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How This Fitness Studio Taught By Ex-Cons Ended Up in Saks

You can now walk into Saks Fifth Avenue and, right along side racks of designer clothes and shoes, take a “prison-style” bootcamp class taught by formerly incarcerated individuals. Conbody, a New York studio founded by Coss Marte, now has a home in the famed retail store starting this week. Its Saks’ first-ever in house fitness studio and is one highlight of The Saks Wellery, a new 16,600 sq ft. health and fitness-focused concept space open through the fall. There are 18 vendors total, including Technogym workout equipment, Care/of supplements, Sundays nail studio, Breathe salt rooms, and Glow Recipe Korean beauty goods.

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“The assortment of brands at the Wellery is Saks’ ultimate wellness edit,” Roopal Patel, SVP, Fashion Director at Saks tells ELLE.com. “We sought out companies with unique elements that we thought our customers already loved or would love to be introduced to. It was a very collaborative effort – we weighed in on our favorite workout classes and exchanged ideas on the latest fitness, beauty and wellness trends.”

In a hyper competitive space for boutique fitness studios as New York City, it’s no small feat that Conbody nabbed this prime partnership. Marte says it happened by chance after he gave a keynote speech at the Foundermade summit for entrepreneurs, telling his story of going from drug kingpin to starting a fitness movement and inspiring others who were formerly incarcerated. “My story deeply resonated with a lot of people and a lot of peopel were coming up to me and telling me they want to help and get involved,” Marte recalled. One woman in particular, Misha Vayner, Saks’ Manager of Leased Departments, was in the audience and approached him afterward to talk about the Wellery opening up. “I said yes right away,” he said.

As for what makes Conbody stand out, Marte explained, “We’re the complete opposite of what other New York studios are doing–the bougie-ness.” It’s true–you won’t find any equipment or fancy gear during his classes, which largely focus on circuit training using only your body weight. The space is much bigger than the original downtown studio but still retains some elements–like the “mugshot” wall. “They literally built a prison cage inside of Saks, which is crazy. I think the clientele are really gonna gravitate towards it, because they’re gonna see that we [former inmates] are just regular human beings. We make a living. We are doing it right,” Marte said. From the start, Conbody has been about Marte’s mission not only removing the stigma around the formerly incarcerated, but also being an opportunity for them to start new lives.

Patel added, “We’re committed to providing innovative experiences for our customers and ConBody is a one-of-a-kind fitness studio. Coss Marte is a unique entrepreneur whose workout method is focused on inspiring people to be their best – something we support and want to convey through the Wellery.”

Saks Fifth Avenue The Wellery, open through October 31, 2017Monday – Saturday 10AM – 8:30PM, Sunday 11AM – 7PM

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