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How a Former Downhill Ski Racer Became an Athleisure Fashion Entrepreneur

It’s remarkable to observe the talent and ingenuity that has come out of female-founded business over the last couple of years. The most awesome is seeing the intersection between fashion and function in a beautifully curated way, and Après Actif – minimalist loungewear and activewear essentials brand is blazing the [ski] trail doing just that. 

We had the chance to sit down with Après Actif founder, Lauren Kurtz, whose goal was to create lifestyle apparel that was inspired by ski and snowboard culture, and is a nod to her former life as a downhill ski racer and fitness competitor. Lauren has combined her passion for sport and design to create a chic ski-inspired loungewear brand that not only looks stunning but also gives back. Here’s what she had to say about her awesome brand, and what life is like as an entrepreneur.

For people who don’t know, tell us what you do?

I am the founder of Après Actif — which is a minimalist loungewear and activewear essentials brand. Scandinavian-inspired designs in timeless colourways are easy to mix and match and create a more sustainable wardrobe.

What made you want to do what you do? 

I grew up ski racing in Collingwood and always adored Après Ski fashion. I always found myself wandering over to the men’s section for ski and snowboard apparel. The men’s collections always had more muted tones and were more monochromatic than the women’s lines. That’s where the idea was born. I decided I was going to create something more gender-neutral—perhaps even a little more masculine— with a level of detail that exceeded expectations when unboxed.

What journey did you go on to get you to where you are right now?

I’ve always had an interest in graphic design and branding and graduated from the University of Guelph with a major in marketing in my early 20s. I also always admired female entrepreneurs like Sara Blakely, who managed to build a billion-dollar brand while authentically documenting her experience along the way. As an entrepreneur, being able to combine my passion for fitness, fashion, and design has been incredibly fulfilling.

What’s your team like? 

We are a fully female-led team, right down to our manufacturing partner. 

What is your mission in your career?

As a female entrepreneur, my mission is to inspire other women to go after what they want, regardless of their background/education. For a few years after graduating, although I had the knowledge, I lacked the confidence to start my own business. I hope that by documenting my experience I can help inspire a younger version of myself to build momentum and go after their dreams.

As a brand, we have partnered with Track3 Adaptive Snow Sports, and donate a portion of proceeds on a monthly basis to help youth with disabilities experience the magic of snow sports. Growing up as an able-bodied athlete, I understand how privileged I was to participate in snow sports. Après Actif is rooted in ski culture, and our mission is to give back to the sport that inspired the brand, allowing kids and youth with disabilities to experience snow sports.

That is incredible! Giving back to a passion and a cause, what a combo. 

Was this always the goal? Being an entrepreneur is tough, how do you stay motivated, how do you remain focused and what is your superpower (i.e., what makes you different from other brands/leaders)?

I think my superpower is my intuition within my niche and my ability to play the long game. I am very decisive and believe that it’s better to fail fast, building momentum and confidence through experience. I am grateful that I was able to create a brand that aligns so seamlessly with my personal lifestyle, that has long-term sustainability. Combining all of the things that make me happy I have no shortage of inspiration.

Sounds like you have great instincts that make for good leadership. What would you tell your teenage self, if you were to meet them today? 

Find something you are passionate about, continue to educate yourself on the subject, and add as much value as you can without expectation. Needing nothing attracts everything. Be kind. Be Authentic. Be patient.

I love it. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Fear regret more than failure.” When we believe that, we start to worry less about what people think, and lean into the things that excite us.

What advice do you give to your “mentees”? 

There are people less qualified than you, doing things you want to do simply because they believed in themselves and took action!

What, if any adversities did you have to conquer?

When I was 19 I competed in a women’s bodybuilding competition. After that experience, I struggled with body image and overall confidence issues. I developed an eating disorder and lost my sense of purpose. I decided to focus on educating myself as much as I could, figuring out what brought me genuine happiness and allowed me to express my creativity. Creating a brand inspired by ski culture, I was determined to rediscover my love for sport based on the way it made me feel, rather than the way it made me look.

Thank you so much for sharing that. What do you attribute your success to? 

A genuine curiosity about other people and the world around me, investing in personal development (books, podcasts, Skillshare, and Masterclass), and surrounding myself with highly intelligent, successful people.

Tell us a secret about your job.

For someone who designs clothing, my wardrobe is actually very small and simple. They say you create what you need most in the world, and for me that is simplicity. As an entrepreneur wearing many hats, decision fatigue is a real thing. I have go-to “uniforms” so I can seamlessly transition from gym to meetings, to date night. I am often spotted in various versions of the same outfit. The Après collections are designed with that in mind. We use timeless, nature-inspired colourways that build sustainable capsule wardrobes.

Anything exciting coming up? Tell me all about your F/W collection.

  • Our Partnership with Track3 — a portion of proceeds each month support youth with disabilities, allowing them to experience the magic of snow sports.
  • Ladies Day pop-ups at Craigleith and Devil’s Glen ski clubs in early 2022.

Amazing. Thanks so much, Lauren! You can learn more about Après Actif on Instagram and online.

Danai Mushayandebvu

Danai is usually scrolling through Instagram in search of new restaurants, things to do and places to be. While she has no formal dance training whatsoever, she hopes to be part of a professional hip-hop troupe someday. You can follow her escapades @dnizzler