We had the good fortune of connecting with Xiaoxiao Cao and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Xiaoxiao, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
When I moved to New York City from China to pursue my dance career in 2012, I went in search of leotards I could wear to my dance classes. I wanted something romantic, feminine, and filled with fantasy – something that would make me feel beautiful and special when I looked in the mirror during practice. But everything I found in stores was too dark, too sporty, and too plain for my taste. Ever since I was a child, I have been obsessed with ribbons, bows, and lace; I even imagined I would be able to wear a tutu to dance class as an adult. I would look at the paintings of Edgar Degas and wonder, “Why can’t I wear that?” I decided to do it myself. I bought a second-hand sewing machine from a friend, went to the library, and taught myself how to make a pattern based on instructions I had read for swimwear. I made three or four designs inspired by Degas, including one that would become style 1401, a sleeveless leotard with a deep plunging back and an exaggerated bow. I love it when dancers show their best features, like a strong and supple back. I wore the leotard to dance class, and everyone took note. People asked me where I bought it. When I told them I made it myself, they were very impressed and encouraged me to take it a step further, saying. “You can design! You should start your own business.” I had never thought about it before but at that moment I realized it was a perfect idea. My father had been asking me what I planned to do after ballet, and now I had an answer. I would start Xiaoxiao Designs, a dancewear company. It’s amazing how a compliment and encouragement can change your life.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When I first started dancing professionally as a member of the Guangzhou Ballet, China, I was limited in my imagination. I only saw ballerinas train and perform, then become a teacher or maybe a choreographer. I was taught to focus on one thing and keep going. In the beginning, this was a very good way to build my base. I didn’t realize all the possibilities that existed in the world, but as I got older I became very curious. Moving to New York was scary and exciting. I was in a new country alone, without family or friends, but I immediately fell in love with the energy of the city. Creativity is everywhere. It really opened my mind. I work with a photographer whose day job is a personal trainer. I realized people have multiple talents and can handle it very well. I have focused on ballet my entire life. But ever since I arrived in New York, I’ve begun to explore dancewear design, running a business, and more recently, performing on Broadway in a role that requires me not only to dance but to act and sing. I never thought I could pursue an acting career but now I’m taking acting classes and auditioning for film, television, and commercials. I realized, “Why should I limit myself? I should try, too.” Living in America, I have learned anything is possible. Here, you can do whatever you want as long as you try. When I auditioned for Phantom of the Opera, I didn’t expect anything to happen. I just tried my best. I auditioned three times before I got the part. The secret is to never give up on yourself.

Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I love to spend time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center, and the Theater District in New York City.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to thank my parents, Xiao Guixiang and Cao Canxiang, for being very supportive of my career. I started dancing at the age of 3, and they supported my dreams. Today they are my business partners in Xiaoxiao Designs. They work as agents for garment factories in China and are able to find the best fabrics and pattern makers to create the finest quality leotards at an affordable price.

Website: www.xiaoxiaonyc.com
Instagram: Business: @xiaoxiaodesigns /Personal: @xiaoxiaocao46
Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/xiaoxiao-cao-21553569
Twitter: Xiaoxiaodesigns
Facebook: Xiaoxiao Designs

Image Credits
The main photo and first six photos are photography by Min Wu. The last two photos are photography by Houa Vang.

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