I was first introduced to BoomBoom Athletica and its founder Ann Johansson when she launched her new BBA collection in Boxpark earlier this year. That was when I fell in love with BBA’s luxe, effotless style. That day I also had the chance to talk with Ann and my mouth actually fell open when I heard she was a long distance runner – her designs reflect her desire to have fashionable sportswear which lasts. Since then I have bought some BBA pieces including my first ever compression leggings (which I love) and not really looked back.
When Ann agreed to an interview I was over the moon because this interview is all about fashion and running and I hope you all enjoy!
I love the BoomBoom Athletica aesthetic – beautiful designs and luxurious fabrics all help to create contemporary and luxurious workout wear. What made you decide to launch your own activewear collection?
Thank you, I decided to launch my own as I struggled to find high performance garments that looked good and had that bit of extra style element to them. Training for ultra marathons and spending endless hours in workout gear and pounding the payment gave me ample time to think through what I wanted to wear and how I wanted it to feel and look.
I want each piece to earn a place in someone’s wardrobe. I work hard to achieve that by sourcing technical fabrics that help you get the best from your workout, withstand the rigours of repeated washing, utilised in a style and silhouette looks good regardless of the angle you end up in.
Your collection has a very timeless feel to it and each piece is full of technical details – I love your 26.2 compression leggings because of this. Was it always a priority to create something that is both fashionable and technical?
Absolutely, I think the two belong together; everyday pieces should make you feel good, it should be a joy to wear them. Exercising can be such as social event, so you want to be able to bring your personal style to the class and feel great wearing it. You also want your kit to fit well so that you never have to think about your clothes when you exercise. I wanted the first collection to be a foundation of core garments that would earn its place in someone’s wardrobe. Also, feeling good about what you’re wearing adds its own energy to a workout.
You are an ultra-marathon runner and have run some of the world’s toughest races. How did you get into ultra-marathon running and what was your first ever race at that distance like?
I had been running marathons for a few years prior to the ultra-marathon, and frankly, when my trainer suggested it, I thought he was crazy. My biggest concern with the ultra-marathon beyond the fact my legs might not carry me, was the nutrition and hydration elements that have to be taken into account for the distance. My first ever run at the 90km distance was a night run from London to Brighton about a month before the real race. During the training run almost everything that could go wrong did. We started off at night, and within a few minutes of running we managed to get lost, followed by 40km later bumping in to each other in the darkest night, to dodgy stomachs, bad backs, feet hurting, knee pains creeping up, to running out of fuel… and that was just half the distance covered, we still had another 45km to go .. While that was not an official race, I look back at that training run as the most epic run I have done.
For the first ultra marathon race – I was a nervous wreck. I doubted my readiness and preparation, would my body break down, how would I handle the heat? What if I hit the famous ‘wall’ with only a few kilometres to go, what if an old injury or a new injury appeared, what if my stomach act up, what if I ran to slow and not make the cut off??? In other words I was petrified.. During the preparation of the race I had come a cross a few great articles, one was about dividing the race into 3 sections to get to grips with the distance and to manage expectations for each section. I also read about some emotional tributes to the race itself and the overwhelming support that runners and the community give each other during the event, which allowed me to look forward to participate and enjoy. The actual race was unbelievable; the overwhelming support from participants and the community made it an unforgettable journey. Crossing the finish line knowing I made it was an amazing feeling, until I realized I could hardly walk another step, but at this stage it did not matter. I officially finished and the amazing stiffness that took over my body for the next few days were only a reminder of what I had accomplished. Although at that time it felt like I was running a marathon at glacial pace. I was literally and figuratively breathless.
I have been looking at running an ultra-marathon for a while now and think I can mentally and physically handle the challenge. Do you have any tip tips for me and other runners wanting to run these distances?
Any new long distance, being a half marathon, marathon or ultra, I recommend finding a running partner or joining a club. I found it is always a lot easier when you have someone to train with that share your same goal. Having a training partner gives you accountability to show up when life could easily distract and take over. Training for an ultra-marathon can be a bit lonely and when distance creeps up it is nice to share your pain, your good and bad training runs and war stories with other runners.… I was nervous running my first one, and having friends who went through the training at the same time really helped with the preparation, and the actual race.
- Follow a training program and try to stick to it. Life always comes up, so be prepared to be flexible, and still maintain consistency in your training.
- Training for a longer distance can increase the chance of injury, so please incorporate stretch and strength into your cross-training to make sure your body is strong and flexible. Listen to your body, any niggles or pains, and take care of them, do not ignore them. You do not want an injury to flare up because you did not take care or it earlier.
- Finding the right fuel for you is important. I recommend experiment with your running nutrition until you find something that works for you
- Find the kit that works for you. Important to have good running shoes, and kit, you want to feel comfortable, breathable, and nice to wear.
- Log your progress. It is helpful to be able to see how far and fast you ran, what the conditions were and your training history. This gives you freedom to analyse future runs or your current one
- On race day you should not try anything new.. no new shoes, kit, or food. Try to stick to what you have trained on, you do not want your stomach to feel off because you tried something new on your first 10km that will affect you for the rest of your race, you do not want a pair of new trainers the day off that you have never run in and you want your clothes to be the items you have tested on a long run. There are enough variables that can happen on race day for you to mix in additional ones you can control.
BoomBoom Athletica is going from strength to strength. What are your short-term and long-term plans?
Following the strong reception of our initial core line, we have been adding new products such as the Boom Bra and Elite Tank in blue and pink. We are launching a luxuriously long hoodie in September. Looking further ahead, we are super excited about the 22 new garments we are sampling for early 2016.
On distribution, we are seeking to work with stockists around UK, so we can have our customers touch and feel the clothes before purchasing.
As a growing business in London what have been your main challenges?
I think we are fortunate to be based in London because we have access to a lot of talent. The more challenging part is we operate across countries and continents so we are constantly dealing with time zone, currency and cultural differences which can be both exciting and challenging.
I was first introduced to BoomBoom Athletica through twitter. How useful has social media been for you as a form of word of mouth?
Social media is exceptional useful form of word of mouth. Our customers have an international mindset, they like working out and staying healthy. They have a demanding career and lifestyle and like to keep themselves on top of the latest. These customers tend to use social media to find information they are looking for.
I am really looking forward to seeing what your future collections will feature. Can you give us any hints on what we can expect?
We are releasing a few more products this fall that will compliment the current core collection, followed by a wider range in the spring 2016 to allow for all kinds of moods and exercise. The latest product will be our longer hoody, that is designed to be a comfortable but streamlined so not to create any bulk in a gorgeous fabric. We are also trying to make it easier for our customers to try our product so we are introducing in September free shipping and returns.
Huge thanks to Ann for this! I can’t wait to see this longer hoody she mentioned and as someone who buys BBA clothes I can definitely attest to the amazing fabric they use. The whole fitness and fashion scene has changed to much in the last few years and BBA is one of the brands adding a little more excitement to the whole thing.