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Aneesha Labroo is the very fit and very driven founder of Kica Active - a homegrown activewear brand that aims to “provide stylish and high quality products at an affordable price point.” What we love about the brand is their approach to active living -- a quick scroll through their Instagram feed includes everything from easy to follow exercise tips to interviews with health and fitness professionals in the country. Kica’s focus is high quality / stylish clothing - but the wider approach incorporates healthy living over passable wellness fads and pseudoscience, which goes into making Kica an authentic homegrown activewear brand we can all get behind.
We chat with Aneesha about Kica and her approach to healthy living.
Tell us about Kica. What was the inspiration / motive behind starting the brand, how was it conceived, the journey thus far?
It was during my time in New York that I saw the surge in fitness and health related trends and behaviours. A city obsessed with being fit, was constantly being fueled by the latest workout fads, activewear brands, and healthy food. There were a large number of stores popping up that were dedicated purely to active wear.
Girls would come to the gym after a long day at work impeccably dressed, and over the weekend you’d often see them in these outfits at brunch, shopping, or just on the streets. This sparked the discussion amongst my friends of how there has been a noticeable shift in people being more aware of their fitness and health in India.
We’d discuss how there is no Indian brand that is capitalising on this movement, and the market is being dominated by international brands that tend to be expensive, and not catered specifically for the Indian customer. The thought that there was a huge opportunity for a good, affordable, Indian activewear clothing brand remained with me when I moved back to Delhi in September 2016.
After conducting a full marketing study on the activewear market and available brands, I identified a gap - stylish and high quality products at an affordable price point. Born out of the need to bridge this gap was Kica.
Any significance behind the name? What differentiates Kica from other fit fashion brands?
While thinking of a name for the brand, I was clear I wanted something that sounded active, energetic, and most importantly resonated with people. Kica fit the part.
At Kica, we focus on superior quality fabric, and a precise fit across our entire range. We have paid special emphasis on fabric, quality, and fit, as we understand that our clothes need to cater to the Indian woman; taking things like climate and body shape into consideration is of utmost importance. There are tons and tons of other brands out there, but we feel strongly about the product we're putting out for our customers.
All members of the team, including our sales girl, play a big role in product development. We get direct information from our customers on what they need and what they are looking for, and we document that information and identify insights and trends from it. Responding quickly to the market needs, is playing to our advantage and we hope that it sets us apart from the rest of the competition out there.
Talk us through the design process for the brand in general, and the new collection 'breathe' in particular.
As mentioned above, a lot of the products we launch are due to a direct need in the market. Our customers come to our store on a daily basis, and ask for specific designs, or tell us what they are looking for. When we see a trend (for example: zip sports bra, or swimwear), we do a bit more digging in to why they are looking for something of this kind, and if we find a promising insight we proceed to sample the product and eventually, make it a part of our collection. Since the day I launched my pop up store in Select Citywalk, we have had customers at least once a day come and ask us for swimwear. Clearly, there seemed to be a lack of good swimsuits out there, and it falling within the umbrella of an "active life", we found it a natural progression to add it to our collection.
'Breathe', our collection that launched earlier this month is a collection of leggings, tees, tracks, bras, and more that allows you to bend, stretch, move, breathe with ease. Lightweight and ultra stretch fabric, mesh detailing, zips for ease of removal, a collection of products that allow you to sweat, bother-free. We included swimsuits, and a burgundy pair of leggings, as two new products, as there was a pretty crazy demand for both. The response we have got so far has been great, and we can't wait to show you what else we have in store!
And what's next for Kica? Where do you see the brand in 5, 10 years from now?
This year is a big year for us. With Amazon and Sports Station going live, we'll get a good idea of how the brand performs in other cities. We hope to spread our reach across India, in small and big cities. Good activewear isn't just about having a pair of clothes to sweat in. It enhances that feeling further. It gives you a tool to transform your life. It gives you the confidence to push boundaries. With kica, I hope to support women, and their personal goals. To help them achieve these goals, and strive for MORE.
We're in the process of finding Brand Ambassadors who believe in our goals and mission, and spread our message to their network. We see huge potential and growth in our brand, and the next few years will be critical for us.
