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24 Hours With: Emily Oberg of Sporty & Rich

24 Hours With: Emily Oberg of Sporty & Rich

Emily Oberg, the founder of cult LA athleisure brand Sporty & Rich, has amassed a legion of die-hard Instagram fans, turning her vintage-inspired magazine Sporty & Rich Wellness Club into a sell-out fashion brand that has revolutionised the way women (and men) dress in their downtime. 

Inspired by style icons of the past, she’s paved the way for the emergence of ‘90s sportswear chic, transforming our wardrobes with cool and comfy threads that are just as at home on the sofa as they are on the streets. From her health-inspired slogans to her vintage fits, she's managed to create truly androgynous pieces that have become staples in our newly dressed-down wardrobes.

To celebrate the launch of Sporty & Rich at FLANNELS, Oberg took us through a day in her lockdown life in L.A.. From what good health really means to the long-time appeal of old-school tennis attire and where she gets her all-important inspiration from, this is a day in the life of Emily Oberg.

The first thing I do when I wake up... to brush my teeth and scrape my tongue. When you sleep your body detoxifies, so there’s lots of toxins that come out. I think it’s really important to get rid of those toxins. And then I’ll drink. I usually drink three litres of water per day, so I’ll drink one first thing in the morning to get it out of the way - it’s good to get your system going. I’ll stretch for a bit – a quick yoga session – and then I’ll check my emails. I start work pretty early as my team is in Paris.

I’m a morning person.

I’ll get up at usually six or seven, and then I go to bed pretty early too, around nine or 10 at the latest. I like to be productive with work and build the business more and more. And my health is really big focus for me. I’m always trying to improve my health and just feel good in general. I feel like I have a pretty simple life… being happy is my priority.

Good health starts with…

... an overall consciousness of your body and mind and emotional wellbeing. Just getting connected with knowing how your body is feeling and just being aware of everything that’s going on. I feel like so many people are unaware and they’re just going through life: working and doing all these things but not really checking in with themselves.

I try not to be inspired by people.

Just because I feel like when you have people who you want to emulate or want to be like, you don’t see what makes you happy and you need to find what works for you. It’s easy, especially being on Instagram, seeing other people doing things and sometimes thinking you need to do what they’re doing or be as successful as them or be on their timeline. When I start to feel that way, I know it’s time to take a break and live in my bubble and focus on myself.

I use Instagram to post and for work and to talk to my friends.

But I don’t really scroll and research and look through it. I find most of my images on Pinterest or Tumblr or books, and I buy lots of old magazines. I watch lots of films and go to museums and libraries. I try to find inspiration outside of Instagram because I feel like when everyone is inspired by the same things, which I feel like is happening a lot, their work comes out looking the same. So I try to find as many original and unused references as I can, because I don’t want what we do to look like what anyone else is doing.

I really love ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s French Luis magazine.

I buy a lot of ‘80s French Elle. Italian Vogue is really good from the ‘80s and ‘90s. I read lots of interior furniture books and there’s a lot of good Vogue beauty books from the ‘90s that I have. The last thing I searched on Pinterest was Robert Redford and Studio 54 - he’s got such good style.

I like to take breaks.

I can’t just work straight throughout the day - I need to break it up. I find it easier to stay focused and be productive that way, so I’ll do a proper workout. I do Pilates two or three times a week. I play tennis twice a week and I go for a walk every day.

I started playing tennis three years ago.

I play each week with a coach and I really love it. Now, we’re working on a tennis collection, which is fun as it’s something I’m passionate about. For Pilates or a walk, I’ll wear leggings and a sports bra or t-shirt, and then for tennis, I’ll do a pleated skirt and a sports bra. I like to have a tennis outfit. I love tennis dressing.

Bjorn Borg is a really big inspiration for style.

Obviously Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf had great style in the ‘90s. I feel like today it’s become a little too technical. The style back then was so much better: there were tennis bracelets and gold necklaces on the court. That Sporty & Rich vintage look is so part of that tennis look of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and I feel like the European players had better style. I personally think that they looked a bit cooler.

