Founder of Exoticathletica, an Australian clothing company specialising in active, swim and street wear for every type of woman, Leilani Chandler, is turning the active wear industry upside down. Considering herself curvy, Leilani became fed up trying to find active wear that suited her voluptuous figure, so she set about creating her own range of active wear for women of all shapes and sizes.
Exoticathletica is a thriving fast growing business which sells products throughout Australia and across the world to women seeking innovative active wear that celebrates their body, not makes them feel unworthy. So successful is the brand, that Leilani and her team launch new fashion ranges every few months.
'I created Exoticathletica.com to provide all women with the opportunity to get out and enjoy their body and their life with active wear that looks great and feels great," Ms Chandler said.
'Active wear isn't just for size eights, it should be available for all women, regardless of their size or shape.
'The reason we are so successful is that:
We design and make active wear for real women,
Our designs are bold and creative and they deliver a sense of fun and confidence. The focus isn't on body shape, it's on the unique patterns;
Our styles suit all body types and we even offer customisation options; and
We encourage women to love the skin they are in – and get out and get active."
Based on the Queensland Sunshine Coast, Exoticathletica.com has evolved into one of Australia's fashion success stories. While the fabrics are imported, the design and manufacturing all takes place on Australian soil in her sun soaked Noosa headquarters.
'I want women to know that it doesn't matter what size or shape they are, they should be enjoying their body and getting out and being active – whether going for a walk, doing some yoga, or going to the gym.
'Size Large is our most popular size. Not only do we make active wear for women, we also make sets for mothers and daughters, so women can exercise with their kids as well.
'I'd like to think that we are turning the active wear industry on its head. We are changing the rules and letting women know that it doesn't matter what you look like on the outside, it is all about how you feel on the onside – and exercise makes us feel better. It releases endorphins. Plus we feel better about ourselves when we are active.
'That's why when you arrive at our website, you'll see real women showcasing our active wear.
'Our brand is about empowerment. Our message is simple, we want to encourage every woman to feel more empowered in herself inside and outside.
Question: What is Exoticathletica?
Leilani Chandler: Exoticathletica is Australia's fastest growing active wear brand for women of all shapes and sizes. Our brand celebrates the beauty and strength of women, inside and out, and encourages all women to get out and be active. Exoticathletica designs and produces innovative active wear, swim wear, urban wear and skin products for all women.
Question: Why did you name the brand, Exoticathletica?
Leilani Chandler: Our brand recognises and celebrates the inner exotic beauty of all women and supports them to get active through thoughtful, well designed and well-made active wear.
Question: What was missing in active wear that motivated you to create your own?
Leilani Chandler: I am not a size 6 and I am not a stick figure. I am a real woman with curves and a unique figure and I found it difficult to find active wear because everything was made for skinny girls and unrealistic figures. Frustrated and fed up, I decided to design and create my own range of active wear to celebrate women and all of our different shapes and sizes - to encourage women to get out and get active, rather than feel dejected.
Question: How is your brand different to those already on the market?
Leilani Chandler: Exoticathletica is designed for women of all shapes and sizes. We actively design and produce new designs every few months to give women new and fresh options. In addition to our base range of sizes, we also custom make our active wear to suit the specific needs of women. We also cater for women at all stages of their life. For example we offer 'mum and daughter' ranges so mums and kids can mix and match their active wear. This also gets girls feeling active from a young age which encourages confidence and good health and wellbeing throughout their life. Whether you are a gym queen, a professional athlete or a casual weekend walker, we have styles and products for every woman.
We also offer a two types fabrics: Performance and Body Contouring, so you can tailor your active wear to your specific needs. Performance is designed to hold you in and smooth out all of those lumps and bumps whilst Body Contouring is soft, free and designed to move with you.
We wanted to offer this as we understand that every woman sometimes needs different things from their clothes each day, so one type of tight doesn't cut it. We basically made our brand to suit every woman – that's the best part about buying active wear made by women: we know what you need, because we want it too!
Question: What did you learn about yourself whilst developing Exoticathletica?
Leilani Chandler: I learned that I can do anything. When I started my brand, I went through a very difficult personal challenge. I found myself starting a new business as a single mum of a young daughter. My brand has helped me to realise that regardless of what happens to you in life, you can get through anything and achieve anything you want as long as you stay focused and determined.
Question: What type of exercise is Exoticathletica designed for?
Leilani Chandler: Our brand is made for all types of exercises and all types of activity. Regardless of where you are at in life, we have a range for everyone and styles to suite any figure type.
All of our items are designed to move with you, rather than against you – so they are fully squat proof! We understand that women want quality, support and active wear that empowers them to move rather than makes them insecure. So we use high quality materials and put love and care into each piece, no one wants to be worried about adjusting your tights when you're working out.
Question: Can you share with us, what a typical day in the life of you, is like?
Leilani Chandler: Every day is busy. As a national business which is now expanding overseas, and a mum with a young daughter, my day starts with ensuring my daughter is up and having a healthy breakfast. I then head into the office to meet with my team and work through orders, issues and ideas. My team and I are strongly focused on ensuring that we constantly evolve and develop new ideas for products, campaigns and brand promotion on a weekly basis. We meet regularly to ensure all aspects of our operations are clicking over like clockwork. I made the decision this year to invest in manufacturing equipment on site which enables us to manufacture and make to order custom designs for women all over the world - on a just in time basis. I am proud of the fact we manufacture our products in Australia.
In the afternoon, I spend time with my daughter and then arrange dinner and get her off to bed. At night, I catch up with emails and also brainstorm ideas. I am constantly thinking about the business and ideas for new product ranges, etc. I also try and get some exercise in where ever I can - but it can be challenging to do this given how busy I am - but I always focus on making time.
Question: Which is your favourite product in the current range?
Leilani Chandler: I love all of our ranges and products - so I couldn't pick one. I do love wearing the high waisted leggings. They are incredibly comfortable and great to exercise in.
Question: Do you have a morning ritual? Can you share your morning routine, with us?
Leilani Chandler: Normally I'm up around 3am to get going on work! The early start allows me to get ahead before my little girl rises and Mummy duty begins for the morning. From there I make sure myself and my daughter is having a healthy breakfast and is ready for the day before heading into the office. So I understand the pressures of morning routines, particularly for parents!
Interview by Brooke Hunter