Fitness is obviously important to you. When and how did you get into fitness? Tell us about your own fitness / wellness routine - what do you do to stay fit and healthy?
Fitness has always been a part of my life, whether it's playing endless amounts of football while growing up or doing a rigorous 3 month weights program, I have generally always been pretty active on a day-to-day basis. However, in the last few years (3 years to be precise) it has taken on a bigger role in my life. I’ve realised the importance of fitness not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. I didn't do anything drastic, I just simply became extremely strict about eating very clean, and continuing to work out 5-6 times a week. The eating clean part of it made the biggest difference in my life, because working out was never an issue for me.
Now, after doing this for a while, I am still careful with what I eat but I definitely have more liberty to eat what I want. I also do get bored of my workouts often, but right now I'm working out around 4-5 times a week. It ranges from yoga to kickboxing to swimming, and once in a while the occasional bouldering work out.
Moderation, as many times as you hear it, really is the key to living a good and healthy life. Whether it's unhealthy eating, or working out the right amount (because over doing it is as bad as not doing enough) or binge drinking, once you find the balance that works for you, it all becomes a lot easier.
Top picks for the fitness enthusiast in India. Brands (Kica of course), studios and classes, eateries for people to check out?
1. Boxfit - I have been going here for 2 years now. They have amazing group classes, which I would say is a great overall cardio workout. They have unbelievable instructors who are highly trained in different activities - weight/strength training, kickboxing, boxing, and more. I do the personal training classes and have learnt so many things from new skills, to general body awareness, and improvement in overall strength.
2. Vesna's Alto Celo - Awesome pilates studio, super trainers who focus A LOT on form, so it gives you the kind of awareness of your body that will seriously reduce the chances of any injury.
3. Boulder Box - This place is something else. I hadn't ever been bouldering before, and even though I'm not as good as I'd like to be, it's addictive and makes you want to keep going back for more. The struggle is oddly satisfying. Also the place itself is set up really well, the team is great, and they've done a superb job of the space.
4. I personally take yoga classes from Natalie - I really disliked yoga till I met her and she's changed my body, my flexibility, and strength entirely!
Eateries: This is a tough one for me because if I'm eating out, it's not going to be a healthy meal! But a few places I have tried and enjoyed are --
1. Greenr Cafe: Great options, good ambience, actually healthy & clean!
2. Dori Cafe - The food here is unbelievable. You get a good mix you can choose from, and the ingredients are really fresh.
3. Quick brown fox coffee roasters - for the eggs and avocado toast. SO good!
Three must have Kica essentials in every active girl's wardrobe?
1) Mesh leggings
2) Renegade top
3) Exhale (zip) sports bra
Top tips to build (and stick with) healthy habits?
The top tips I'd give to build and stick with healthy habits are --
1) Be super disciplined with your diet and exercise to begin with. It's tough in the beginning but if you start like this, it becomes so much easier as time goes by. To be disciplined means to know what you are putting in to your body, and the effects of it. Following knowledgeable people in the industry is what helped me. Learn how to read labels, question the chef at the restaurant, do your bit to educate yourself and make the right food choices.
2) Set goals for whatever it is you're doing. Some examples can be -- Lose 3 kgs this month. Workout 4 times a week, every week this month. Don't eat out Monday - Saturday of this week. Learn how to do a handstand. Small or big - doesn't matter.
3) Enablers - there are tons around us. Identify what they are, and actively avoid them. That may mean not eating with a friend who you always eat desserts with. Or eating dinner before going out one night. Just be clear on what they are and don't fool yourself.
4) If you're a drinker, and are trying to lose weight, cut it down. Drinking does add calories on the night of, but the damage (in terms of how much junk you will eat) you do to your body the next day is even worse. I'm not saying don't drink, I just recommend cutting it down.
5) Progress is slow. Be patient. Track everything: photos of yourself, measurements,, videos of your workouts, however you can. So that you can see the small progress you do make.
6) Moderation - Once you get to a place where you're happy with your body -- I can't say this enough -- finding a balance is all you need to do.