Katia Santilli, 30, is the other half to women’s activewear brand, Nimble. Katia always had a passion for fashion, but she never expected to launch her own clothing line with bestie, Vera Yan. Katia was headed for a promotion at Burberry when she decided to give it up and go all-in on her own brand. Katia chats to us about landing her first gig at Puma and working her way up in the industry.
I’ve always had a creative side but did not want to pursue a straight fashion design degree. Fashion Merchandising at RMIT covered many of the business aspects of the industry, which really appealed to me. It did have a very practical element where we learnt pattern making and fabric construction, but it also taught us merchandising planning, buying and marketing.
I did not intern before I started my career but I was lucky that Puma approached my course at RMIT looking for a maternity cover for a six-month position. All successful applicants were put forward for interviews, and I was the successful candidate in the process. However, there was a two-month overlap with finishing my degree and starting work at Puma. Juggling both exams and final year projects along with a new job was a challenge but very worth while in the end as I was offered a full time position in the company after the maternity cover roll was completed.
In the early days of my career, I never saw myself launching my own brand. I have always loved working in this industry and when I was working in London for Burberry I was very focused on growing my career over there. It was not until I needed to come back to Australia for a few months while I was finalising my EU passport that the idea for Nimble Activewear started brewing.
Vera and I moved in together and really encouraged and motivated each other to lead a healthier and more active life. We followed our passion and instinct and founded Nimble Activewear on the belief that leading an active and healthy life should be neither complicated nor expensive. Our pieces are just one part of the journey to a healthier being and have been designed to empower women to get moving and get active in technical, long-lasting activewear that looks great and doesn’t break the bank.
I think a lot of people that go out and do their own thing sacrifice a lot especially in the early days. I was at a great stage in my career where I was on my way to another promotion at Burberry. It was a hard decision to walk away from this opportunity and start on my own business. However, I am really grateful I have got to do this with my best friend and we have both supported each other along the way. You also learn the importance of balance and taking a minute to stop and look back at how far you have come – that is the greatest feeling and achievement.
I have absolutely no regrets. I’m really glad I started off working for someone else as I learnt really valuable information and skills that I have taken with me while running Nimble Activewear. When I worked for Puma and Burberry I had fantastic bosses that mentored and supported me through my career. I think these are skills I would not have learnt if I dove straight into starting my own business fresh out of uni.
This is my dream job. I get to create something that is being recognised and worn by people around the world – I still pinch myself when I’m walking down the street and I see someone wearing Nimble Activewear. If you want to get into the industry, I encourage you to be persistent, work hard and don’t give up on your dreams.
Don’t forget to read Katia’s business partner, Vera’s journey here!