As part of our mission to bust the millennial myth, we interview the very lovely (and extremely healthy!) co-founder of luxury sportswear brand, Sports Philosophy, Stella Heng. Sports Philosophy is part of a new breed of socially responsible company which sells beautifully crafted and eco-friendly products while also giving back to the community, bridging the gap between for-profit and non-profit. Who said millennials were only in it for themselves?
Tell us about the brand – what is Sports Philosophy?
Sports Philosophy is a luxury sportswear label created to make a difference. We are the first socially responsible activewear brand – in addition to offering beautiful performance gear for men and women, our mission is to fight child labour.
How did the idea for Sports Philosophy come about?
Matthias and I were not from the fashion industry, actually far from it as we were in banking and law, respectively. However, we wanted to do something different, something whereby the gap between for-profit and non-profit is bridged, and where we could be involved ourselves, in doing good. Wolfgang, the chairman of Sports Philosophy and a professor in social entrepreneurship, was very influential in this idea and his extensive research on child labour and how social businesses could help combat the issue was what kick started everything.
Sports and fashion have always been an important part of my life, although sometimes I question my fashion sense in my teens, what was I thinking! Anyways, when discussing business ideas, fashion seemed like a natural fit to our social agenda. Garment manufacturing has always been marred with child labour issues, among others, and not without good reasons. Combining that with our love for fitness and sports created Sports Philosophy.
Sports Philosophy combines a for profit and non profit ethos to do social good. How does Sports Philosophy give back?
We recently set up our own charity, the Freedom for Children Foundation, which will be our vehicle for our campaign against child labour. At least 10% of profits from Sports Philosophy will be dedicated to the Freedom for Children Foundation. As part of the charity, we have an impact consultancy programme, whereby selected consultants will be sent to affected countries to do on the ground research and get to the bottom of the root causes of child labour. This in return will help us understand this problem in more detail and give us an opportunity to develop solutions that can make a difference.
Tell us about the great sportswear. How is it different to your usual gym kit?
Quality has always been a top priority for me, so you can be assured that we source the best fabrics possible and make sure the pieces are made to the highest quality. As such, the materials are from Italy and the collection is made in Portugal. In addition to the usual features such as sweat-wicking and quick dry, some of our garments like the women’s compression leggings are made from recycled polyamide. We also played around with reflective artwork, as you’ll see on the leggings and the men’s collection, which proved pretty popular!
What’s your favourite piece from the collection?
My personal favourite is our signature after-workout kimono wrap. I wanted to create something a bit different from jackets and hoodies, to throw on going to and from the gym, but also pretty enough for coffee or brunch. Or simply to lounge in – it’s really comfy!
You launched Sports Philosophy almost a year ago. It must have been a crazy journey – what has been your biggest challenge? And your biggest achievement?
Yes, we officially launched Sports Philosophy in June 2015 and it’s definitely been an exciting yet scary roller coaster ride! Starting a business is tough as many will tell you, but you only really understand when you’ve started, if only I knew! But I wouldn’t change anything despite the many ups and downs we’ve gone through. There are ALWAYS issues to deal with, as we say in the team – too many problems and too few solutions! One of our biggest challenges was production and until today remains one of our toughest issues. As a start-up, it is tough to reach the minimum order volume requirements of most manufacturers and suppliers and with a limited budget, reconciling both is very tough. That together with delays and tight deadlines makes it a real challenge! On a personal level, quitting a steady job to start a business was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. Not knowing whether it will work out or whether it is worth it, was the toughest question and one nobody had answers to, but we decided to do it and here we are, almost a year later.
On the brighter side, there is nothing like the feeling of having your own business and knowing that what you are doing is also going to help others. We are still so small and so new but getting Sports Philosophy to where it is now including having our very own charity, is definitely my biggest achievement to date.
What does the future look like for Sports Philosophy?
Well, we have lots in the pipeline! We are expanding the collection with the launch of our capsule collection in collaboration with Zanna van Dijk, an amazing fitness blogger and one of our brand ambassadors. As well as a full collection for A/W 16 including a new men’s range later this year!
And for the Freedom for Children Foundation, lots more fund raising events and activities to fund our research and implement projects to fight this important issue that affects our industry. We hope that this will inspire both new entrepreneurs as well as existing brands and businesses to take a more proactive approach to helping communities they affect directly or indirectly.
Shop Sports Philosophy’s luxury sportswear collection at www.sportsphilosophy.com and follow them on Instagram at Sports_Philosophy and twitter @SP_Active for the latest news on their collection. Check out their facebook page and blog for news on upcoming events.