What's the story behind the world's most stylish gym bags? First up, some background on the founders:
Helena: An adopted Scot, lives in London
Likes - Her husband, the gym, flowers/gardening, dogs, Scotland
Dislikes - Copycats, arrogance, sweetcorn, small minds
Nicola: Lives on the Essex Coast with her their two children and her rescue staffy, Alfie Moon
Likes - Walks by the sea, anything art Deco, architecture, squats, cartoons, dogs, prosecco
Dislikes - Being underestimated, being short, back to back training sessions
What were you both doing before Fact + Fiction?
Helena: I was working in corporate and FMCG PR/sponsorship. I've always been really driven and knew that I wanted to work for myself at some point. I had the idea for GymTote back in 2012 - lugging around ugly, messy gym bags full of plastic bags to my meetings just wasn't working for me. I actually pulled a sweaty sports bra out in front of a client one day and I just knew there was a better way. I started researching designers and when I met Nicola in early 2013, we just clicked. GymTote wouldn't be where it is today without her experience and vision.
Nicola: I'd been working as a designer in the fashion industry for years. After having children I set up my consultancy in search of a better work life balance, I worked on some amazing projects from building start ups from scratch, to working with U.S Aid on manufacturing improvement programmes in developing countries. When I met Helena, I knew that she was on to something and wanted to be part of the GymTote journey. Her strength and positivity amazes me everyday, I couldn't imagine having a better business partner. I closed the consultancy and the rest is history!
What was the process of starting the brand like?
Nicola: The first thing I did was jump on a plane to go and secure our factory bases. Your relationship with your manufacturer is one of the most important elements in building a brand; I knew exactly who I wanted to work with and luckily, they immediately agreed to work with us. From a design perspective, we did A LOT of research and development, it was 18 months before we hit the market. We were creating something totally unique and wanted it to be perfect. Of course, we're continually improving our range and designs - its not a dead-end process, and there is always more work to be done! If you’re fashion conscious and like the gym, or have to commute to work before or after you hit your favourite class, the range of options available to you is pretty limited – use a rucksack, carry two bags, or stuff all your gym kit into one large, smart tote. Our range really works for women and we get lovely emails saying how we've changed people's lives!
Helena: Financially it was tough - we couldn't (and wouldn't have wanted to) draw on a city bonus, rich parents or crowdfunding - but we made it work. We put a lot of effort into making sure our business was sustainable before we looked at growing or expanding, and we really concentrated on differentiating ourselves from other brands out there by offering a unique product that solved problems for a lot of women! If anyone can take anything from our business, its that anyone can create a successful brand or business - you just need dedication, a bit of flair, and a (new) idea.
What's next for the brand?
Helena: We've just re-branded from GymTote to Fact + Fiction to appeal to a wider customer base. We've really focused on expanding our brand and range, especially our laptop bags for women.
Nicola: The re-brand came about because we found that so many women were using our bags as more than gym bag or gym totes, especially mums and laptop carriers! We've just updated our best-selling styles with new colour options, as well as adding further new designs later in the year.
Looking for a multi functional women's bag that can do it all in style? Our range of organiser backpacks and handbags for women make the perfect gym bag with shoe compartment, stylish baby changing bag or the ultimate women's laptop bag. Shop our range of vegan handbags and backpacks to find your fave!