As part of our founder interview series, we speak with Lilly from League Collective about starting a sustainable activewear company that doesn't compromise on performance.
What were you doing before launching League Collective and what inspired you to create your own label?
I left school at 16 and moved to London with dreams of becoming a fashion designer. I immersed myself in fashion and did lots of internships with dress designers and hat makers, where I learnt the art of pattern cutting, dressmaking and millinery, and began taking on commissions. I am in the midst of making a wedding dress for someone. I also became a yoga teacher, which made me transfer my knowledge to sportswear.
As a designer, why did you choose to focus on activewear in particular?
When I first became a yoga teacher, now 7 years ago, and realising how uncreative sportswear for women was, as well as how quickly everything broke, I wanted to create clothing that lasted longer than the average pair of leggings, that was made from sustainable fabrics, and essentially, did the job better, as well as taking into account the cut and shape of the clothing itself - bringing in shapes and curves that move with the contours of the body.
What is the story behind the name “League Collective”?
Each item was designed to achieve more than just one sport, more than one activity. I also wanted each garment to withstand time and last longer, making them in a league of their own, whilst encompassing all activities, making each item achieve a collection of activities. My roots have always been in building a community of like-minded people who hope to strive for better, or new heights, which then gave me the name League Collective.
What makes League Collective fabrics so great, and what is your favourite feature of the collection?
I wanted to use incredibly technical fabrics to make sure the clothes did the job. When I found my fabric suppliers, they had just launched their whole new range of Green Soul Recycled fabrics, to the same standard as their non recycled fabrics, with all the same levels of performance. The equivalent, non recycled fabric is used by technical cycling brands such as Rapha.
The growing concept of Ethical fashion can be quite difficult to define. What does ‘ethical fashion’ mean to you?
For me it encompasses the whole journey, from source to customer. Knowing that where the fabric is sourced how it was made was fair, to the people constructing the garments being fairly paid, to the way the garments are looked after by the customer. I think this part is super important. Educating people on looking after their clothes creates sentimental values around the garments we buy, giving us more gratitude towards the things we own and just what it took to make them.
Why was it important for you to create League Collective with sustainability in mind, and how do you try and incorporate sustainability throughout your collection?
Being a designer, in no matter what form, is destructive to our environment, unless we can find a sustainable way of doing it. This planet was perfect as it was before we came along and began creating, so unless you can create something in a way that is sustainable and closes the loop between creation and sustainability, then I don’t think it is worth creating at all.
Where do you get your inspiration, and who do you envision wearing your brand?
I get my inspiration from meaningful moments and things that happen to me. Memories that stick, or art that is imprinted in my mind. I envisage everyone wearing my brand! However, if that was the case I would have to produce way more garments!
What is your favourite type of workout, and which League Collective piece are we most likely to find you in?
I love running, and of course yoga. I can normally be found in leggings and a sports bra, and I throw on the hoodie whenever I’m rushing out the door. Come summer, you will find me in the multipurpose cycling shorts every day, as I cycle to teach all across London. I also did an Ultra marathon in them in January, and took out the removable bike pad. Probably the comfiest thing I have ever been running in.
What has been the most surprising part of setting up your own business, and what advice would you give other aspiring fashion entrepreneurs?
The most surprising part for me has been the belief others have in me to achieve my goal. I feel I started this brand way before it’s time, and it’s only now that all the hard work I did is paying off, and people are now asking to feature my brand and want to talk about it. When working alone to create something you hope will be expansive and touch so many people, you are constantly met with feelings of doubt. My advice to anyone starting out would be to remember that, as cliche as it sounds, every failure or obstacle really is a huge lesson and gateway to the next huge step forward or achievement. Always trust your gut, believe in yourself, and never take no for an answer. You need some serious F***ing Will power, and a constant reminder of the bigger picture as to why you are doing it. And when you have that, anything is possible.
How would you like to see League Collective grow in the future?
I would love to be able to create more immersive events for the brand and start building a community. Help people find solutions for living more sustainably instead of just creating awareness of the issues of pollution. There is so much we can do to create change, instead of just screaming about the problem the whole time.