Fitness: The brand taking workout-wear up a gear
Unable to find sportswear she liked, Samantha Loveridge began curating her own collection of workout gear, which has since grown into Stylish AF Fitness Co - a brand loved by influencers around the world
Keeping fit is in the very fibre of Samantha Loveridge’s being, having grown up in a sport-loving family. “I’ve always been into fitness; it’s not something I ‘do’ as such, it’s just embedded in me,” explains the athletic mum from Wickhambrook. “As I kid I’d always end up down the sports centre watching Mum and Dad play squash or sitting outside a hall, waiting for Mum to finish her fitness class!” she recalls, with a smile.
It’s no surprise then that Samantha embarked on a career within the industry, working in project management for Life Fitness, kitting out gyms with state-of-the-art training equipment, before migrating into the marketing side of the business.
But Samantha’s career path took a different turn when she discovered she had a real talent for finding fabulous fitness apparel.
“I needed clothes that covered bits I didn’t want to show, held me in where I needed it and felt comfortable, but didn’t look frumpy - and weren’t ridiculously expensive,” she explains.
“I didn’t feel comfortable in GymShark clothes for example, which I feel suck you in too much, and lack flexibility to move. I also felt that brands like Fabletics were a bit too grown up.”
The enterprising 35-year-old began contacting labels and suppliers directly, snapping up individual pieces for herself, from form-fitting yoga leggings to chic crop tops, assembling stylish combos to suit an assortment of workouts.
“I suddenly started getting lots of compliments on the pieces, so people would literally stop me and say ‘your body is amazing, how do you work out?’ but I’d say ‘No it’s just my clothes holding me in!’”
The more this happened, the more Samantha recognised a gap in the market for a new fitnesswear label, stocking the unique styles and innovative brands she’d discovered.
With her partner also experienced in marketing, the pair decided to take the plunge and set up a website, populated by Samantha’s finds, sourced from around the world – spanning seamless shorts, statement hoodies, performance leggings and high impact sports bras, in multiple fabrics and colourways.
“We thought we’d set up a website to test the waters – and sales just kept on coming in!” explains Samantha.
That was in January, and over the past seven months Stylish Athletic Fashion Fitness Company, to give it its full name, has expanded at an impressive rate. As well as notching up more than 3,000 customers, the business is now selling to 34 countries (?) and has a second base in California, run by Samantha’s brother-in-law.
So, what sets it apart from your common-or-garden gym-wear brand?
“I think it’s the fact we sell high-quality clothes, which we carefully curate,” explains Samantha. “We are very customer-led, so if there are certain colours or styles trending, we will ask our customers, what colours do they want, do they like this style? We speak to them constantly, which is why our inboxes are insane!”
This approach of close customer engagement has made Stylish AF a big hit with social media influencers, many of which supply the ‘model shots’ showcasing the brand’s fashion-forward range.
“We work with a huge network of influencers and ambassadors, who give feedback on the kind of kit people want. So when we get samples in, we first check quality, and then these go out to our influencers first, they’ll work out in them and take pictures and then get feedback from their followers. The pictures they send back are brilliant!”
It’s important to Samantha that the brand is accessible to customers of differing shapes, sizes and fitness levels. “We’ve got people just starting out on their fitness journeys, customers who are into yoga, and lots of runners, who say they love the leggings as they don’t move when they’re running. A lot of customers are also into training in the gym and weight lifting, so it’s got a real broad appeal,” says Samantha.
Many of the influencers pictured on the brand’s website are also mums, who love the way the technical fabrics flatter their contours.
Though the Coronavirus pandemic caused a few issues in terms of delivery delays, the fledgling business has received overwhelmingly positive feedback. In fact the team has just taken on another member of staff to spearhead customer engagement – as well as launching a range of loungewear and sports bikinis (which have proved popular in US beach resorts).
With four children to care for at home it’s a miracle that Samantha and her partner have shoe-horned in the time to not only launch a business, but cope with the speed at which it has grown in little over six months.
“Oh, we get the children to help us!” says Samantha. “They’re good at packing parcels and I use it as a school lesson, getting them to count stock or work on practicing their letters! The business has become a bit like a fifth baby,” she laughs.
Though building a fresh new brand alongside caring for children is a constant juggling act, the rewards for Samantha make it all worthwhile. “I get a real sense of reward when I take bags and bags of our products to the distribution centre to be sent out to our customers,” she enthuses. “It is just the best feeling!”
Find out more at stylishaffitness.com
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More by this authorLouise Cummings