With Nike's latest news about their modest swimwear line making 'waves' (?) it's always exciting to see more sports brands begin to cater to the hijabi market by producing modest pieces that don't compromise on comfort or performance. Wearing modest fashion should definitely not be an obstacle to experiencing the world, and having hijabi-friendly apparel ready to go is one way to enable Muslims worldwide to live to their full potential.
So we were so excited to learn about a homegrown triathlon wear brand that has hijabi-friendly pieces AND has already won awards since being launched in 2017! ? Purpose has been worn by runners across the world in some of the top triathlons, and we got to talk to its founder Noor Aziz to find out why he decided to leave his job in advertising to start a triathlon wear company, what was the story behind deciding to make hijabi-friendly suits, and more! Even if you're not a sports fan or athlete, you'll be inspired by his dedication and drive to make the world of triathlons accessible to everyone. ? Keep reading to find out more about his journey and Purpose!
1. Could you share an introduction to Purpose, the story behind the company, and your journey to founding it?
From Singapore, PURPOSE was founded by myself Noor Aziz who came from a creative design and advertising background. Pursuing my love for running, cycling and multi-sports, I discovered that there were no products that were designed and developed for the Southeast Asia market. It was also this insight that led me down the path to create triathlon wear that is made for the active Muslimah.
2. As someone who took the leap and left an established career in the advertising industry to start Purpose, how did you reach that decision? What were the factors or motivations that helped you take that leap?
I was at an intersection between being burnt out and disillusioned form advertising while at the same time spending more time being active in running and cycling. It came to a point when I got frustrated by the lack of choices I have as a Southeast Asian for great looking, quality kits that met what I wanted in a running and cycling wear for our weather. Granted whilst a lot of the kits are good they simply did not meet what I felt was the demands of Southeast Asia conditions and humidity. Hence I decided to create them myself.
3. Purpose is one of the rare sports brands that have triathlete wear that caters to Muslimahs. Why was having a Muslimah range important to you? Are there any particular complexities or requirements for making modest tri suits, and how did you go about understanding and incorporating these requirements?
I discovered that Muslimahs had zero option when it comes to performance wear for triathlon as I was seated at the finishing chute in Langkawi. I saw numerous active ladies running towards the finish yet I noticed that every one of them had to put on multiple layers of clothing in order to participate in this sport. So I resolved that come the same time next year, PURPOSE will be making tri suits that are made for these women.
One of the challenges faced was in finding a suitable enough material that can be constructed in a way that PURPOSE is well known for – our HYPERMESH construction, light and breathable, yet at the same time is not translucent when wet. Second was in terms of cut and cit. It has to be tight just enough because of the demands during cycling and running, yet not too tight that it becomes a skin suit, whilst not loose either otherwise it fails to be what it needs to be. As with all our lighthouse products, we developed several rounds of prototypes before finally settling into its final version.
4. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced to launch and build-up Purpose, and how did you overcome them?
Coming from an advertising background, I knew from the onset that it will be a major task to overcome in trying to convince people of PURPOSE. Thus I felt that in order to make PURPOSE be accepted locally, I had to make the brand successful externally first. So our first campaigns and activities, although using local heroes and ambassadors, we ran overseas in the US and Europe. As the brand PURPOSE gained traction outside, we became noticed here in Malaysia and Singapore. The international traction helped with softening the grounds when we start telling our stores to the local audience.
5. Purpose has made many large strides in the last 3 years since its launch, including becoming the official racing and training wear for the Singapore and Malaysia national triathlon teams at the recent SEA Games. What are some of the moments or milestones the company has hit so far that you’re proudest of?
There are two proudest moments. First is when Dr Dan Plews won the Ironman World Championship in World Record time wearing PURPOSE, and second in our PURPOSE for Muslimah kits. We’ve not launched these anywhere outside of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore yet, although these have been selling well in the Middle East through word of mouth.
6. Do you think of yourself as a founder or an athlete first?
Athlete. The culture of the company that I am building is Everyone Is An Athlete, An Athlete Is Everyone. This culture is about inclusion and that we should respect everybody, whether they are already in sports or not. Everyone is an athlete, it's a matter of when.
7. How do you balance running a business with other aspects of your life like family, pursuing your athleticism and other hobbies?
Discipline in goal setting and priorities. Between work, athleticism, family and other commitments, everything shouts wanting to be number one. So I've learnt to be able to dial up what needs higher attention and dial down what does. This changes from week to week, sometimes even week to week. If I'm committed to make a goal, it becomes my purpose for that time being. A goal has an end frame. If supposedly a goal has a very long arch, then I'd cut them down into smaller sub-goals so that there is always an end frame within a week or a few. I find that this practice helps to balance all the things in work, life and play. It also keeps things fresh.
8. What’s your favourite thing to do during your downtime?
I have very little downtime so I find that running helps gives me that downtime. However, in the off chance that I indeed get some downtime or need to force a downtime on myself, I'd watch a movie on TV.
9. If you had to choose between cycling and running, which would you choose and why?
Running. I started with running ever since young so it's a natural habit for me. Running is also easier and I can do it anytime even at noon!
10. Do you have any tips for those who want to try and do a triathlon for the first time?
I'd say don't limit yourself. Triathlon is actually fun.
11. What are your goals for Purpose for 2020 and beyond?
I've set in motion to break into the US in 2020 so that's my lighthouse for this year. Along with it, of course, is in tripling the company revenues. But whatever it is, it must always come back that we are going the be the Southeast Asia brand for triathlon and cycling.
12. Do you have any words of advice for others looking to start their own business or brand?
Start something even if what you want to start happens to be in a very niche market. I heard many people tell me that triathlon is niche and small, but didn't everything that we use or wear today start niche? That's the thing with doing something new - it's new! So go start on it.
To find out more about Purpose, check out their Website, Facebook and Instagram!