By Jess Caire
Conversations with Natalie Lukic from Ryderwear
Meet Natalie Lukic, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Ryderwear. From humble beginnings (a bedroom, then grandma’s garage!!) to the Global stage, Ryderwear is more than bad a** shoes & workout wear, it inspires self-motivation. Established in 2009 by Natalie and her husband David, it has since grown into a thriving company with a strong, collaborative team behind it.
From SA to the Global stage in 8 years, that has got to have been one hell of a ride? Tell us how Ryderwear started and how you cracked the notoriously tough OS market?
Well it all started around 8 years ago when my bf (now my husband, David) had the idea. We were both working 9 to 5 jobs and one night we were just hanging out at his place and he asked, ‘what do you think about starting a gym wear brand?’
Every day he would have another business idea and I would usually just say ‘nah that won’t work’, but this time I just had a gut feeling. I had studied marketing and business and being naturally creative, I knew we were capable of doing this. That’s how it came about and then came the incredible hard work to make it happen.
In the following year or so we had lots of interest from international athletes, so sponsoring some of them was a natural progression and this is how we initially infiltrated the overseas market.
Your business partner is your husband… that’s gotta be pretty intense at times? How do you keep work / life separate? (I am just trying to think about how I’d handle a business meeting with my huz, when I am still pissed he didn’t take the bins out!?)
To be honest, luckily, we work well together. We take care of different areas of the business and it’s just funny it worked out that way naturally. Where he is really strong in one area, I will totally suck so I stay clear (such as IT, business analytics, negotiations etc.) and vice versa when it comes to me and my creative direction, he just lets me be. We rarely butt heads at work…. can’t say the same for at home haha, but at this point in our lives work is where most of our time is spent so we’re lucky.
Your mission statement* for Ryderwear is “together we hope to build a world where everyone eats well, exercises regularly & has each other’s backs toward living long fulfilling lives!” (which is really bloody cool btw, I want that too!) How do you make sure you stay true to this whilst juggling all that you are?
Our mission is basically to encourage people to put themselves first. Health is everything, without it you have nothing. A couple of years ago I wasn’t putting myself as a priority, my focus was just on work and business for years. I slowly put on weight and felt so uncomfortable in my skin while everything else in my life was excelling. Something clicked about 18 months ago and along with our new mission statement, I too changed my personal priorities. I train 6 days a week, sometimes twice a day and yes it means early mornings but, nothing feels better than seeing my muscles grow and my body lean up. I feel healthy and it resinates in all areas of my life, even when managing my staff. We all have this ‘healthy’ mentality at Ryderwear from ordering clean healthy lunches to going for mini power walks throughout the day. Sometimes even an office squat challenge in the afternoon, but we all have each other’s backs when it comes to our mission.
Clearly you have a great eye for design and are a marketing genius (I am loving your boss girl tights!), where do you get your inspo from?
Keeping up with current trends is something I have always focused on. When I’m just out and about my eyes are always open, I get inspired by what people are wearing and how they are wearing it. We now have a fashion design team at Ryderwear and we are all the same in that we are inspired by everyday people and designing products based on what they like and need in their activewear. But now we forecast future trends and are incorporating current fashion styles and colours in to our garments. Our gym wear is so versatile it can be worn at the gym, to the shops, out with friends…
What’s the biggest challenge you face operating in the international arena?
I think staying relevant and ahead of the trends is a massive challenge for any fashion business especially with a global market. It’s always a race to bring out a certain style or range whilst it is still trending and now that we are so fashion focused, this is one of our greatest challenges.
You guys are entrepreneurs in every sense of the word – but you must enjoy some down time? What does relaxation look like for you?
Well I am currently on my balcony in Positano (haha, don’t think we live this life of luxury, this is our 3-year delayed honeymoon and we left for this trip with 2 days’ notice) but in all seriousness, we don’t get much down time at all. We live and breathe Ryderwear so it’s literally 24/7, it comes with us everywhere, like a child. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s fun to have little business meetings together when we are out on date night (usually dinner and a movie once a week). It’s just our relationship dynamic and it works for us. While other newlyweds are out talking about their future and children and holidays, we are the ones with our phones out looking at sales projections and scouting models on Instagram. It’s actually quite funny but some of our biggest business ideas have come out of what was supposed to be a relaxing, romantic date. We say, ‘our minds never stop ticking’. Personally, I do try and squeeze in a massage from time to time.
What’s your fav SA spot to relax and unwind?
I am a Western suburbs girl born and bred so when I need to unwind it’s usually a beach walk from Grange to Henley to clear my mind with a coffee stop along the way. I’m also a mad ‘breakfast foodie’ so I love to catch up with my girlfriends for Sunday brunches at some of SA cool cafes like Nutrition Republic, or 94West.
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Love, Jess x