Written by Emily Coogan https://www.emilycoogan.com.au/
HOW TWO FRIENDS TURNED PASSION INTO PRODUCT.
Have you ever wondered what it takes to run a cult-favourite activewear label? Well, I have - it turns out it’s equal parts grit, innovation and compassion.
This creative recipe has been mastered by none other than best friends and business owners, Paris-Rose Paterson and Samantha Fulton-Kennedy. These two intrepid women helm Gold Coast-based activewear brand Paris & I, an ode to the sport of inclusive style.
As I sit here writing this piece, I’m wearing my all-time favourite navy-hued Paris & I set, which never seems to make it back to my wardrobe as I wear, wash, repeat. Despite being a former self-proclaimed activewear connoisseur, it has dawned on me that I haven’t reached for any other brand in months and there are so many reasons why.
It’s rare to find clothing designed and manufactured in Australia, despite our masses of creative talent and resources. This proved no obstacle for the fervent Paris & I team, proudly producing their entire range in sunny Brisbane.
Local production means reduced transit, adequate workplace standards and increased control over the finished product, making it a sage decision for those wishing to shop more sustainably while also supporting a small, women-owned business.
“We’re really passionate about what we do and have spent hours pondering over every single product to ensure it meets every little requirement we have for quality activewear,” said Sammy.
Having trialled and tested fabric to the nth degree, Paris and Sammy refined their buttery soft textile to meet and exceed their community’s needs. From there, the dynamic duo considered and reconsidered every seam placement, stitch style, length, strap width and fit detail to produce a garment that works with the human form.
Between their vibrant colour palette and versatile range of garments, Paris & I checks all the boxes, the Australian-made title like a cherry on top.
Since reaching a zeitgeist-level of cultural acclaim (remember this video?), activewear has been subjected to the rigid aesthetic confines of healthy bodies. Rather than playing into this questionable idea, Paris & I have busied themselves carving out spaces for the rest of us.
“We haven’t created a brand, we’ve created a conversation,” said Paris, summarising their brand more succinctly than I ever could.
Paris and Sammy refuse to downplay the importance of representation, recognising that there is no one image of what it means to be ‘fit’. The fashion and fitness industries overlook vast groups of people, reinforcing traditional ideals and body standards.
“Activewear shouldn’t be exclusionary; it shouldn’t be just for people who fit a traditional brief of what it means to be in shape. That phrase should be defined by whatever that means, looks and feels like to each unique person,” Sammy added.
This ethos is reflected in their most recent campaign, which feels less like a campaign and more like a celebration of womanhood. The gorgeous campaign imagery showcases a range of bodies and abilities in such a way that you can almost hear the laughter from the other side of the camera. Each shot is imbued with a sense of certainty and belonging that tugs at my heart strings like no activewear brand has done before. Gone are the days of feeling uncomfortable purchasing activewear, a notion happily farewelled by Paris & I.
BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL
If there’s one thing I can guarantee, it’s that you’ll get to know the faces of Paris and Sammy like they’re your own friends.
The pair chat to their customers and fans as casually as we would our siblings, consistently putting their community front and centre in all they do and taking to their private Facebook group for product reviews, market research, and more.
“We are big believers in the power of community, and we use our brand as a way to bring people together,” said Paris.
A brand more supportive than their most supportive sports bra, Paris & I have created and continue to facilitate a space for people to connect to their most natural selves.
Even as someone who consumes an endless train of fashion media, it's been so long since I've felt truly seen and understood by a brand. The inimitable quality of each product aside, there's something truly special about the way this brand fosters and celebrates its community. I'm usually wary about buying into the 'lifestyles' advertised by various labels but I think that's the beauty of Paris & I - so much of the customer experience is adaptable to our own stories.
Changing the activewear game is no easy feat, and I’m so glad Paris and Sammy have been the two women to take on the challenge.
With Love, Emily Coogan