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She's so Cult

She’s so Cult: Sweaty Betty founder Tamara Hill-Norton

Emmie Thornhill
Writer and expert5 years ago
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Founded in 1998 by Tamara Hill-Norton, Sweaty Betty was among the first to bring us vibrant, stylish sportswear we were proud to pound the pavements in. Having always lived an active lifestyle, Tamara found the spandex on the market uninspiring… Black, black, black and… more black, Tamara wanted something motivational – which is why she decided to take matters into her own (highly capable) hands. We sat down with the founder to pick her brains about all things Sweaty Betty....

{Cult Beauty} What inspired you to start Sweaty Betty and can you remember the moment you came up with the brand?

{Tamara Hill-Norton} Growing up as a kid, I was always quite rebellious and strong-minded and I didn’t really like being told what to do. And, later on, I was just like, “I don’t want to work for anyone else, I know what I want to do, I want to run my own business!” I always had that streak in me. Then, when I was at university studying languages, I did my year abroad in Germany and Paris, where I came across all these amazing little underwear boutiques, which I hadn’t seen in the UK. I was like, “Right, okay, I’m going to start my own business.”

I’ve always lived a really active lifestyle, my Dad was in the navy and we travelled round a lot living in Gibraltar, Hong Kong and Italy. He was really into sailing in the summer and skiing in the winter, so I always led a healthy outdoor life, something I try to do with my own kids now. It was this that inspired me in part to start Sweaty Betty, I couldn’t find clothes for active women, so I wanted to create them.

{CB} What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt in your career to date?

{TH-N} Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I was very independent at the beginning and wanted to do everything myself. However over time I learnt this isn’t always possible. When we were looking to launch our own label, I started working with a talented consultant who was used to dealing with small growing businesses like ours and was able to set me on the right road and increase my confidence.

{CB} Favourite workout or classes?

{TH-N} For me, working out isn’t just physical, it’s mental; this is my switch off time and self-care moment. I love trying new things and mixing it up, but I always return to swimming, yoga and running, where I have built a real community. If I do have time to take a class I love Heartcore for Pilates and Psycle for a really fun spin class.

{CB} Are there any products you use on a daily basis to help keep you healthy, balanced and on top of your game?

{TH-N} I take Lumity Day and Night supplements every day and I swear by them, they’ve really changed my skin, hair and sleep. I love Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser for every day coverage as it has SPF which is great when I’m cycling to the office (I cycle from Acton to Putney along the river three times a week) and Kjaer Weis bronzer if I need some extra colour.

{CB} Favourite workout song?

{TH-N} Crew Love by Drake

{CB} Favourite way to blow off some steam after a particularly stressful day?

{TH-N} Having cocktails with friends. I love doing that. But also exercise, like yoga. I discovered yoga about a year into Sweaty Betty and it was a huge gamechanger for me, I love how you just focus on your breath for an hour with no distractions.

{CB} Favourite book/podcast/newsletter/site that you’re addicted to?

{TH-N} My favourite book is ‘A Fine Balance’ by Rohan Mistry and I’m really excited about Tod Herman’s book ‘The Alter Ego Affect’.

I love podcasts at the moment. My current favourites are How I Built This with Guy Raz for business advice and Happy Place by Fearne Cotton is incredibly inspiring, I loved the episode with Bryony Gordon about the benefits of exercise on mental health. With my daughter I’ve been listening to Gurls Talk, I loved the recent episode with Dina Asher-Smith, I think Adwoa Aboah is an amazing role model for young women.

{CB} If we were to have access to your handbag for a rummage, what would we find in there without fail?

{TH-N} I guess I always carry around an Aesop Hand Sanitizer, my iPhone, a tote just in case I go shopping, a pencil case for when I get inspired and a micro umbrella and a pack away gilet as I’m always cold.

{CB} How do you maintain a work/life balance?

{TH-N} I realised years ago, that you will never have enough time, you have to make time to do the things you want to do. So I make sure I schedule in fitness for ‘me time’ and dinners with my girlfriends. I also find our children incredibly helpful, my husband and I could talk about Sweaty Betty all day when we get home from the office, so our kids definitely keep us grounded and maintain a good work-life balance. I currently have a pact with my 14-year-old daughter that she will be in bed and I will stop my emails by 10PM.

{CB} Favourite beauty/facial/wellness treatments you couldn’t live without?

{TH-N} I’m so busy I haven’t been having many facials weekly but I love a weekly sauna and want to try Face Gym soon.

{CB} Is there a tip or piece of advice you wish you could go back and tell your younger self?

{TH-N} In order to achieve a work life balance and feel calm and fulfilled, not stressed, you have to feel in control of your time. No-one is ever going to give you more time and you are never going to suddenly have more time. So you have to make time for the things that matter the most to you.

{CB} Favourite post-workout meal?

{TH-N} I love middle Eastern food and my husband has an incredible vegetable garden that I’m always trying to use more when I’m cooking. I got the new Ottolenghi book recently so I’ve been working my way through his new recipes.

{CB} What does ‘cult’ mean to you, and how does this apply to Sweaty Betty?

{TH-N} To me a cult is all about being part of a “tribe” mentality. Unlike with normal clothes, where you’re embarrassed to wear the same dress as someone, people want to feel part of a “team” with their activewear. At Sweaty Betty we’re all about encouraging women to live an active lifestyle and it’s proven you’re more likely to work out with a friend, it’s all about a cult of women coming together and supporting each other.

{CB} Best workout class/daily supplement for beginners?

{TH-N} Lumity! I’ve been taking it for a year and I’m an absolute convert. If you take just one multi-supplement for the rest of your life, choose this. It contains all the ingredients I need for better skin, hair and sleep so means I don’t have to take loads of different pills.

{CB} New wellness/fitness trend Cult Beauties need to get into?

{TH-N} I truly believe there is a workout or sport for everyone whatever your age, you just need to find it. So my number one tip is that rather than following trends you find a workout you love with a great community, that being said I always love trying out new classes and studios especially when I go over to the US, New York always has something incredible and I really loved The Class by Taryn Toomey last time I was over there.

{CB} Can you share your guilty pleasure with us?

{TH-N} Nordstrom’s Dark Chocolate Caramels with Sea Salt every time.

{CB} What are your Holy Grail skin care/make up products?

{TH-N} I love Lumity’s facial oil and Supergoop tinted moisturiser with a high SPF for every day. Charlotte Tilbury Gold Palette is amazing for highlighting, I also love Glossier’s Haloscope. When I’m going out I love a red lip, usually Mac Lady Danger.

{CB} Best way to relax and recover from a pain-inducing workout?

{TH-N} I should say a magnesium salt bath! But my favourite was is usually to relax and enjoy a cocktail with my girlfriends.

{CB} Favourite weekend activity?

{TH-N} We have a house in West Wittering by the sea which I love to escape to every weekend. I love to go there with my husband and three kids and spend a weekend on the beach being active and then relax in the evenings with a cocktail. We surf, swim and I run every morning with our dog Ennis.

{CB} What does your wardrobe look like? Is there a Sweaty Betty item you buy on repeat?

{TH-N} Luckily for me, because I work in this industry I can literally just put on my leggings and trainers and cycle to the office every day. Our bum-sculpting leggings are my absolute hero piece. The Power Leggings in our collection aren’t only bum-sculpting they are also designed to perform for every workout. As I often wear leggings or track pants all day, layers are key. I like to throw them on with a longer-line top, like a big, patterned knitted poncho or chunky knit. Or, for a smarter look, I’ll pair leggings with a tailored jacket and platform trainers.

Emmie Thornhill
Writer and expert
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