5 Minutes with Stefani Grosse, Founder of Monreal London
What led you to found your brand, Monreal?
I really felt that there was a gap in the market for a high-end activewear brand to create beautiful, high quality garments for sporty, fashionable women. I no longer wanted to compromise on either how I looked or how I performed. From a style-conscious perspective I was never fond of the clothes I worked out or played tennis in. Convinced that I could create something that is as functional as it is flattering and sexy, I founded Monreal (my mother’s maiden name). The first capsule collection was launched in Harrods in 2013 and now we’re fully global with stockists around the world.
What sets Monreal apart from other sportswear brands?
Monreal London is a high-end women’s designer brand – exclusively made in Europe – that’s focus is sports clothing. We aim to constantly deliver desirable and luxurious product for empowered living, giving women great confidence, 24/7. Our mission is to remove the boundaries between sport and fashion and change the way that people perceive athletic wear. My background as a competitive athlete in combination with my high-fashion background, having designed for brands like Donna Karan and Calvin Klein, trained me to have a very different approach and design aesthetic than traditional sportswear brands. My design ethos has always been: ‘Subtracting the unnecessary and adding the meaningful.’ Growing up in Germany in the 80’s, Jil Sander was my first big hero; I just love the minimal, stripped back yet functional designs with a great emphasis on quality of make and materials.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I take inspiration from vintage fashion clothing – usually from designers that have been known for their sporty approach – having been inspired by authentic activewear. Whilst designing for Calvin Klein we would often reinterpret activewear for the runway, using materials that would be dry-cleanable only. I always wished that there was real performance wear looking like the pieces we designed back then. When Phoebe Philo came out with one of her most memorable and celebrated collections for Céline in 2011, which was a total homage to the look of activewear, I decided that it was time for me to found Monreal.
Sports itself is, of course, one of the biggest inspirations. When exercising or playing tennis, I always notice things about my sports clothing that I would like to see changed or improved to feel better, look better, and perform better. I test-wear all of our product myself to make sure it meets all requirements.
What are your favourite pieces from the latest collection?
I love the Hi-Tech Seamless bra and leggings set in the poppy flower jacquard. The graphic floral motif is derived from a vintage scarf I found when visiting Oslo during Midsummer; when all the flowers there were in bloom. It was very striking. I like how the motif is feminine yet graphic, strong and sporty.
What has been your proudest moment since the brand launched in 2012?
Having the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, wear Monreal was very special. The Duchess of Cambridge (patron of the British Lawn Tennis Association) is such a style icon that it was extremely flattering to see her sporting our Tuxedo Track Pants to several public occasions. We were caught by surprise and later told that she had made the purchase herself from one of our exclusive London stockists, Wigmore Sports.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned along the way?
As a ‘visionnaire’ one should always follow a gut instinct, even if nobody else gets it at the time. I much prefer being a pioneer than a copy-cat. I’ve certainly learned that team personnel makes a huge difference and hiring the right staff with expertise, drive and compassion speaks volumes. Nobody can do it all alone. Without the right team one will not succeed.
What are your favourite ways to stay fit and healthy?
I try to take gym classes twice per week for a general cardio workout, usually taking spin or HIIT classes in the morning. On the weekends, I do pilates or yoga and try to fit in a game of tennis, which I don’t always manage to do, especially when I travel. When on the road, I usually take a resistance band, which is lightweight and does not take up a lot of space.
A balanced, healthy life-long diet is key to staying in good physical shape. Personally, I try not to eat too many carbs as they make me feel tired. I love healthy, clean foods and Japanese is my favourite cuisine. However, I don’t feel guilty at all when eating a burger and fries occasionally. Everything in moderation!
What does a day on your plate look like?
I try to eat as healthy and balanced as possible, lots of vegetables, fish and fruit. In the morning I’ll have avocado on toast for breakfast, sprinkled with some Chia Seeds and for lunch, salad with grilled chicken or tuna. If I feel like having a mid-afternoon snack, my go-to is wholegrain oatcakes and a handful of almonds or berries. For dinner I like to keep it light and opt for grilled salmon, red quinoa and fresh spinach, followed by a piece of fruit.
As we know, water is also super important and with a busy workday, it’s sometimes hard to keep hydrated. To make sure I’m always drinking, I usually carry my Monreal water bottle around with me and try to drink around 1.5-2 litres of water throughout the day.
This week we’re focusing on energy levels during seasonal changes, do you have any rituals in the morning to wake up feeling more energised?
I like to get up an hour earlier and workout before starting my day. I find this gives me more stamina throughout the day. I usually make myself a hot tea post-workout. To maintain my energy throughout the day, my tip is to just move as much as possible; take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk up escalators, walk instead of taking the bus, take time to get up from your desk, etc. I think people underestimate the impact of all these steps adding up to improve your overall health and energy.
How do you wind down at the end of a long day?
During the week, I’m constantly on the go. I like to wind down by watching a great old movie, having a glass of wine with a friend or a long bath complete with candles and Brazilian carioca playing in the background. And an occasional sports massage in the evening is the perfect recipe to relax and shake off stress. Building a business from scratch is a marathon not a sprint. Finding ways to recharge your batteries is extremely important.
Shop the collection now at our Bodyism x Monreal Pop Up at Bodyism Flagship Club in Notting Hill.