Aussie activewear takes over the world

Home grown athleisure brands are killing it overseas. Kelli Armstrong worked with our fashion editor Nicole Adolphe to pick the top 5 skyrocketing Aussie brands.

The boutique fitness boom has given sportswear an edge, turning performance wear into an everyday aesthete. The global phenomenon that has us proudly parading from studio to street in our sweat threads has also been a launching pad for Aussie athleisure designers. These are fashion editor Nicole Adolphe’s favourites — and she’s not alone, these designers have fans in every corner of the fitness globe.

P.E Nation

Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning have attracted a cult following with their breakout label loved by workout warriors on an interstellar level. The bold label came about when the two friends recognised an opportunity to create a multi-faceted active brand that would sweep the market, and meet the needs of their on-the-go lifestyles as mothers, creatives and fitness and fashion lovers.

The functional performance wear effortlessly transcends urban streetwear and retro-inspired detailing, and is loved by Nicole, who calls it athleisure gear at its coolest.

“I think of it as a fashion label with a sports edge rather than a fitness brand. The logo crop and colour block leggings are hero pieces that every girl needs, and I love their take on jeans with a sporty stripe which is perfect for after the gym,” she says.

In just two years the brand has amassed 93k Instagram followers and has shipped to more than 95 countries. It’s a celebrity favourite with the Kardashians, Ruby Rose and Cara Delevingne.

“P.E Nation was inspired by our own lifestyles,” says Edwards. “Claire and I are both busy mothers juggling work and home life — and everything in between — and we wanted something comfortable and stylish with a real street feel to wear for our day to day. Our designs resonate with our customers because we understand who they are and what they want so well — we are them too.”

Nicole loves: Every girl needs the staples — go for the logo crop and colour block leggings to start your collection. Post-workout slip into a pair of jeans with a sporty stripe highlight. Guys, the sleeveless tees and hoodies are my pick.

Wear to workout: Zumba, BodyJam, boxing, cardio sessions and outdoor workouts where juice and coffee kick on afterwards.

The Upside

Founded by Jodhi Meares (the former swimwear model who also designed Tigerlily), The Upside made an instant impact on the active lifestyle market with its pieces that blur the line between work and play. Initially sold online when it launched in 2013, the must-have activewear brand now boasts three stores in Sydney and is stocked globally by big-name retailers. Devotees are notorious for decking themselves out head-to-toe in the brand for class-to-café days.

“We’re always looking at new fabrics that enhance the experience of wearing The Upside, while ensuring we give every piece a fashion edge,” Meares tells Fitness First mag. “Our customers look to us for the right recipe of fashion and function. We also weave a good bit of humour into everything we do. Life’s too short to take it all too seriously. Balance is what makes our brand.”

Having launched Upside Man last year, Meares says to expect big things in 2018 too. Talk about a takeover! What we do know is that the Autumn/Winter 18 collection features notes of retro with bold logos, primary colours and a playful spirit. As for Jodhi’s go-to pieces: “My personal faves are the 80s-inspired logo sport pant, the matching Anna bra and the new Sal knit jacket.”

Nicole loves: The Upside is your go-to for colour with matching crop tops and pants that they update with want-now prints every few months. And they’ve made wearing a logo tee cool again. Menswear delivers interesting cuts and featured panelling or colour blocking. Guys, go for khaki, navy, charcoal and their palm print.

Wear to workout: Stand out at what you’re good at — Zumba, Spin, BodyCombat.


Another Bondi-born label that’s one of the coolest in class. Part polish, part performance, Nimble was created by Vera Yan and Kate Santilli to help women get moving, active and healthy while feeling comfortable and stylish. Nicole praises their use of masterful fabrics with four-way opaque stretch that wick away moisture through the toughest of workouts. “Nimble masters the understated print for when you prefer darker tights but don’t want to just wear boring black,” says Nicole, speaking of the brand’s Take Flight collection.

“We wanted to create beautiful but truly technical sportswear that we were searching for as consumers ourselves,” says Yan. “We dedicate an incredible amount of our own time and resources into the custom development of our fabrics, as well as the design of our signature prints.”

Nimble has built their success on authenticity and a vision to provide a cross-functional label that feels right to wear at a stretch and burn session and at a post-cardio coffee catch-up.

“Although it’s important to stay up with trends and technology, the focus is internal rather than being distracted by what others in the market are doing,” says Yan. Their strategy is working — their fan base is growing and the girls love seeing people wearing it around the world. “We both still get so excited whenever we see someone in our threads. It really is the best feeling!”

Nicole loves: This season the new black is deeper plum and khaki. Every girl needs a pair of high waisted tights. They’re definitely the most flattering piece this season. And longer line crops you can wear tied up for those upside-down yoga poses.

Wear to workout: Yoga, Pilates, BarreAttack.

First Base

First Base is more than a brand, it’s a lifestyle. Creator Alison Cotton’s laidback coastal Perth upbringing and love of surf and skate culture inspires the slick, sexy and understated collection that has athleisure devotees taking notice.

Since appearing on the sports scene in 2013, the Bondi-born brand opened its first apparel store in Sydney’s Bondi Junction in 2017 and expanded their range to include swimwear this summer. First Base is proudly ethically produced using 100% certified organic cotton and 80% recycled nylon in all of their collections.

Nicole’s taken notice of their signature pieces that she says are sports basics for the gym and beyond. “They’re known for cool slogan tees, mesh tops and laidback styles. First Base is where you go to when you need a cool tee and tights that’s not too loud.”

“I really wanted to create something that had a more pragmatic take on sportswear and that delivered those pieces you could wear on the weekend and to the gym. To be really versatile but also with a point of view that was relaxed and irreverent,” says Cotton, whose go-to pieces are those that can be worked into her everyday routine — the label’s trendy high-waisted leggings, a cropped tee and a slick bomber. “Put all this together and you’ve got a look for the gym and for the street,” she says, adding that her proudest moment has been opening the stand-alone store.

Nicole loves: The limited-edition compression lift tights that keep everything where you want them to be. Team them with a muscle tank you can layer over your crop top.

Wear to workout: HIIT, RPM and Spin, BodyStep, Sculpt.


Nicole describes the Melbourne label as one for those that want to be seen, even if they’re not headed to the gym. “Think fitness gear straight off the runway. A brand that follows the fashion trends with interesting necklines, elastic detailing, panelling, eye-catching colours and prints of the moment.”

Established in 2012 by designer and former athlete Libby Pettit, this luxury sportswear label features quality performance fabrics, directional pieces and exclusive prints.

Already a gym favourite, its cult following on social media showcases their electric mix of fashion and functionality, and has elevated the label to be one of the most coveted activewear brands on the international stage.

Nicole loves: Pick the neutral tones or pinks (they have the best selection this season), and golds, motocross styling with pintuck details, perforated panels and flashy statement pieces.

Wear to workout: BodyJam, Fusion, Cycle. Wear to be seen.