Meet the women behind the Middle East's newest fitness clothing range
High-powered careers and a new baby? What better time for Sara Sawaya and Dalia Lahham to launch the Middle East’s first ‘athleisure’ site, FitPlum. Kate Dobinson finds out how they’re juggling jobs to create a successful brand.
Mathematics graduate and fitness fanatic Sara Sawaya has always worked in finance, but she knew she was on the wrong sort of treadmill. Together with her sporty sister-in-law, Dalia Lahham, who was similarly keen to take a break from nine years in the marketing and advertising sector after the birth of her second child, the pair temporarily hung up their heels in favour of sneakers.
Eager to bridge the gap between activewear and an everyday womenswear wardrobe, Sara and Dalia created FitPlum, a quick and easy online portal for like-minded individuals to offer functional and fashionable activewear from a variety of brands sourced from all over the world.
The collections were created to cover the biggest concerns that women have when selecting activewear: to be functional, fashionable and high-quality. ‘Being active is a huge passion of ours and with the ever-growing trend of health and fitness in the UAE, as well as in the region as a whole, we wanted to create a one-stop destination for all things fitness,’ says Sara.
The website also offers a news bulletin to keep shoppers up-to-date with the latest health and fitness trends, including everything from advice on new recipes and smoothies to the latest workout music. It also offers the opportunity to sign up for fitness classes in the future. We talked to Sara and Dalia to find out more.
Why did you set up FitPlum? Sara: Ever since I discovered leggings I wore them everywhere. They were a staple piece in my wardrobe even when everyone would tell me to get out of my workout gear. I returned to the UAE after ten years and found it so hard to find many of the activewear brands I practically lived in while I was abroad. Only the mainstream brands made it to the Middle East and there was still a distinct line dividing activewear from your everyday wardrobe. Hence, we came up with FitPlum, which provides pieces from a select mix of fashionable brands, to create looks that take you from the gym to the street.
Why did you name the brand FitPlum? Dalia: www.fitplum.com has a ring to it, doesn’t it? But also everybody is obsessed with having the perfect body, so eat your greens and proteins, do your squats. That’s essentially what our brand is about, being the healthiest and the best that you can be.
How do you juggle corporate jobs and your own business? Sara: Dalia has also just had a beautiful baby so there’s a lot of multitasking involved. We still face issues on a daily basis, but as anyone launching a website or business will tell you, it’s a never-ending process. Perseverance and staying focused got us through the first phase. Plus we have known each other for more than 15 years, so we have each other to face the challenges.
Are you more into team sports or fitness classes? Sara: I grew up with three older brothers, so I practically thought I was a boy until I was about 13. I grew up playing everything from cricket to volleyball to basketball – my number one sport – and I also love weight training. Dalia: I grew up in a family of girls, but sport has always been a big part of our lives as our parents encouraged us to try a variety of activities. I was more of a tennis and squash girl growing up, but have moved on to try a variety of classes from bodypump, to horse riding, bikram yoga and barre.
What is your workout mantra? Sara: ‘The pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret.’ Being disciplined is hard, but it’s a piece of cake compared to the pain of not taking care of your body. Dalia: ‘Go hard or go home.’ If you are going to work out, give it your best every time otherwise it will not be worth it. You know whether you are giving it your all or if you’re just cheating yourself. www.fitplum.com
More fitness brands to check out now
Hautletic Combining style with performance, Hautletic stocks a number of fitness brands that can be worn as workoutwear or as part of your everyday wardrobe. Al Marabea Street, Al Quoz, www.hautletic.com (04 388 4088).
yApparel This Jumeirah store with an online presence socks brands that specialise in yoga, fitness and swimwear. It also plans to carry a selection for men. Jumeirah Centre, Jumeirah Beach Road, www.yapparel.com (04 344 3013).