Alicia de Lange: Meet the Woman Who Started a Sustainable Activewear Brand During Lockdown

Harleco Active Wear - Started in the pandemic by Alicia de Lange and made with ecological responsibility. www.harleco.co.uk - Small business magazine YBKBS.online
Harleco Active Wear - Started in the pandemic by Alicia de Lange and made with ecological responsibility. www.harleco.co.uk

One of the best things about this job is that I get to talk to fascinating people doing cool things in the small business world, and learn all about their projects and processes.

Earlier this week, I sat down (via Zoom) with Alicia de Lange, the founder of Harleco Activewear, to learn more about her business journey and the world of sustainable clothing. 

Alicia de Lange entrepreneur and owner of Harleco Activewear, a sustainable company. YBKBS Small Business Magazine
Alicia is the face behind the brand Harleco Active. Sh describes herself as, "...a typical busy mum of a toddler by day and scheming entrepreneur in the evenings."

Alicia, who is based in Bicester, Oxfordshire, is a figure-skating coach. “My mum was a coach, too, so I was on the ice before I could walk!” she laughs. She started her career as a beauty therapist but has now been teaching skating to children for around 6 years. It was this experience that led her to come up with the idea for Harleco Activewear, which launched in December 2020. 

“I always liked wearing things that were a bit different to what everyone else had”

“Naturally, what people wear while they’re skating is quite a big part of the sport,” she explains. “When I was skating I always liked wearing things that were a bit different to what everyone else had. I realised I could design much more suitable and functional sportswear, and so I decided to set up my own brand.” Though skating inspired the line, Harleco products are designed to be worn for any kind of physical activity from running to yoga. “I want to encourage people to feel confident and comfortable enough to get out and be active,” Alicia says. 

Due to COVID-19, Alicia has been unable to teach her skating classes for much of the last year. She launched some off-ice stretch and fitness classes for her students via Zoom, but still found herself with a lot of extra time on her hands. She used that time to research, develop, and launch Harleco. 

Alicia quickly realised that making the entire brand eco-conscious and sustainable was tremendously important. As a result, she has conducted countless hours of research to find the most sustainable fabrics and manufacturing processes. Harleco products are made of ECONYL®, a form of nylon sourced in Italy that is made from recycled plastics taken from the sea, including old fishing nets. The products are manufactured at a small facility in Newcastle. Even Harleco’s packaging materials are environmentally friendly, and Alicia is currently looking into recyclable postage labels.

“I could start a brand without trying to be eco”

“The more you learn, the more your eyes are opened,” she says. Response to the brand’s sustainability ethos has been extremely positive, as people are becoming more and more aware of the ways in which consumer culture and fast fashion is damaging the planet. “As I learned more, I realised there was no way I could start a brand without trying to be eco,” she adds.

Start up Harleco Active Wear - A male model wears the design, 'The Mango One' www.harleco.co.uk for YBKBS Small Business Magazine
Harleco Active Wear - A male model wears the design, 'The Mango One' www.harleco.co.uk
This is the 'Burgundy One' from Harleco Active Wear - made with ecological responsibility. www.harleco.co.uk - Small business magazine YBKBS.online
This is the 'Burgundy One' from Harleco Active Wear - made with ecological responsibility. www.harleco.co.uk

“I believe in being open, honest, and transparent about where the products are coming from and how they’re being made.” 

A Little Advice

I asked Alicia what her advice would be to anyone who is thinking about starting a business, whether during the pandemic or at any other time. “Taking the time to research is really important!” she said. She also cited communication with everyone involved as critical to success. 

“Other than that, take the leap and go for it! You’ll never feel completely ready, but it’s a process and you can learn as you go.” She also noted that the whole process took far longer than she expected, and cautions new business owners not to expect things to happen overnight! 

After The ‘Storm’

Following the pandemic, Alicia intends to go back to coaching part-time and spend the rest of her time running the business, eventually taking on a small team to help run things day to day. 

The Harleco Activewear line is growing and Alicia will soon be adding leggings, sports bras, sweatshirts, and more to the online shop. Harleco ships globally and has already attracted fans in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and India as well as here in the UK. 

You can keep up with Harleco on Instagram or shop the range at Harleco.co.uk.

Harleco Active Wear - A dress dummy wearsing a new design www.harleco.co.uk Photo: Alicia de Lange

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Jess Amy Dixon is a freelance journalist, writer, editor, and social media manager based in the East Midlands. She helps clients grow their businesses via the written word, whether that’s through marketing copy, blog content, or social media posts. She’s also working on her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Winchester, and has won prizes for short fiction.