As the creative driving force and founder of Sweaty Betty, Tamara Hill-Norton is the epitome of an inspirational female role model. Designed to “inspire women to find empowerment through fitness”, there is so much more to Sweaty Betty than flattering yoga trousers and high-performance cycle kits; there is a defiantly feminist and supportive streak, which we were keen to talk about with Tamara. She was kind enough to participate in an interview and we dare you to not be reaching for your faithful trainers by the end!
You state your purpose as being “to inspire women to find empowerment through fitness”. Why do you think so many women are reluctant to embark on a fitness regime?
I would say that one of the main obstacles is probably finding time in today’s busy lifestyle. It’s really difficult balancing family life, work life and personal time. That’s why I try to make my workout part of my everyday schedule. I cycle to work and I make sure to always have my gym kit with me so I don’t waste any time.
I also think it’s a bit scary to start any type of workout or go to a class alone, at first. That’s why I love the fact that working out has become more of a social experience and you often see girls trying out a new class together and then going for a drink.
Do you think there is a tangible link between looking good and feeling good or should we be focusing on feeling good first?
There’s definitely a tangible link between the two, I would even say they depend on each other.
It’s also proven that the endorphins produced while working out will trigger a positive feeling in the body and also reduces stress. You definitely get hooked on that après workout feeling.
When was your eureka moment? Please say it was while working out in something baggy and unflattering!
In my early twenties I was a buying assistant at Knickerbox and we started to do a little bit of sportswear. I was buying that in the north of England when I came across a brand that was just starting out, called USA Pro. I’d never seen anything like it. It was all bright colours and designed just for women. It wasn’t designed for men and then transformed for women, which was what the market generally offered at the time.
I discovered some other amazing female sportswear brands, mainly Scandinavian and Italian, but no one was selling them on the high street. So, then, I said, “Right, this is a proper gap in the market.” The company went bust shortly afterwards and it was then that I was like, ‘now is the time to do it’.
What do you say to people who think that wearing attractive clothing to exercise in is vanity gone mad?
I would say they’re wrong. Why should women exercise while feeling unstylish or unfeminine when men have clothes that flatter their bodies? It’s important to exercise while feeling confident and cool so you can then push yourself harder. Picking an active wear wardrobe is as important as your everyday clothes.
The sports you particularly cater for cover a full spectrum of mental and physical wellbeing, was this intentional or have you identified and even created trends that were not there previously?
I have always been very sporty and love doing a bit of everything. We’ve always been a multi-sport brand as I wanted to reach out to women who had an active lifestyle. Whether yoga, skiing, swimming or running, I wanted to provide products that could be part of every woman’s wardrobe and hobbies.
The name ‘Sweaty Betty’ is fabulous. It allows us to make light of a natural process that many women feel embarrassed about. Where did your inspiration come from?
Again our brand is all about empowering women through fitness and make them confident while they’re training. It’s about helping women through their fitness journey and help embracing their fears. For every women not only athletes so we wanted our name to resonate with achievability.
You have a fairly inclusive size range, but if the national average continues to increase, would you consider catering for larger ladies who want to look good while they get fit?
Our mantra is to empower women through fitness and to help every women in their journey to getting fit. We definitely keep an eye on national average sizes and make sure that our clothes fit and flatter, whatever your size may be.
I was initially hesitant to look at your range because it is so popular, aesthetically, with celebrities, but having bought some running tights and a chill resistant top for my triathlon training, they are the best items I have ever owned, from a technical perspective. Do you treat aesthetics and performance as equally important?
Yes definitely, this has always been our strategy. We wanted to create a line that is 100% dedicated to and inspired by modern women and that will make them stand out while they exercise looking cool, feeling amazing and performing to the highest standards. Our ranges mixes feminine fit and highly technical fabrics like no one else.
We use fabulous high performance materials with high performance fit – our customers expect that from us. Plus, our designs and inspiration change each season, which makes our collections original and exclusive.
Your get fit 4 free events are a great idea, what inspired them? Do you see a lot of people who are new to fitness giving them a go?
We wanted to give back to our customers in a bigger way than just our free in-store classes. We want to offer more than just fitness, something of a whole wellness package where we collaborate with experts in relevant industries (nutrition, meditation, health) to bring something different to our customer.
We see a younger crowd attending these classes, which is great as we love to convert women to an active lifestyle at a earlier stage of their lives.
You seem to shy away from the standard pink for ladies fitness clothing, is that a deliberate choice and if so why?
Definitely, we want our collection to be more original and more of a statement that just a feminine colour. Our designers create new designs for each season and they get inspired on holiday, or on their way to work, really anything will get their creativity going. For example this SS15 season called ‘Social Butterfly’ was inspired while I was running in the countryside. It was a summer evening and I got inspired by the dragonflies flying over the river and by nature’s seasonal transformation. Unlike this season, our next AW15 collection will reflect a much more urban scenery.
So there you have it ladies, a fitness clothing company just for us that understands our bodies, mentalities and insecurities. How refreshing to hear about a large organisation that has never lost sight of the people they set out to cater for and continues to introduce new initiatives to bring about positive change.
To find out more about the wonderful Sweaty Betty ranges available, visit their website, here.