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Meet this month’s conscious curator: Katia Santilli, co-founder of Nimble Activewear

This month’s conscious curator is Katia Santilli: co-founder (along with her best friend Vera Yan) of the sustainable activewear brand Nimble Activewear

After becoming friends in high school, Katia and Vera went on to pursue very different career paths (Katia worked for Burberry in London while Vera climbed the corporate ladder in banking and investment in Sydney) before joining forces to create a brand which reflected their shared love of exercise.

After launching the brand in 2015, Katia and Vera opened their first Nimble Activewear store in 2016 – selling stylish, super comfortable clothing designed to help women experience the joy of movement.

A shared passion for the planet inspired Vera and Katia to take a sustainable approach to design and production – using low impact materials in everything from their sports bras to their mailers. Nimble Activewear’s custom engineered MoveLite fabric is made from post-consumer recycled plastics, and since its inception, Nimble has been responsible for saving over one million plastic bottles from entering our waste system.

To celebrate this milestone, and in the lead up to the launch of Nimble’s third retail space (set to open in Brisbane in May), we spoke with Katia about the Nimble story and her personal approach to travel, work, health and style.

 

TCS 

You grew up in Melbourne and now you’re based in Sydney, where would you say you feel most at home?

 

Katia

I have to say Sydney. Melbourne has a special place in my heart, and I love going back to visit my family and friends but Sydney is my home. I met my partner here, we’re starting our family here and we’ve got the business here. Home is Sydney for me, and I think Vera feels the same.

 

TCS

We’ve all spent a lot of time at home over the past year, what’s your approach to space-making? 

 

Katia

I live in Bondi so I’m close to the beach, and so there is that neutral, organic, light vibe going through the house which I think reflects the coastal location. I don’t really dress in much colour and my home is the same – but I bring in colour through bold statement pieces and bright artwork. I think it’s nice when you can create a space that reflects who you are – when you can bring a bit of your personality into your space while still making it calming and cosy. 

 

TCS

A loaded question in these slightly restrictive times, but what is your relationship with travelling? Is travel something that has guided a lot of your work?

 

Katia

Travel for us as a business is really important. We manufacture offshore and we have offshore partners, and so it actually has been tricky not being able to travel and work with them in person over the past year. We normally do four trips per year, and I get a lot of inspiration through travel. I think it’s been amazing that we’ve been so grounded as a result of Covid, and it’s made us really stop and appreciate the space around us, but I am really looking forward to the day that borders open. I think one of the first trips I’ll take will be to Taiwan, to really connect again with the guys on the ground there. There are some things from a development standpoint that can just move at a much faster pace when you have that on the ground, face-to-face connection.

 

TCS

Is there a certain place you love to revisit, or is there one place you’ve been to (even just once) which will always be your special place?

 

Katia

Before Covid my partner and I were planning a trip over to Europe, and we were planning to go in their winter time – to go skiing in Switzerland and experience what Europe is like in the colder months. My family is from Northern Italy really close to the Swiss border, so we were planning a trip with my dad and my partner to visit the small town that my Grandma is from. There weren’t any hotels in particular that we wanted to stay at, it was about exploring that part of the world in winter.

In saying that, me and my partner discovered Western Australia a year and a half ago, and we’re going to make that an annual trip. I think what we’ve realised is there are so many amazing places in our own backyard. WA really reminds me of true Australia – the plants, the coastline, there’s a lot of sparseness, it hasn’t been overbuilt and it feels like you’re really connecting to the place. Plus the wineries over there are great. We’ve got a trip planned to take our little one there in November, which I’m really excited about. 

 

TCS

And now to food – what would you say is your food philosophy?

 

Katia

I’m definitely a foodie, and I’d say my philosophy is simple: wholesome, good food, as close to its original form as possible. I really like going to the Bondi markets on Saturdays and supporting local farmers – it’s really nice to know where you’re sourcing your produce from. 

 

TCS

Do you have a signature dish? 

 

Katia

I love cooking savoury food, and I make this really delicious slow cooked recipe with pork belly or chicken thighs, with lots of citrus and spices.


TCS

Is there one food product (specific brand) that you use every day?

