Founder of Outfyt Stephanie Colhag Yeo is changing up the athleisure game with socially conscious, Scandinavian-designed sportswear made of recycled nylon. Think: fishing nets from the oceans and aquaculture, fabric scraps from mills and carpets, all of which are destined for landfill.
“I grew up swimming and trained 6 days a week for many years so my love for water and the ocean has been with me since I was a child,” Stephanie shares. “The fishing nets collected by Healthy Seas divers and fishermen are actually brought into the ECONYL® regeneration system.” ECONYL® Regenerated Nylon is the name of the fabric used to make the brand’s pieces and is made by recycling nylon waste.
By supporting the Healthy Seas initiative, Stephanie also dedicates Outfyt to play a part in helping to clean the seas of marine litter, mainly derelict fishing nets responsible for the deaths of marine animals.
With a focus on clean, minimalist aesthetics for her label, Stephanie admits that she gets a lot of design inspiration from her Scandinavian roots. The chic 29-year-old wants to create timeless and functional athleisure wear that can take you from your morning coffee run, afternoon meeting all the way to your evening gym or yoga sesh.
1. What’s your story?
My name is Stephanie Colhag Yeo and I’m 29 years old. I’m half Singaporean Chinese, half Swedish and I get a lot of design inspiration and influence from my Scandinavian roots. Both my parents are entrepreneurs and business was always the topic of the dinner table, which is why I was inspired to start my own company and the Outfyt brand.
2. What triggered you to start Outfyt?
I was looking for activewear that didn’t look like typical gym wear and the brands that I could find at that time were extremely expensive and would charge around S$185 for a sports bra. I decided to create Outfyt to make available high quality classic-cut garments that everyone can wear in multiple ways.
3. Tell us a bit more about why creating a socially conscious brand is important to you.
I grew up swimming and trained 6 days a week for many years so my love for water and the ocean has been with me since I was a child. I also really love animals and am concerned about them and their habitat. It felt natural to support the Healthy Seas initiative as the proceeds donated will go towards cleaning the seas of marine litter. I also wanted to be able to support the organisation that makes the fabric we use possible!
My first collection was made with a regular polyester/spandex fabric and the clothes were individually wrapped in plastic. I’ve always pushed the message of multi-use clothing but I felt that it wasn’t enough and I did not want to be another brand that was contributing to the pollution of the environment. I wanted to be part of the solution and not the problem! It took a year of research to find a high quality sustainable fabric and a factory that matched our standards, not only in workmanship but ethical standards as well. This was when I found the Italian fabric that I use today that is made from ECONYL® Regenerated Nylon.
4. What are some of Outfyt’s eco-friendly initiatives?
To be truly eco-friendly, you have to look at all aspects of the business from production to packaging to in-house practices. Our ECONYL® Regenerated Nylon turns nylon waste into virgin quality nylon yarn – it’s exactly the same as brand new nylon and can be recycled, recreated and remoulded again and again.
To design clothes with sustainable fabrics is only a small part of running a sustainable company. We make sure that our hang tags are printed on recycled paper, we do not use any plastic in our supply chain. Instead, our garments come packaged in cassava starch bags and our mailers are made of cornstarch and cassava as well. Both are 100% home compostable, and if our customers don’t have a compost at home they can bring them back to us and we will compost it for them. We are constantly improving and educating ourselves when it comes to sustainability issues.
5. How did you start the business?
I launched Outfyt online while I still had a full-time job. Based on the online response, I made the decision to focus full time on Outfyt and opened the first retail store at Haji Lane in October 2018.
6. What is one challenge no one knows about when you first launched your business?
For me it was finding a factory that I could have a great partnership with. It was very important to work with a producer that aligned with my values of high quality, ethics and sustainability.
7. Describe what Outfyt stands for.
Outfyt was created for women to maximise their confidence when working out. With our designs, we want to accentuate each woman’s beautiful and natural form. We focus on clean, simple lines, minimalism, and functionality without sacrificing beauty. We love that our customers are confident women that want to look and feel good when working out!
8. Outline your typical work day at Outfyt.
Normally you would be able to catch us at our boutique at 35 Haji Lane where we would be chatting with our customers and doing our day to day work. At Outfyt, we are a small team and do everything ourselves, so we may close the shop on certain days to create content/do photoshoots, attend meetings or go overseas for factory visits.
9. Oftentimes being an entrepreneur requires mental fortitude to forge a new path and face uncertainties. What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
My greatest fear is disappointing my customers. I manage that worry by doing everything I can to ensure that I am creating a product that I can stand behind 100%!
10. What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
My favourite part is that I have been able to meet other like-minded women entrepreneurs and it is very empowering to see so many amazing girl bosses making headway in Singapore. We support and inspire each other and it is great to have a group of women that understand and relate to the struggles and sacrifices of running your own business.
11. What is one health hack or wellness tip you personally subscribe to?
I start the day with a matcha oat milk latte. It gives me the time to sit down and set the intentions for the day. Another wellness tip is to have balance, we all need a treat sometimes and I love a good burger and fries.
12. What is one advice you would give to budding local women entrepreneurs today?
To trust and believe in yourself.