Ryderwear brings a new meaning to the term ‘side hustle’.
In its early days, you might not have heard about them unless you were part of the body building scene. Fast forward to 2018, Ryderwear is one of Adelaide’s global success stories. Many of their collections they release sell out almost instantly, they have an annual turnover of 10 million dollars, and the group of around 45 athletes they work with have a combined following of over 20 million on Instagram.
It started as a passion project, but has succeeded through hard work, staying true to their core audience, and a focus on quality. We spoke to one half of the founding duo Natalie Lukic – who founded Ryderwear with her then boyfriend, now husband David Lukic – along with one of the head designers Jessica Salvi ahead of the AFF, where they will feature in the SA Designer Showcase presented by Spendless Shoes.
You’ve gone from a small business, to a global industry leader. How did you do it?
Natalie: We first came up with the idea in 2009. David was a body builder and was fully immersed in that world. He definitely had style, but there wasn’t really much style in active wear back then. He’d go to the gym and all of the body builders were in dirty trackies! We’d both studied marketing, but were both working jobs we hated, so we were always thinking of business ideas. One day he said, what if we did our own gym clothes for body builders?
After work we’d start designing, but we didn’t know how to use Photoshop, we didn’t know anything about design really. I’d start sketching, he’d start making prints, and we’d go on YouTube to learn how to use Photoshop. We explored everything until we came up with Ryderwear. It started as a small collection just for men – a T-shirt, track pant and singlet. We spent a year just starting out; getting dressmakers to make patterns, building stock and inventory, and building a website.
It was 2010 when we first started selling, and we didn’t have much competition back then. Online shopping was really new and there weren’t many brands in Athleisure. Then, fitness really took off. We were just in the right place at the right time! When we first started we’d go to body building competitions and sell there, when there was only about 6 girls on stage. Now they have about 100 girls per competition! Things really exploded about 4 years ago.
The brand has grown into much more than just body building. How did that come about?
Jessica: We had a meeting and talked about where we were and where we wanted to be, and the biggest thing was that Ryderwear become a household name. We had massive pull in the US but not a lot of Australians knew who we were, so we wanted to push that market, especially in womenswear. [Ryderwear] hired a bunch of us and we started the re-brand – changed the logo, new swing tags and marketing materials.
Natalie: We didn’t want to lose our core audience, so we still designed for the body builders, but also fitness wear with an edge. In 2014 we actually started releasing shoes, and that took over the entire business, with our clothing sitting on the back burner. We dominated the world in body building shoes, and it just happened. It was really hard to get the balance between body building clothing and active wear, but I think we’ve hit that balance now.
How have you been preparing for your AFF debut?
Jessica: We went to AFF in 2017, which was really cool. We did a runway last year for our re-launch and had so much fun, so we knew this year we wanted to do another runway, and it was going to be around this time anyway. We also thought it would be cool because we’re South Australian, and we’re the only active wear brand here so we stand out.
Just to be able to sit back and watch it will be great, and we can see what we look like from our customer’s point of view.
It seems like you just keeping growing!
Natalie: Everything we do continues to grow! We’ve just changed over our website platform, which has opened the doors for us. Now we feel like a tiny dot with so much room to grow, the world is our oyster and every person we bring on has fresh ideas. We have the best team. Everything is in-house; our photography, design, styling, even the campaigns…
Jessica: The only thing we really outsource is models, but we also use a lot of the athletes that we sponsor in our campaigns and on our website.
What collaborations can we expect to see soon?
Natalie: Coming up in September we’ve working with Kai Greene. He’s probably the biggest body builder in the world! He has a huge following (4.1 million) and his followers are fanatics, and really genuine. We have a collection with him that we expect to sell out in a couple of weeks.
We’ve also got our collaboration with Lauren Simpson coming out in September. She just won WBFF Bikini World Champion; it’s the biggest fitness bikini competition in the world, so she’s very well known world wide. We’re going to do more of these collaborations, because we know it’s going to work.
It’s nuts to be involved in this world, we really take it for granted sometimes and you step back and see how cool it really is.