We all have friends who’ve adopted a healthy lifestyle as a defining characteristic of their identity. They like #cleaneating, Nike Frees and telling the world about their smoothie intake. While their tanned, toothy selfies might initially be passed off as a trend, they reflect the most basic principles of an aspirational generation.
We could throw words such as “athleisure” and “sports luxe” around, but in Sydney these styles feed back into our culture in a big way. With this in mind we caught up with Deborah Symond. Her online e-commerce platform, Mode Sportif, is playing to a market obsessed with projecting a healthy image. The multifaceted website mixes sports bras and sneakers with luxury garments to create an athletic look designed for everyday wear.
Twenty-six-year-old Symond is petite with a wave of blonde hair swept to one side of her face and a cool, understated style that makes her day-to-day life seem like a holiday. On first impression you might place her in the ranks of fashion bloggers, but as she takes a break from her work trip in London to chat, her fast-working mind for business emerges.
“I have always worked in fashion and loved the industry– retail in particular,” says Symond, who’s come a long way since her first gig on the sales floor at Bettina Liano. The daughter of Aussie Home Loans founder, John Symond, she’s inherited the crackling ambition required to start a company from the ground up. “Owning my own business has been an incredible learning experience, and it is safe to say I learn something new every single day.”
Symond currently runs Mode Sportif out of her fittingly monochromatic office in Surry Hills with a team of designers and brand and e-commerce experts. “I am a strong believer in an inspirational and fun working environment,” she says, explaining the laid-back attitude we noticed first off.
The idea for Mode Sportif i initially came from Symond’s active lifestyle. “I live (and have lived) in ’mode sportif’ or 'sports mode’ for some time now,” she says. “I started seeing more and more people opting to wear sneakers, mixing activewear and basics and yet there was nowhere to shop these pieces in one place or to further explore the style.” Symond recognised the potential for a website that could market designer bodysuits, capes and backpacks as athletic wear– giving what’s trendy the impression of practicality.
The words active, luxe, leisurewear and a series of shoppable shoots sit on Mode Sportif’s home page, reflecting the site’s sleek combination of streetwear and high-fashion labels. Symond spent two years developing this aesthetic via an Instagram account and blog before launching the website in 2014. “I took time to focus on our branding, research our audience and partner with the best designers from around the world,” she explains. This research and social-media audience helped her to create the “sportif world” that sits at the intersection of leisurewear, activewear, health and wellbeing.
Mode Sportif’s edit includes luxury labels such as Etre Cecile and Maison Martin Margiela and sportswear brands VPL and Adidas Originals. A.L.C jumpsuits, Jac+ Jack knitted sweaters, Adidas slides and Frends headphones are just a few of the products available on the site. All of which you can of course wear to the gym – that is if you don’t mind sweating in an $800 jumpsuit. “One part fashion, one part performance,” with “an underpinning of luxury, quality and wearability,” is how Symond sums up the selection criteria for the site. “It is the mix of emerging designers such as Full Court from NYC and Olympia Activewear from Los Angeles with high-fashion brands such as Valentino and 3.1 Phillip Lim that define the Mode Sportif style.”
While the site’s curation is impressive, you’d be wrong to assume that Mode Sportif is a run-of-the-mill online store. The shoots mentioned earlier are just one element of this editorial- and service-focused, multi-platform site. “With Mode Services I want to give every customer on Mode the opportunity to get exceptional service,” says Symond. This feature includes how-tos, style guides, information on sizing and even personal styling via Skype.
The Mode Services section sits beside the Mode Society page, which has the appearance of an independent website with a series of polished images that link to original health articles, buyers’ picks, travel edits and street- style galleries. “Written content on trends, lifestyle and product is integrated with social channels and visuals to deliver a mix of content that goes beyond a ’product’ or simply making a purchase,” explains Symond. This means the site can build a community through photo sharing and via linking style to topics of health.
Signing off from London, after spending the week introducing Mode Sportif to a fitness- focused audience there, Symond says she is excited to be connecting to a worldwide community by appealing not only to style but a lifestyle.