Sandisiwe Mbhele
Lifestyle Journalist
3 minute read
31 Aug 2021
5:36 pm

100% female, black-owned company shaking up the local activewear scene

Sandisiwe Mbhele

Athi Health and Fitness are changing things up in local activewear with its expressive athleisure clothing accessible for many.

Athi Health and Fitness local activewear company. Picture: Instagram

As more people adopt a lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating, there seems to be a trend towards purchasing local activewear to match.

This is in line with the current craze in the health and fitness world; showing up for yourself, not for social media pictures but for your own self-worth. 

Athleisure, sportswear, activewear, whatever you may call it, is dominated by international brands such as Nike, Adidas and Puma.

They’ve got such a huge market share that proudly show off head-to-toe Nike attire but a local activewear brand, Athi Health and Fitness would, like to change that and get South Africans to start supporting local too. 

In an ongoing effort to do so, Athi Health and Fitness partnered with Kyalami Corner Shopping Centre to host a free outdoor event on 28 August.

Despite the cold, wind and rain, dozens of fitness enthusiasts, from beginners to trainers showed up to get their sweat on. 

Athi Health and Fitness is a 100 per cent black-owned local activewear company by Zanele Salman. The company promotes and enables health and fitness for all, through various fun and convenient activities as well as sharing insightful and valuable knowledge. 

Zanele says her athleisure clothing is a way for customers to express themselves when working out.

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With a vast amount of experience in fitness, including running back-to-back Comrades Marathon, Zanele says Athi Health and Fitness is a way for people to start supporting local activewear brands instead of the big giants.

“All the sportswear I have worn is all made overseas. The colours are dark, black, grey, nothing that has a personality or self-expression.”

The runner says their brand stands for authenticity, a healthy lifestyle and being mindful of who you are. 

The local activewear brand also has a female and kiddies range, with a male range launching soon. Their clothing is high quality and durable enough for runners, people at the gym, hikers, those practising yoga and people just looking for casual wear.

For any new brand on the market, there is a marked sense of hesitancy from consumers regarding whether or not the quality and affordability can meet standards set by global competitors.

However, in activewear, some people are willing to beat the budget and buy the label because of its brand power. There is a perception that if local activewear companies want to compete they should be cheaper, Zanele doesn’t necessarily agree. 

“People forget that we import most of the material, so when you start, you already start at a high point.”

She explains the cost of making the collection is also high, “if you’re pricing stuff at Nike pricing you are already on the back foot.” 

As such, the bigger companies are way ahead of any startups because they can afford the manufacturing costs. Athi Health’s activewear is made in Soweto, an aim for job creation and sustaining jobs in South Africa, Zanele says.

Popular fitness trainer Nkosi Mdlalose says supporting local activewear is a win-win, with more activewear options from South Africa leaves less space for excuses.

“If the money circulates here we are in a different ball game. I am not going to say stop buying international but we need to change our mindset towards global brands.”

He concludes by adding that Athi Health hasn’t compromised quality for cash and the industry has to trust local activewear for others to support.