I really enjoy getting to know the people behind great brands, and this interview is a case in point. Sports Philosophy’s powerful yet agile aesthetic gripped me the moment I discovered them.
I first had the pleasure of hearing first hand from Stella Heng, Sport’s Philosophy’s co-founder, as she spoke passionately as a panellist at the premiere of The Fashion Debates against child labour in the fashion industry. Afterwards, she and her fellow co-founder were very welcoming of additional questions I had on their luxury ethical activewear and introducing new corporate thinking when it comes to being socially responsible.
I am super thrilled to share the intriguing discussion I had with you my dear readers! Down to earth, business savvy and with a strong academic background, the Sports Philosophy team (Wolfgang Spiess-knafl, Stella Heng, Matthias Tietze, and Olga Bogdanova) are bringing products to the market that are ethical, stunningly beautiful and also promote a healthy lifestyle. Let’s get started!
NT: How did you, Matthias and the team come up with the unique name ‘Sports Philosophy’?
SH: After a lot of overthinking! It’s really hard to come up with a brand name when you need one, but we wanted something that would encompass our brand’s core identity, which includes our not-for profit angle, The Freedom for Children Foundation. As our ‘philosophy’ is that more corporates should take responsibility for the communities they affect, it simply made sense. Well, not immediately but on a random walk!
NT: Prioritising engagement activities with the community is a great way to market the brand; it raises awareness of the importance of health and raise funds for the NGO Freedom of Children. How does the team decide what next fun activity will be done?
SH: That’s the fun part – I love checking out new boutique studios around London and we’ve been so fortunate that places like Psycle have collaborated with us on these fundraising events for the Freedom for Children Foundation. As we’re an activewear brand, it makes sense for these events to have an active element to them, and it makes it more fun and interactive. So we’ll be keeping an eye out for cool and fun fitness studio to collaborate with! We’re looking to do a few more around London this year, and maybe a couple abroad!
NT: How passionate is your brand in keeping style and performance in fashion whilst trying to be as sustainable as possible?
SH: Style, performance and ethics are the three key words that drive our brand. Sustainable and ethical fashion hasn’t always had the best rep in terms of fashion, as most people would think that eco-fashion isn’t stylish enough; a lot would opt for mainstream brands instead. So our goal is to make ethical fashion on trend, stylish and, as far as we can, try to use sustainable materials, such as recycled polyamide. Of course, as an activewear brand, performance and quality is key, so all of our fabrics are from Italy and have top performance features.
NT: Collaboration with industry professionals such as Zanna Van Dijk and Tashi Skervin and (didn’t catch his name might be Gil Cramer Couch G but I’m referring to the man who helped in designing the new collection), seems to a vital cornerstone of the Sports Philosophy brand. How does working with experienced sports professionals influence the practical yet eye-catching design of the product?
SH: We have done two collaborations so far, the ZVDxSP collection with Zanna van Dijk, and the OYMxSP collection with Alex Marks. We’ve been so lucky to work with 2 amazing fitness professionals, who are so dedicated to their industry, and their input has been invaluable. Who better to work with than people who live and breathe in activewear? Their input on what works and what doesn’t, albeit personal, created beautiful and functional collections that have been extremely well received. So we’re really grateful and hope that we’ll be able to continue working with them and hopefully others in the near future.
NT: For all the start-ups trying to create a ‘good’ business their way, how do you remain encouraged with the social experiment path Sports Philosophy has chosen?
SH: Child Labour remains a huge problem, not just in the garment industry but fashion plays a big part, and despite all the tragedies, the problem remains persistent. Our experimental path is really to try and find a different way to tackle the issue, which isn’t a one-size fits all model, especially based on the research carried out by our impact consultants who have been on the ground.
Through the journey, we’ve met smaller NGOs on the ground who are carrying out amazing projects that could potentially be adapted to solve the issue in various communities, and that is why our Freedom for Children Foundation exists. We feel the best way to try tackle issues is through these social experiments – if not these massive issues would have been solved by the Governments or bigger NGOs.
We hope to be able to inspire other start-ups but also bigger companies to take more responsibility for the communities they affect.
NT: Reading the blog, I feel we get a balance of how fun and accessible fitness can be. I also feel informed about the different challenges faced with child labour. I really appreciated learning about the issue of vocational schools in china and the institutionalization of labour regime. A lot of insightful educational posts can be found on the blog. Why are these and the fact-finding missions important to Sports Philosophy in its dedication to producing quality information for its consumers?
SH: Thank you! Firstly, we think that not enough is known about the root causes of child labour, and as you have seen, they vary vastly from one community to another, yet one country to another. Our fact-finding missions are at the core of our social agenda and I believe we can only find solutions by understanding each community in more detail.
Consumers have the real power to control where the industry goes, so we feel it’s our duty to try and share as much of that knowledge as we can. By educating the consumer and making them think of what consequences their actions have, means that they will hopefully become more conscious buyers, which in turn will help drive the industry towards adopting more sustainable and ethical standards.
Well there you have it, a new philanthropic way to ‘LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD, and DO GOOD’ delivered in the most inspiring outfits by Sports Philosophy!
About the Author
Natasha Taneka is a London based consultant with an MA in political theory and human security, and a background in Purchasing and supply chains. While she primarily works in the business world, contracted by major international corporations, she maintains a keen interest in all things fashionable and questions of sustainability. You can read her blog ‘Ain’t seen nothing yet’ at www.maonei.org