Europeans just have a sense of culture and class and elegance.

It’s much, much older than America so it’s natural that it would be that way, but I think the overall sensibilities of Europeans is a bit different. It’s more refined in a way - not to say that all Americans have bad style, but in general, Europeans just make it more of a priority. I definitely appreciate that kind of elegance and simplicity. If you go to Italy in the summer, the way old Italian men are dressed, I think it’s the best thing ever. I think Americans do the sportswear thing well, but I think Europeans do luxury better. I think the mix of both is Sporty & Rich.

I’m really simple and I feel like I never put that much effort into what I wear.

I think I should more. But usually just vintage Levi’s, a white t-shirt or knitwear. In L.A., no one dresses up. That’s what I kind of like about living in Paris half the time, is people do dress up and you make more of an effort. In Paris, I definitely wear more trousers and blazers and coats and heels and boots. L.A. is more easy dressing and then Europe for me is more sophisticated.

I want women to feel like themselves and feel comfortable and confident.

And like they’re spreading a positive message with each piece that they wear because I really tried to include positive messaging. I feel like when people wear, or even see people wearing, the ‘Be Nice’ jumper it just makes them smile and makes them feel good.

The best part of doing this is having freedom and not answering to anyone and just creating your own world.

I could never go back to working for someone again – I think I’ll do this forever.

Right now, I’m working on spring/summer 22.

I’m so lucky that David [Obadia] is my CEO. He handles all the business side of things, so buying, wholesale, budgets – the backbone of the company and the website. I’m able to focus on the creative stuff. I’m usually designing the collections a year in advance. I work a lot on marketing. I work with our PR agency. I do all of our campaigns like producing, directing, casting, styling and supporting all of that. We have a lot of campaigns, so that’s a lot of work. Then also developing new products, so a lot of sampling, a lot of doing research on pieces that we should add to the line, lots of colour planning. So mostly everything creative which is really nice because I don’t like the logistic side of things. I’m way happier just working on this stuff. I’m so lucky that I have a team that lets me do that.

Olivia Dean and Knucks wear Gucci
Olivia Dean and Knucks wear Gucci

I really love the time around sunset.

The golden hour when I’m just driving in my car and going for a walk, and the weather’s nice and the day is kind of over and everything’s just calm. It’s a really nice feeling. I always feel so lucky to be doing what I’m doing and living where I am.

I’m always playing music in my house and in my car and when I’m working out and playing tennis.

It changes but I don’t really listen to that much new music. I just find so much better music from the past. I’ve been really liking a lot of disco. I always listen to jazz. I love Brazilian music.

Songs to dance, drive and work to

On an evening, I usually try to have dinner with friends.

Either I’ll have people over and cook or go out. I love cooking. I’m always cooking and always looking for new recipes. I love making all different kinds of salads, I make a lot of pasta and a lot of soups. I love Asian food – I’m half Asian so I grew up eating a lot of Asian food and still love it. I also like to bake because I love sweets. It’s my one guilty pleasure: cupcakes, cake, bread, desserts… anything like that.

Olivia Dean and Knucks wear Gucci
Olivia Dean and Knucks wear Gucci

I really like documentaries.

I just watched the Studio 54 documentary on Netflix, I love the Fran Lebowitz Pretend It’s A City and I like Succession… but I’m not really into sitcoms or stuff like that.

The last book I read is called Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Hsieh, who is the Zappos founder.

It’s about building a community and fostering a good team and making sure your team is happy and delivering really good customer service, and just creating a positive brand message and community for people both on your team and for the outside world.

On my bedside table I have my books.

I also have three face massage tools because I massage my face every morning and every night for 10/20 minutes. I have a marble gua sha tool and a roller, which is really nice. I have body cream, hand cream and then, always, water.

I try to meditate every day.

Sometimes it’s hard if you’re busy or not in the mood to sit there for 20 minutes and do nothing. My mantras are just do whatever makes you happy and don’t spend time doing what doesn’t.