Female Magaine, Fashion Insider: ash be nimble
Posted on June 06 2016
Tell us more about yourself and your brand.
I was previously a consultant for seven years in various companies like PwC Sydney, E&Y Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia and The Boston Consulting Group KL. I love trail running and together with my husband we have done ultra-trail races (2x50km and 1x70km) around South East Asia, finishing in the top ten. I’m a brand new mother and this year will be a big year as in December I turn 30 and my daughter turns 1, and my business turns 2 years old in March!
What sparked your interest in fitness and fashion?
It all started with my boss Chia Yong Wei (who recently became an ironman). He’s a bit of fitness nerd and for our company team trip he made us all hike up Mount Kinabalu in 2012. So we started training at Bukit Gasing and I did my first road practice run of 10km with these boys. Needless to say I got hooked on trails and running and hiking, and was inspired to start my own fitness brand during my first road race which was the Malaysia Women's Marathon 10km in 2013! I finished in 8th place and had some free time to check out the various brands who had set up booth on race day, and couldn’t find something that appealed to me and my wallet, so that sparked the idea to start fashionable but affordable fitness apparel!
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to combine 3 of my favourite things: business, being active and creative. This is probably the result of having a mother with a business background and a father who is an architect, who have both encouraged us to love the outdoors and be active!
What is the inspiration behind your recent collection? Do you have a favourite piece?
My running friends and my customers inspire me. When I do my trail runs at Kiara, go for races or set up our pop up stores I love meeting and talking to people and hearing their fitness stories, journeys and inspiration. They will naturally get excited and give me a lot of feedback and ideas on our ash be nimble ranges.
Our latest collection of Poppin’ Pleated Skorts and Swingin’ Singlets (Y-Back) is a nod to feminity especially the 1950’s where the pleated skirt made its debut. They carry our usual signature style of exuberant, happy colours which we love as it brightens any workout or race! In 1967 Katherine Switzer created a furor by being the first woman to run a marathon (by sneaking in). It was only in 1972 that marathons officially allowed women to participate! So we’re celebrating women going the extra mile to break limitations in fitness, fighting the odds, stigma and the voice in your head that says you can’t.
What sets your brand apart from the other fitness brands in the market
People really identify with us, especially our fellow Malaysians, as they may have met or know the faces, places and races that we use on our website, online store, posters and social media. People can put a face and name to the brand as I LOVE doing races and meeting people, and have personally run so many of the pop up stores at events and markets. My main goal has always been to make fitness accessible through affordable sportswear, as that was what I was looking for when I started doing races and needed to buy more workout outfits! Malaysians are always looking for a good bargain!
Who is your style and/or fitness icon? Why?
I really don’t have one particular style or fitness icon. To me I get so much inspiration from the runners, yogi’s, muay thai fighters I train with. I am surrounded by every day Malaysian heroes who go the extra mile to start sporting groups, train for extremely tough and long races, battle illness and tragedies to come back and race, juggle careers and mommy duties to get themselves and their families fit, fund their own way or others to do international competitions.
If you look and listen hard enough, there is an icon in every one that I love discovering and learning from!
Any tips when it comes to keeping it fit? Fave healthy meal, workout track, etc.
I recently gave birth to my first baby in December 2015, and stayed active and ate well throughout the pregnancy. I hiked at least once a week all throughout my first and third trimester, ran in the second, and did yoga including inversions up until week 37. I gained about 11kg during pregnancy and my baby was born at a nice healthy weight of 3.25kg! With my baby at 100 days old I was back to pre-pregnancy weight, but still with a slight baby belly which I love! There is a lot of research out there with guidelines on staying hydrated, not over heating and raising your heart rate too much during pregnancy. The benefits are that your body produces endorphins which are good for yourself and the baby, it strengthens your body to prepare yourself for labour, and it definitely helped me avoid swelling and water retention.
The mix of cardio, strength and flexibility workouts, together with maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet during and after pregnancy has helped me snap back into shape within 2 months!
During pregnancy I didn’t use it as an excuse to let myself go but made sure I ate well and right, I did have the occasional dark chocolate or McDonald’s meal but made it a once a week thing at most. Eating for 2 is a myth – you only need an extra bowl of muesli or sandwich every day! Post pregnancy, don’t focus on weight loss but on sustainable, healthy choices! Your body needs nutrients to be strong, to recover and replenish. Ask for ‘kosong’ drinks, cut out white sugar and deep-fried items from your meals.
My favourite healthy snack would be avocado, hard boiled egg, vegemite and low fat cream cheese on wholemeal bread!
Are you looking to collaborate with more designers or brands in the near future?
Yes! Currently I do all the designs myself but we have a few exciting projects lined up this year for local motifs and prints!
What’s next for the brand? i.e.: offline store, pop up store or another store etc.
We’re always looking for the next exciting market or event to do a pop up store at and in May we will be in Kota Kinabalu for the Borneo International Marathon – we can’t wait to bring our apparel to our customers in Sabah as they have been asking for us to come for a while now! We are so excited as I can’t wait to personally meet so many of the runners there.
Best career and/or life advice you’ve ever received?
The week before I was due to give birth I also was in the final stage of the Alliance Bank SME Innovation Challenge. We made it to the final 7 startups, and also were shortlisted for an additional 2 prize categories. This meant I had 3 pitches to prepare for and present in the span of less than 5 days. It was exhausting analysing and working on our financial numbers, projections, future business plans and still managing day to day operations, all the while being 39 weeks pregnant and preparing for baby’s arrival. At one point it got too overwhelming and I considered pulling out in that final week, worrying that all the stress and lack of sleep might affect the baby. I consulted my mother in law who is a doctor and an extremely hard-working and ambitious woman I admire a lot. She told me under no circumstance should I even consider pulling out, as I would regret that later on.
What do you wish to achieve in 2016?
Previously my ambitions were to expand ash be nimble to as many places and countries as possible and to do more and longer ultra trail races. But now its to do all that and to become a leader, woman and mother that my daughter Asha can grow up and aspire to be like and to be proud of. I hope I can build a business and lead a life that is full of inspiring stories and experiences for me to show and tell her.