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Bringing Aussie sustainable activewear to Brits

Born on Sydney’s Bondi Beach, Nimble Activewear is bringing its Aussie style to the UK activewear market. 

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Katia Santilli and Vera Yan

Vera Yan and Katia Santilli founded luxury outerwear brand Nimble Activewear in 2014, based in the thriving wellness community of Australia’s Bondi Beach. The brand creates high-quality activewear, with sustainability and ethical production core to the brand’s designs – the fabric of the bestselling Compresslite leggings, for example, use six recycled plastic bottles per pair, and the brand estimates that in 2018 it saved more than 400,000 bottles from entering landfill. 

Wholesale prices for the collection place it at the premium end of the market, ranging from £23 for a top to £40 for leggings. The brand is stocked in more than 40 stores globally, and has two stores in Australia. It entered the UK market in January via its own ecommerce site, and from June will be stocked in Selfridges and Browns – its first two UK stockists. 

Vera Yan talks Drapers through her fashion life.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Turn off my alarm. I tend to exercise most mornings, so I’m lucky enough to be rocking activewear to start my days. I’m currently loving my printed bottoms teamed with a solid coloured sports bra and a fresh light-coloured tank over the top.

What was your first job?

Working in the deli at Woolworths, an Aussie supermarket chain.

How would you describe the brand in one sentence?

Based in Bondi Beach, Australia’s sunny wellness capital, we’re a technical lifestyle brand with a strong sustainability focus.

What’s your coffee (or tea) order?

Three-quarter soy flat white

Where are your favourite places to shop?

Online. I love having multiple tabs open and browsing different stores at the same time.

Last fashion purchase?

I’m currently in London for autumn 19 showings and just purchased a silk scarf from Liberty. I was instantly drawn to the classic vibrant print and fact that it’s such an iconic British piece.

Emails or phone calls?

Always a phone-call person.

Most important lesson you’ve learned during your career?

The importance of persistence and not giving up. Find yourself a mentor too: it’s great to get perspective from others who have been in the workforce or industry for much longer.

What would be your ideal office/meeting space be?

Somewhere with loads of natural light and LOTS of greenery. We have lots of plants in our office and it makes the space feel much more inviting and alive.

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Nimble spring 19

What’s your favourite part of the creative process?

The brainstorming and team work. I love brainstorming with our product and marketing teams to come up with ideas for campaigns, and how we bring the collection to life for our customers. Once we have set up the framework, it’s much easier to execute and then it’s just an exciting process seeing it all come to life.

What has been your proudest moment since you launched?

Every time I see someone in Nimble Activewear. We still get a kick out of it, especially when we see it on a woman overseas. We’re always so proud to see that we’ve been a small part of someone’s active lifestyle choices.

What’s the last book you read?

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight – it is such a great read. I would highly recommend.

Last holiday?

We went to Perth over the Christmas period, and spent some time down in Margaret River, and also swimming in the crystal-clear waters at Rottnest Island. Both destinations are a must for anyone heading to Australia.

Who in the fashion/retail industry inspires you?

The Zimmermann sisters are incredibly inspiring. The brand is such an Aussie fashion success story, and they have maintained such a unique and distinctive aesthetic.

What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion today?

We’ve seen a huge shift in consumers becoming much more aware and conscious of where and how their fashion is made, which has resulted in many brands rethinking their supply-chain practices.

We have seen such a great reaction in the UK to our CompressLite fabric (which is made from post-consumer-use recycled bottles), and it’s great to see more and more brands making sustainable and ethical choices in their manufacturing.

From a marketing and brand perspective, the challenge is how brands stay current in an increasingly digital world where the consumer is constantly on the hunt for newness.

One piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Learn a language: it’s much easier to pick up when you’re younger.

Who do you turn to when you need advice?

My business partner Katia, and my parents. Katia and I also have an informal advisory board who we turn to for advice in relation to the business.

What would we find you doing at the weekend?

Whenever the sun is shining, you’ll find me at Bronte or Bondi Beach relaxing under a big beach umbrella with a good book.

What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?

A European summer holiday in Greece.


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