Originally this interview appeared elsewhere but I’m really proud of it and wanted to share it with all my readers. It also shows why they are nominated for an FW Award
“Can a T-Shirt save the world?” went the old saying. Well perhaps the question should be can a sportswear label save the world because that’s what London based Sports Philosophy intend to do.
As part of the new wave of stylish yet functional brands that have sprung up, they stand out as they have a plan to fight child labour. However it’s by having great products that work they intend to do it, focused on people who “want to transition from home to gym”. “It was about the product but if it did good it helped” offers Matthias . . . “the company is committed to help the communities it works in”.
For a company in the garment industry Matthias and Stella aren’t the usual fashionistas you’d expect to be in charge of a style conscious active-wear label. Matthias is a quietly spoken German from the banking sector and Stella is a former barrister and international level Malaysian tennis and taekwondo athlete, (though Mick Jagger studied at the LSE as well so there is rock star pedigree in her background), with a gentle manner and a big smile. Though when they talk of what they are doing and the task they have set themselves they both bring forward a steel determination and focus.
This is none more evident than when Stella says while discussing child labour in factories, “it can’t wait for 40 years, the problem is happening now. We have to find ways to get children out of factories and not just the ones we will work with or it won’t end”.
They intend to do this by putting at least 10% of all profit into their charitable aims “rather than saying we will donate X amount, we want a model that allows affordability and sustainability”. It is this thinking that will allow them to be able to have manoeuvrability and agility as a start-up to grow into a long term successful brand, and therefore deliver a program of change.
When pushed on why 10% rather than “X amount” Matthias makes the very good point that this makes the business sustainable and allows them to invest in new infrastructure and requirements as they move forward. They will be able to grow “It was our philosophy to impart for profit rationale into charity”.
He and Stella are also keen to impress that 10% is a minimum commitment. What’s also interesting is how that 10% will be spent. They want to work with experts on eradicating child labour, rather than dictating how the money will be used, they want to listen to and support those on the ground where these issues are at their most pressing. They want people to come to them with a plan and say help us do this thing, because we can achieve that objective. They aren’t just looking to get children out of factories, “why are they there in the first place, it’s about lasting solutions”.
The range is great, its chic, understated and includes clever ideas like making the lightening patterns reflective for night time runners, but why sportswear? Matthias smiles and says it was Stella who came up with the idea while they were looking at it. Stella who is the creative director jumps in to explain more, “It was jumpers and t-shirts, and I said is it going to be a charity or a sustainable business.”
There lies why they will be successful and why that non-fashion background is important, they can see it in commercial terms as well. They know how to succeed in business, you have to have a great product. Matthias is confident in his belief that it has helped them “I think there’s a benefit about entering a business fresh, we just do it”. They both acknowledge it’s been a steep learning curve though. Make no mistake reading that, Stella as creative director has created the collection to be as wearable as it is functional, yet also stylish and has big plans to extend the range. Just that week they had been doing a new shoot with the real life fitness bloggers they use instead of models. She believes that more and more there is an overlap between fashion and sportswear.
So that’s their Sports Philosophy, one I would personally express as look good, feel good, do good, if they want to borrow a slogan, but Matthias sums it up beautifully with “I don’t see why a company making a profit shouldn’t give up 10% of its profit”.
I’m left feeling that even if a t-shirt can’t change the world, Sports Philosophy may just shake it up a bit and change quite a few lives along the way.
Stella will be on the panel for The Fashion Debates event on the 19th of May and you can book tickets here.