Anya Active’s Founder Melinda Sutikno Shares How Her Past Experience Help To Kickstart The Activewear Brand

Lead an active lifestyle and embrace your body
By: balqis
February 7, 2022

A negative perception towards body image can trigger a vicious cycle of eating disorders and damage one’s self-esteem. However, with the prevalence of discussion on this issue, more people who have experienced such inner battles aim to bring a positive change. For Melinda Sutikno, her past struggles with body image issues have become a sole mission to found Anya Active, a homegrown activewear brand. Realizing the need to encourage women to practise an active lifestyle while still embracing their body, Anya Active upholds its philosophy, “to have something for every woman” regardless of the body type and size. Glitz chats with Melinda Sutikno as she shares the mission behind Anya Active and how her past experience helped to create a leading sportswear brand in Singapore.

1. You’ve taken a leap of faith to create your own brand. What inspired you to found Anya Active? 

Melinda Sutikno, founder of Anya Active

There are actually both push and pull factors. For the pull factor, I’ve always wanted to start an activewear brand because I am a believer in staying active as a way to a healthier, happier life. Wearing clothes that fit you well when you exercise makes you feel good about yourself. This might sound superficial on first thought, but when you feel good about yourself, you feel more confident and a little goes a long way in your pursuit of an active lifestyle. So with Anya Active, we hope to be a part of that journey with fellow women. 

But beyond activewear, our greater mission as a brand is to encourage women to adopt an active lifestyle while embracing their body. We believe that to truly make being active your lifestyle that is, sustainable, it has to come from a place of self-acceptance. 

As for the push factor, back in March 2020, I lost my job as I was working overseas for a new tech start-up and it didn’t work out. It wasn’t the best time to be jobless as it was the start of the pandemic, so I decided to start Anya Active. Thankfully, the groundwork had started way before that, so it didn’t take long for me to launch the brand upon losing the job. 

2. From what we know Anya actually means grace. So can you tell us more about the meaning behind it? 

The name Anya means “grace”, and this is the ethos the brand was founded on: the grace to be kind to yourself and your body. 

I am a strong believer in staying active in order to lead a healthier, happier life. Unfortunately, many of us feel that we need to look a certain way or be a certain size—and in the process, we might beat ourselves up in the process of achieving that. When you work out from a place of hatred, it can leave you feeling bruised in the long run. 

As a brand, we want to be part of our customers’ journey to being kinder to themselves and their bodies. We want to empower them and help them feel good about themselves. But more than that, we want to send this message: “We are enough, yet we can still be a better version of ourselves. Both can co-exist.” 

3. How did your past struggle with body images and eating disorders help you to launch Anya Active? 

Two things – firstly in the way I approach body image issues and mental health, and secondly, the physical aspects. 

As a perfectionist, I had always been hard on myself. When I had eating disorders, I tried all ways to try to get out of the rut through over-exercising and restrictions but little did I know that I was only perpetuating a vicious cycle. The turning point came when, through the advice of someone, I intentionally made it a point to be kinder to myself. It’s a journey of learning that you are more than “just” your body, and your weight does not define who you are. 

Also, on the physical aspects, having gone through anorexia through bulimia and binge eating disorders, I had been both under and over-weight at different points of time. Through it, I learned to understand the different struggles in the different body types. 

4. Any advice you can share with our readers who experience the same issue and how they can stop the cycle? 

Making it a point to consciously be kinder to my body and self. I used to think that being kind or “lax” to yourself makes you not want to work harder. It might be an ingrained habit in us to be motivated by fear and sometimes they can work, but they can also ironically backfire. For me, it was only when I decided to be kinder to myself that I learned to find joy in exercising and eating again. You learn to enjoy exercising for the endorphins, for how strong every workout session makes you feel! 

And I think it is very important to listen to, understand and accept or even love our body because our body will go through changes throughout our lives–through ageing, life events and changes in lifestyle. If we don’t learn to love it now, we will constantly struggle and wrestle with ourselves. 

Lots of trial and errors, learn to understand yourself and your body – what motivates you, what makes you come alive and what ticks you. It’s not a linear journey, if anything, it is “3 steps forward 2 steps back.” We always say or hear the quote “learn to listen to your body”, to me, it is not a cliche phrase. It is very true and applicable to not just body image issues, but many aspects in life. 

When it comes to exercising, put less focus on how you look, but more on how you feel and the improvements and changes you’re making to your body. Focus on the endorphins and how good exercising makes you feel, and focus on how stronger you are becoming! 

5. Can you tell us a few things that you wish people knew about you? 

1. My bark is louder than my bite 

2. I might come across aloof but I’m actually just a little socially awkward 

6. What’s the design process like? Can you briefly walk us through it? 

Our starting point is to come up with a product to cater to a certain activity type for example high intensity exercises that require higher levels of support. In doing so, we also consider the different body types, for example, is it meant for larger chested women?

We also work to develop the fabric, depending on the types of activities the item is intended for. 

Next, sampling. It takes several rounds of prototypes or sampling before we finalise the product. On average, it takes about 6 to 9 months from conceptualising a design to finally producing it! 

7. We noticed that Anya Active features different fabrics for apparel like Cloud, SuperForm and Everywear. Can you tell us more about it? Is each fabric created for different sports or occasions and any tips on how the customers can select the one that suits them the most? 

As a brand, we acknowledge that women move in different ways, some of us prefer high intensity, heart-pumping workouts like circuit training, while others prefer lower intensity, strengthening workouts like pilates. We want to be able to cater to as many workout types as possible, so in designing our activewear pieces, every fabric and design will serve a different purpose. 

For example, Cloud has higher compression and is faster to dry compared to Everywear, making it suitable for higher intensity exercises, while Everywear is our stretchiest fabric yet, making it suitable for yoga and pilates. 

This is not to say that they are not interchangeable, for example, we do have customers who use a type of leggings for all kinds of exercises. 

8. Unlike other brands, Anya Active caters to women with different body types and sizes up to 3XL. Why was such a mission important to you? 

Our vision from day one has been crystal clear, to encourage more women to adopt an active lifestyle, while embracing their body. And we want to be able to design something for everyone. I mean every body type and size so that we can make our activewear as accessible as possible. We’re definitely not there yet, it does take time and resources to get there, but we know that this is our brand cornerstone that drives our decisions. 

9. The brand is known for its philosophy, “to have something for every woman”. How does it reflect in the brand’s approach and process? 

One thing for sure, we welcome and take feedback very seriously! We frequently ask our customers for feedback, be it in writing like a survey or in person. Nowadays, we’re increasingly taking a mindful approach towards our design process, gathering feedback, conducting focus group and testing the products as much as possible before actually producing it. 

10. What readers can expect from Anya Active next year? 

More exciting designs and activities are lined up for our community for sure!

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