Launching an activewear brand is no easy task, but launching a label that strives to combat throw-away fashion and climate change takes things to a whole different level.
We spoke to Natasha Timoney, founder of Scultura, to find out how she pulled it off, what challenges she's faced along the way, and what she has to do to stay current in a fast moving industry.
What inspired you to launch Scultura?
Every light bulb idea begins with a moment of inspiration. Mine was a few years after my son was born in 2008. Before that, the environment and sustainability were something I believed in but more in an abstract sense. When I looked at my son, the reality of the threat to our planet became much more real. If the Earth's temperature rises significantly, if the oceans fill with plastic, what will life be like for him and for the next generation after that?
My passion for sustainable fashion is mostly due to the environmental issues that we face but also from having never felt comfortable with the thought of throwing clothes away. I have always either up-cycled or donated my clothes to charity.
I came up with the concept of designing my own collection after I struggled to find gym wear that motivated me, and so I ended up looking at smaller independent brands for inspiration. Around this time, I noticed a need for sustainably designed gym wear that also ticked the boxes of having been ethically sourced and manufactured.
How has your clothing line evolved over the life of the brand?
Quite a bit. Following my research and development of Scultura and the launch of the original collection in 2020, the availability of sustainable fabrics, trims and how clothing is produced has moved on exponentially.
I was determined for Scultura to be produced sustainably and ethically, using fabrics and trims sourced locally in the UK & Europe. However, during that period, it proved to be an incredibly challenging vision since there were only a few suppliers and manufacturers that were able to meet these criteria.
More recently, though, the global focus on the fashion industry and its negative impact on climate change has begun to wake up and shake up its ethical and sustainable production processes. This in itself opened up a wider choice of sustainable suppliers of fabrics, trims and packaging and has allowed me to make huge improvements to the second collection, 'New Horizons, ' which was launched in 2022.
Of course, one of the most important parts of evolving collections is the feedback I receive from my lovely customers. This allowed me to make changes to the fit and feel of the designs and the inclusion of even more sustainable trims.
What unique elements do you bring to your designs?
I believe Scultura is a unique brand in itself. Why? Well, because all the styles in the collections, including the prints, are designed in-house by me.
As an ex-dancer, I know what needs to be achieved to create long-lasting activewear that is functional, flattering, fits well and performs as it should during active movement in or out of the gym.
I also produce the collections in small quantities at our ethical production studio in London, which specialises in activewear, lingerie and swimwear. This part of the process is very important to me for four reasons: I can oversee production at every step of the way, keep the brand's carbon emissions to an absolute minimum, avoid wastage, and support our local UK workforce and economy.
Possibly the most important element of the brand's uniqueness, and one that isn't immediately obvious, is that ethics and sustainability are at the very heart of everything we do as a brand, from design and sourcing through to packaging and beyond. It's people and the planet all the way for Scultura!
What are some of the challenges you have encountered along the way?
Wow, where do I start? Ha ha, I've had my fair few challenges, however, the majority of most small businesses will encounter challenges along the way. As a one-woman founder, it's tricky not to aim for perfection and to therefore put pressure on yourself to try and solve them all; however, I've learnt to prioritise these over the last three years and with a bit of calm and perseverance there is almost always a way to solve them.
A couple of examples I could quote were sourcing difficulties in the early stages, a few sampling errors in production and the odd back-office mishap; I've gone through them all. It's normal and the nature of being in business. It's important to remember it's a journey, and we learn a lot along the way.
How do you stay relevant in an ever-changing activewear landscape?
Therein lies the burning question. Actually, it depends on what you mean by the word 'relevant'. Scultura is very relevant because the brand is fundamentally built on addressing environmental and ethical issues that the fast fashion industry continues to create.
When I design the collections, the most important aspect of it to me is that my customers receive a superior quality product that is fully functional and technically designed for its purpose, which is movement and exercise.
The collections are what I would call classic pieces rather than designed for the here and now only to be thrown into landfill a month later. With my designer hat on, I research colour trends and styles and make informed decisions based on that and the great feedback from my customers and community. It is all about longevity and sustainability here at Scultura.
What advice would you give aspiring designers or brand creators?
The most important advice I have always given when asked is that research is not only the most important step to creating a brand or design, but it is the foundation of creating something that will either be a success or not.
It's also hugely important to create a business strategy and plan, and that's not to say that everything will run like clockwork. Still, at least you have something to work on. You can amend and evolve when necessary.
After that comes a lot of long hours, hard work, dedication and disappointments along the way, but that's entirely normal for small businesses. Remember, not everything has to be absolutely perfect in the beginning, you can evolve over time. Lastly, remember that you also need downtime to continue to be an effective founder. Good Luck!
Find our more about Scultura, and browse the online store at - https://www.scultura-activewear.com