Eleven months ago I was invited to a meeting with Stella and Matthias, the founders of the brand Sports Philosophy. They were in the fairly early stages of creating their first collection, they had their designs, the name of the brand and lots of big ideas. They had not yet gone into production, but they had secured fabrics, a manufacturing company in Portugal and had set up the Freedom for Children programme.
Sports Philosophy is not just another brand, they have their own charity programme and at least 10% of their profits go towards fighting child labour. After sitting down with them for an hour, I was already rooting for them and wanting to support their brand. I offered to model their new collection when it launched and to become a brand ambassador. Little did I know that a few months later they would ask me to design my own capsule collection with them.
Back in July Stella asked me to go for a for coffee and a catch up. During our chat she proposed the idea of a Zanna van Dijk collection, which I was not expecting! I was overwhelmed and beyond excited, what an incredible opportunity and a great chance to support a brand that I truly believe in. I agreed in a heartbeat. The process began pretty quickly, we soon decided on a sports bra and leggings combination and I was set the task to draw my first draft designs. This was a huge challenge for me, as I don’t have an artistic bone in my body! While I was abroad in Sardinia I set aside a couple of hours every evening to work on my designs, and by the end of the week I had my first drafts. I sent these to Stella, who loved them… that’s when the work really kicked in.
Stella, Matthias and I began meeting on a regular basis to develop the designs and look through hundreds of fabrics. Within a couple of months we had settled on the fine details of the pieces and planned our trip to Portugal. This brings us to the current moment, I am here on my final evening in Portugal writing this blog post and reflecting on what has been an incredible trip. We have spent 3 manic days here in the production company’s offices, starting at 7am and finishing at 9pm… we have crammed a lot in!
When we first arrived at the office I was confused, it looked like a family home. I was surprised to find an incredible facility in the back garden, yeah you heard me right… the factory that is making the collection is in the back garden of a small Portuguese house! However, don’t let that put you off. It is a family run facility that is renowned for the incredible quality of the clothing it produces. Their clients include Adidas, Asics, Under Armour, Roxy, Nike, Armani Jeans and many more that I am not allowed to reveal. Despite their client list, the family are friendly and down to earth. The owner loved showing me his huge pet pig and telling me funny stories. I felt at home, even though everything was out of my comfort zone!
From the moment we arrived, we jumped head first into business. We spent hours travelling between different facilities to get fabrics and prints. We worked through the long sampling process which involves wearing the first prototypes, pointing out any changes that need to be made; then seeing new ones and repeating the process. This included putting on the items, drawing adjustments on them with chalk, making measurements, trying various fabrics, and more. We went through 3 separate samples and by the last ones, we had almost hit the jackpot; we just had a few tweeks to make before our final pieces were ready. The first samples you receive are never anything like your finished product, as it is hard for the manufacturers to create clothing based on designs that they have only seen on paper. However, as we went through the second and third samples the changes we were making became smaller and smaller, until we ended up with just a few tiny adjustments to make.
I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to see something in the flesh that you have designed and worked on for months. When I tried on my first samples it was a surreal moment, and I still don’t quite think that it has sunk in that this is really happening! The whole process of flying to Portugal, seeing the factory, meeting the team who work there and going through the sampling experience was phenomenal. I learnt so much about a whole new industry and it really opened my eyes to what goes into creating a single piece clothing.
I have finished working out here in Portugal. The pieces are close to perfection, and should be finished within a few weeks. I will receive the first complete items in late December and will be able to share them online, so keep your eyes on my social media! They are being released for sale in March/April 2016 on the Sports Philosophy website and through various online retailers. A minimum of 10% of their sales will towards fighting child labour. I cannot wait for you guys to see my collection and I really hope you like it!