 

Katia

Not necessarily brand-wise, but one product I’m loyal to is the avocado. Me and my daughter will eat avocado with something every morning, and also sweet potato with everything.

 

TCS

What is your approach to self-care? Are there any specific steps you take to look after your mind? If so, what are they?

 

Katia

I think this is a really important question. Especially running a business, life is so go-go-go, it can be really hard to switch off. For me, moving my body is really important, and that’s where I get to rejuvenate my mind. I love doing classes, and it allows me to hand the reins over to someone else and really switch off. I do so many different things: sometimes I feel like doing something high intensity, sometimes I feel like a Yin class. For me it’s about switching off and letting someone else lead me in a self-care practice.

 

TCS

How did you cope without classes through lockdown?

 

Katia

I was actually quite heavily pregnant at the time, and initially I had to modify what I was doing so I was moving my body differently, but there were some studios that adapted incredibly to going online. I was tuning in to a lot of live streamed classes and turning my living room into a workout space, I feel sorry for the people who live downstairs. I also walked so much during lockdown, it was amazing to get outside and enjoy the outdoors – there was something really special about getting out and walking during that time.

 

TCS

The Nimble ethos is “move more, tread lightly” – have you always been an active person or did you develop a connection to exercise through your life?

 

Katia

My mum is actually an aerobics instructor, so when I was growing up I’d sit on a pile of mats with my colouring books and watch her run classes. Once I was a suitable age I joined in a lot of group fitness classes with her, and I loved it. Group fitness has always been something I’ve loved to do, and I saw so much enjoyment in it – in moving your body, the music. Obviously group fitness has come a long way since those more freestyle aerobics classes, but I’ve loved it since then. Aside from that, I have always been an active person: I did gymnastics for years, and have always loved finding ways to move my body.

 

TCS

How would you describe your personal approach to style?

 

Katia

Comfort plays a really important role for me, but I do like to look good. I need to be able to run around all day, but I’d say my personal style can be quite simplistic. When I invest in pieces I want to be sure they’re not going to really date. I like to buy something that will last season on season, I’m definitely not into any fad fashion trends. I like a lot of neutral colours, but occasionally a big bold print on a dress thrown in there. 

 

TCS

Do you have a favourite clothing brand or a favourite place to shop?

 

Katia

I’m not really brand loyal to any brand (apart from Nimble of course). I don’t tend to shop for clothing too often, but with it getting colder I’ve realised I need a few more winter layers so I did a big shop at Scanlan Theodore

 

TCS

Describe your work day – how is it structured? Is it structured? 

 

Katia

If I’m going to exercise, I’ll exercise early and then I’ll come into the office, but every day is so different for me. Some days I’ll have back to back meetings, but I do like at least a day a week for just concentrated work. I tend to work best by batching things, so rather than spreading myself between various tasks I like to dedicate a day to something specific.

 

TCS

How do you find your flow when working?

 

Katia

It can be tough. For me, when I need to be focused I need to make sure that I’m not going to have meetings disrupting that. I know some people thrive with varied activities and projects in their days, but I work better when I know exactly what it is that I’m focusing on.

 

TCS

What are you excited about at the moment? This could be a current project, something in the pipeline or a far away future dream.

 

Katia

We’re opening a new store in Brisbane in May, it’s literally round the corner! I’m so excited for that and so is the team. We’re really excited to get up and expand our Brisbane community. More broadly, I’m excited about developing what retail for Nimble is in the future. We really want to make our retail spaces tactile and educational – we want our shops to be spaces for community, so that’s an ever-evolving mission and I’m really excited about seeing it take shape. We’ll also be refurbishing our Bondi store later this year… when we opened it in 2016 our business was different, and we want to evolve it to speak to our new business initiatives, specifically with a focus on sustainability and how we can encourage our community to live sustainably too.

 

 

As part of our Conscious Curator series, we’ll be rolling out recipes, round-ups and articles reflecting Nimble’s “Move more, tread lighter” ethos throughout the month – including Katia’s travel tips for Western Australia, stay tuned!

 

You can learn more about Nimble’s sustainable initiatives at nimbleactivewear.com  and follow them on Instagram @nimbleactivewear

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