Start 2023 as you mean to go on, by supporting the brilliant Black entrepreneurs trying to make the fitness industry more inclusive, writes Kayleigh Benoit.
On my Instagram stories, I asked my followers if any of them could name five UK Black-owned fitness brands. The vast majority voted ‘no’.
The UK is brimming with UK Black entrepreneurs (businesses owned by ethnic-minority entrepreneurs contributed £74 billion to the UK economy in 2021), with more stepping into the fitness and wellness space. The industry still greatly lacks inclusivity and representation which is an ongoing discussion. It’s no real surprise to read Sport England’s statistics on the fact that Black and South Asian adults get the least exercise of any ethnic groups.
Over in the US, around 40% of Black women refrain from exercise due to concerns over haircare, and although the stats are unknown for the UK, hair is a common barrier within our community. It’s not just our physical health that’s risked by not having access to the appropriate tools, clothes and products; we know how powerful physical activity can be for good mental health. Miss out on movement and you miss out on the chance to build confidence, self-esteem and more.
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As such, it’s imperative that women from all backgrounds have the opportunity to incorporate exercise as part of their self-care regime. Having more Black labels is just one step to breaking down those barriers.
It’s all too easy to buy your gym kit from a super visible label; the more fitness and wellness become aspirational, the more people want to be seen wearing certain brands. But supporting a Black-owned business means being an active ally in creating a more level playing field for Black entrepreneurs to compete with those bigger, often unrepresentative companies.
With that in mind, we’ve gathered our favourite UK Black-owned fitness brands to help you kick off 2023 in the most endorphin-packed way possible.
Founded by Mark Agyakwa, Y-Fit Wear is a premium sportswear brand that promises to champion diversity and representation of all cultures.
The ‘Y’ represents the ‘why’ behind goals and fitness ambition, and while the brand’s super cosy, neutral tracksuits are perfect for hunkering down on the sofa during the winter, it’s probably best known for its incredible tech socks.
Check out Y-Fit Wear
Soul Cap’s mission is ‘Swim For All’ – made possible by the fact that their swim caps are purposely designed to fit all hair types. Founded by Toks Ahmed-Salawudeen and Michael Chapman, the brand uses swim caps to highlight a deeper narrative, which is to break down the social barriers to encourage more people of colour to swim.
You might remember that the International Swimming Federation briefly tried to ban swimmers from wearing Soul Cap at the Tokyo Olympics – a decision quickly lambasted as racist.
Check out Soul Cap
A high fashion sportswear brand specialising in inclusive headwear to protect against sweat, heat and moisture for all hair types and textures, BIND London currently has a five-piece collection comprising of a sweat-wicking headband, headscarf, headwrap, hijab and durag.
Its mission is to promote inclusivity in the fitness and wellness space by smashing the one barrier so many women struggle with when it comes to working up a sweat: hair hygiene.
Check out BIND London
LAPP The Brand
LAPP is model Leomie Anderson’s brand. Sales of her sportswear contribute towards the running of LAPP Magazine, a site covering everything from politics and perspectives to culture and fashion.
After more high-fashion pieces for the days when you’ve got a meeting at 3pm but a spin class at 5? This is the place to find those seamless fits, body contour sets and body art vests.
Check out Lapp the Brand
Two Three Active
Two Three Active was founded by sisters Stefanie and Naomi, who took to fitness as a way of dealing with depression and hypothyroidism. While on their fitness journeys, they found it impossible to find good quality leggings or sports bras that didn’t cost the earth.
The brand claims to offer a collection of “100% squat-proof, sculpting workout staples that support your body”. The goal? Affordable gym kit that doesn’t sacrifice on quality, craftsmanship or design.
Check out Two Three Active
The Gym Kitchen
Fitness isn’t just about what you wear but how you fuel yourself, and The Gym Kitchen aims to make hitting protein goals easier.
Founder Segun Akinwoleola says that his inspiration came from growing up in east London – back when it was riled with “gangs, riots and poverty”. The one place Akinwoleola and his friends could have fun was the gym – and that start eventually led him to found The Gym Kitchen range of meals, which is now stocked in Tesco, Asda, Co-op and Morrisons.
Check out The Gym Kitchen
Influencer Dami Howells founded her eponymous brand in 2018, and since then she’s relentlessly represented Black women in fitness.
Her mission is to use gym wear to encourage all of us to live a more active lifestyle. You’ll find functional yet fashionable sets and collections tailored to specific activities like track, flex and sculpt.
Check out Dami How
This sportswear and accessories brand puts mental strength front and centre of its values. As well as running this business, founder Shazia Hossen is a London-based PT and online coach, as well as an events organiser and headwrap stylist.
She’s busy disrupting the fitness sphere by building a label and space for women of all abilities, shapes, ethnicities and classes. Check out her range of loop bands and liquid chalk – perfect for anyone who has strength training on their 2023 goal list.
Check out Shathletics
Images: courtesy of brands
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