike in College Township, will close its doors at 5 p.m. on May 27, owner Brian Warnaka said.

Warnaka is retiring. He opened the hobby shop about five years ago.

“My wife and I have some travel plans and we’ll see what comes,” he said. “It’s been an enjoyable experience, but it’s time to move on.”

The store sold a number of toy enthusiast items, such as model planes, trains and race cars.

Comcast launches xFi app

Comcast launched an app for Xfinity customers Monday to make managing one’s Wi-Fi network easier.

Dubbed xFi, the free Android and iOS app, allows users with an Xfinity gateway device to set up their network, besides other functions such as monitoring activity, troubleshooting and overseeing security and parental controls.

The company is also launching a number of other products, including a device capable of delivering one-gigabyte speeds called the xFi Advanced Wireless Gateway. It is available to customers on the fastest speed tiers, according to a Comcast release.

The nation’s largest internet provider is set to roll out xFi pods later this year. Designed with Wi-Fi software developer Plume, the pods help extend network coverage throughout a home.

Comcast has about 10 million customers of its Xfinity internet service. The company expects to have about 15 million xFi-ready homes by the end of 2017.

Giant announces donation total for 2016

Giant Food Stores and Martin’s Food Markets recently announced more than $25 million in cash and product donations for 2016.

The donations supported hunger relief efforts, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and nonprofits including the United Way and YMCA.

“As part of being a responsible retailer, we’re committed to doing everything we can to give back and help our neighbors in need,” Tom Lenkevich, Giant/Martin’s president, said in a statement.

About half of the 2016 total went toward regional food banks and pantries. More than $3 million was raised for CMN Hospitals and more than $7 million supported nonprofits and other community organizations.

The Carlisle grocer, which operates more than 200 stores across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, and its customers, associates and vendors have donated about $130 million to charitable causes during the past five years, Lenkevich said in a statement.