By Vianca Gamboa
Two friends had the idea of changing women’s outlooks when it comes to their health, hobbies, and eventually, changing their lifestyle. Their solution? Address our hypercritical, body-shaming society by giving them a chance to work out in nice gym clothes.
For Nikki Nabong and Regina Escolin, their friendship, which went way back kindergarten, was a testament that women needed other women for support, proven during their trying times where they had to fight some hundred pounds of extra, unwanted fat.
But it’s good to know that their intention to start losing weight wasn’t really born out of prejudice and distorted body positivity, but in the pursuit to be healthier.
Over a year ago, Nikki, unhappy with the nature of her work in a bank, quit her job to live a more active lifestyle. “Being in an industry that makes you sit all day also guarantees that you will eat all day (laughs),” she said. “So I eventually ate and ate until I gained a lot of weight.”
The same went for Regina, who had to juggle both her small-time marble accessory business and her job as a single mom. She was later diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes that she even decided to get insurance for her kids just in case something happens to her.
“Hypertension runs in the family, and its risk factors affect those who are overweight. I started putting off a lot of work and focused on working out because I had to turn it around for my family.”
They were reunited again over a cup of coffee on a hole-in-the-wall opposite a gym, where they brainstormed about the next big steps to their health progress, hence the impetus to start their own business, Estella Athletica, an athletic wear for fearless women.
The brand got its name from the owners’ ultimate role model, Nikki’s mom Estella, who, at 87, still attends zumba sessions as well as Estella Athletica’s fitness programs. According to her, “moving your body” and eating healthy are the simple keys to vitality.
Estella Athletica’s fit wear is not your boring, run-of-the-mill 10 percent spandex that only comes in black and green and feels icky on the skin the moment you start working out.
Its collection features seamless fit, quick dry spandex cotton with supportive pads for some comfortable performance while breaking a sweat, and the most stylish designs that hug the curves in colors like mauve, rust, and teal. It has all your athletic wear needs—leggings, sports bras, and cycling shorts, but one of its bestsellers is the Anna mesh top, a cropped, 3/4 sleeved nylon top with intricate stencil details in the front and back.
Who better channel the brand’s women-kicking-ass spirit and its exclusive designs than its “role models” who exude realistic body image with cellulites and love handles and stretch marks and all?
These brave women can be seen all throughout its Facebook and Instagram accounts telling personal stories of change through the brand’s #rolemodelsnotjustmodelscampaign. According to Regina, the brand tries to focus on the people who may not be athletic but need extra push. “We ask them all sorts of questions about their body to really get to know them and personalize their needs. It’s not just about wanting to look good or pushing them to live healthier lives, it is also about support and love within our community.”
One would think that running a business supporting active lifestyle is, just that, a business, or a marketing strategy to lure a flock of titas of Manila, but women empowerment is one thing that’s really close to their hearts. “Pursuing a business always starts with passion,” Nikki said. “I realized that if you do business with passion, it’s not all about money, and it really lasts. Although you earn a lot because of the passion that you have, what’s important is the feeling you get when you achieve the goal of the company. For us, that is to empower women.”
Regina added, “We thought about how we could get women to act on their most pressing concerns, and I realized that it in this age, you need someone who understands and who’s going through the same pain, to make change a lot easier.”
Although EstellaAthletica’s athleisure and support programs mostly appealto women in their 40s, the younger ones, who mostly buy from the store, join the community, too. “It’s surprising that a lot of Millennials also come to us. In that way, we can really say that we’re bridging the gap between the younger ones and passion for their health, at a young age. Not only do they find our fit wear stylish, but it also gives them confidence especially when they hit the gym—our main purpose, the perfect reason to appreciate our stuff.”
They make sure that no one gets left behind, even transgender women or members of the LGBT.
“From our own experience, we realized that plus-size women need to be inspired more because it takes a lot of courage and hard work to achieve a fit body, let alone getting yourself out from an unhealthy routine,” Regina said. “This is also the biggest challenge for members of the LGBT community who are struggling and fighting the most. They should know that our community welcomes everyone who needs support, regardless of gender. Also, we don’t want our clothes to be too expensive because health maintenance is already expensive.”
EstellaAthletica.com/collections | Instagram and Facebook: @EstellaAthletica