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Sister duo built an activewear brand to rival Nike & Under Armour after pivot from bags

If you catch me on an errand run, you’ll find that I’m most often dressed as if I just got out of the gym, or am going to one—but the gym is almost never in my plans. 

Activewear, being both functional and athleisure (a fit that you can wear out of the gyms or studios to leisure outings), is the pinnacle of comfort for me. 

Realising a gap in this market for local brands catering to Malaysian women, a duo of sisters and fitness enthusiasts, Sim Li and Heidi, pivoted their e-commerce fashion brand to fill it.

It marked the turning point for LIVLOLA.

Switching up positions

We featured the brand back in 2016 when LIVLOLA was still selling handbags and accessories curated for women according to styles and themes.

Along the way, the siblings faced difficulties in finding skilled local craftsmen that could bring their designs to life, while simultaneously maintaining a reasonable cost structure. 

The pivotal moment for LIVLOLA happened in 2019 after the launch of their multifunctional and stylish fitness bag, the Lakota Duffel Bag. “Our customers loved it so much that [we got] many suggestions to come up with a collection of activewear to best pair with the Lakota Duffel Bag,” Sim Li and Heidi told Vulcan Post. 

According to Sim Li, the shift brought in significant growth for LIVLOLA. It received promising customer reception too. 

LIVLOLA’s founders believe that one of the reasons for their immediate success was the lack of widely available activewear that was affordable and stylish in the local market.

Image Credit: LIVLOLA

“Many turned to brands such as Nike and Under Armour which are of a higher price point, or activewear brands based out of Malaysia such as GymShark which are undoubtedly more stylish but shipping fees could pose an issue to local consumers,” the founders shared.

Prices of activewear sold by the above-mentioned brands can respectively cost between RM99-RM329 and RM104-RM259 for sports bras, along with RM99-RM415 and RM123-RM439 for leggings.

LIVLOLA’s sports bras carry prices between RM85-RM148, while leggings are RM99-RM178, which are slightly more economical than those offered by the global brands.

“We wanted to change that narrative and introduce activewear that [is] multipurpose and most importantly, stylishly fun, and our customers responded positively to that,” they affirmed.

Persevering amidst the lockdowns

Shortly after the release of LIVLOLA’s first activewear range, COVID-19 happened and many turned to home workouts while the WFH culture boomed. 

This was yet another catalyst that pushed LIVLOLA’s brand forward. Consumers were now seeking athleisure that they could comfortably wear while WFH and for evening workout sessions at home. 

To furnish a more thorough home-workout experience, LIVLOLA also sells home workout gear such as ankle weights, jump ropes, resistance bands, and sliders, to name a few.

The home workout kit I was sent by the team

Testing both the long and short resistance bands, I found that they helped with my form when doing push-ups, lunges, and squats, hopefully in turn reducing the likelihood of micro-injuries. The sliders assisted me in doing mountain climbers without a yoga mat, as my bare feet could glide across the floor without having to worry them blistering. 

The activewear sent to me was also a good fit, and it was easy finding my size since LIVLOLA’s apparel are designed to fit most Asian body shapes. 

To ensure that their clothing line doesn’t further harm the environment, LIVLOLA is adopting a more eco-conscious approach to fast fashion. The team has even gone so far as to make activewear from pre and post-consumer materials such as industrial fishing nets, via a manufacturer in China. 

A slow burn for fashion

To Sim Li and Heidi, slow fashion means building products that last. “We are continuously working to create products that are made of recycled materials and/or are recyclable, of high quality, and longer-lasting,” stated the sisters.

Other than making clothing out of recycled nylon and fishing nets, they’re also packing their deliveries in compostable packaging made of corn starch. 

Image Credit: LIVLOLA

Our goal is to work with suppliers that take responsibility for their environmental impact and the working conditions of their employees. We are working on increasing our efforts to exist more sustainably. We see it as our responsibility to mitigate and reverse any contribution to the climate crisis that we may have.

Sim Li and Heidi, co-founders of LIVLOLA

In line with LIVLOLA’s targets in building an environmentally sustainable brand, the activewear business partnered with a US-based non-profit organisation, 8 Billion Trees

With a portion of LIVLOLA’s profits, the initiative will plant trees in seven different countries globally, including the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

But they’re not dismissing opportunities of working with local NGOs in the eco-space either. “It is in our plan this year to be involved in more programmes and activities partnering with local NGOs to help restore our environment and reduce our carbon footprint,” they said.

Holistic and homegrown

For those who may prefer working out in a social environment as opposed to solo home workouts, LIVLOLA also hosts fitness events for its growing community consisting primarily of women. 

One of LIVLOLA’s events for International Women’s Day collaborated with local female-founded brands such as Enya, The Mineraw, iWell Natural, and Nafas Yoga Studio. The outdoor fitness event held in Klang Valley recorded 200 pax that year.

The founders were unable to provide definitive figures on the brand’s current market share for their respective industry. But they are confident that LIVLOLA is reasonably known within the Malaysian fitness and wellness space. 

Image Credit: LIVLOLA

“We’re happy to learn that many regarded us as a holistic wellness homegrown brand, perhaps more popular amongst young women within key cities such as KL, Johor Bahru, Penang, Kuching, and Kota Kinabalu,” Sim Li and Heidi noted.

In terms of their plans for growing LIVLOLA in 2022, the team is working on strengthening their community via activities while building lasting partnerships with brands that share their values.

Following growing market sentiments of eco-consciousness too, LIVLOLA will continue increasing its eco-sustainability efforts to stay relevant.

  • Learn more about LIVLOLA here.
  • Read about other Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Sim Li and Heidi, co-founders of LIVLOLA

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(UEN 201431998C.)

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