Katia Santilli

Katia Santilli

Co-Founder / Nimble Activewear

Business Owner

Could your bestie be your business partner? Can you see yourselves growing a $3 million dollar plus business and making your mark on the global athleisure scene? You’ve got to dream big right? Dreaming is one thing, but doing and perseverating is where the good stuff lies. Katia Santilli has worked at Burberry. Now, I could just stop here and let you marinate in that fact, that Katia left uni, flew to London and got a job at Burberry, but… that’s just the start of this story.

In this second installment from the Nimble Activewear girls, we chat to Co-Founder Katia on life growing up in Melbourne, and what’s it’s like to start a biz with your bestie.

If you have aspirations to build a fashion brand, show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, own a booming e-comm store and even a physical store in Bondi, then this #careerstory is for you.  Actually, today is for everyone, because we all need to understand that dreams do come true.

Make yours happen now.

Let’s dive in.

Hi Katia, thank you for joining us at The Cool Career. Let’s go back to your childhood, where did you grow up?

I grew up in Melbourne and my parents always taught me to follow your dreams and with hard work you can excel in any field you want to pursue. My parents have really helped shape my work ethic. My mum is always on the go, can’t sit still and is such a hard worker. While my dad who has founded many successful businesses has taught me strong business acumen and to this day mentors me in business.

Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?

I went to MLC in Melbourne and I absolutely loved it. It was such a great school as it catered for so many needs. I had more of a creative side, therefore, pursued electives such as fashion, graphics & photography. I also met my best friend Vera in high school who has now become my business partner & the other founder of Nimble Activewear.

Katia and Vera on the runway at MBFW.

Ahhh, so that’s how Vera and yourself met. All the way back at High School, so cool. Did you like high school?

I was always very headstrong and knew what I wanted to do after high school. My passion for fashion led me to pursue a career in it. Methodist Ladies College assisted in allowing me to explore my creative side, but ultimately it was my desire for the industry that lead me to a career in it.

Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.

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 6-month position. All successful applicants were put forward for interviews and I was the successful candidate in the process. However, there was a 2-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 worthwhile in the end as I was offered a full-time position in the company after the maternity cover role was completed.  

Nimble Active Wear as worn by Casey Marnard from BUF Girls.

Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?

I completed a degree in Fashion and Textiles Merchandising at RMIT in Melbourne. 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 learned about pattern making and fabric construction, but it also taught us merchandise planning, buying, and marketing.


Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights.

I have a fashion and sportswear background. I was responsible for the women’s fitness business at Puma Australia and after that, I worked in London managing the women’s outwear business at Burberry for the global market. Working for Burberry was such a highlight in my career and of course starting my own business!

That’s awesome Katia, working for Burberry sounds incredible. What a highlight. How did you get the job that you are in now?

I moved to Sydney after being in London for a few years – 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.

Well, as a massive fan of Nimble Activewear, I can seriously say that you do tick the long-lasting box. Your tights are so good. What is the hardest part of your current job owning your own business?

Learning to switch off and managing cash flow!

SS17 – Launched at MBFW.

SS17 Nimble Launch at MBFW

What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current job?

I wake up anywhere between 5.45am & 6.45am depending what form of exercise I am doing. I find working out in the mornings is much better with my daily schedule as I can get caught up in the office in the evenings.

I either do a hot and sweaty vinyasa flow class or I love a HIT workout at Agoga in Bondi. I usually get into the office around 8 / 8.30am. I go through all my emails and set my tasks I need to complete for the day. Each day changes with what lies ahead for me which can include; local factory visits or Skype calls with

I usually get into the office around 8 / 8.30am. I go through all my emails and set my tasks I need to complete for the day. Each day changes with what lies ahead for me which can include; local factory visits or Skype calls with

Each day changes with what lies ahead for me which can include; local factory visits or Skype calls with our on the ground production team in Asia, meetings, designing new collections, range planning, sales and stock forecasting, developments and managing orders with our factories.

Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?

My grandmother Claudia. She migrated from Italy to Australia in the early 60’s and managed her own fashion businesses up until the early 90’s.

She owned a women’s retail store in the Royal Arcade in Melbourne CBD where she would sell shoes and bags she had imported from Italy. Growing up she always taught me the value of a career and work.

Sadly, she passed away a few months before I started Nimble Activewear – I know she would be so proud of all my achievements.

What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?

Don’t let the fear of failure get in your way. In a book, I just recently read they talked about the fear of failure has killed more dreams than failure itself. You have to follow your dreams, give things a go, and let your failures lead to learnings.

And remember to be very persistent – work hard and stick with it as nothing worth doing comes easy!

List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?

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