HOW DID ONE HUMBLE AND DEDICATED BRISBANE MOTHER TURN 50CM OF FLUORO YELLOW LYCRA INTO AN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS AT THE FOREFRONT OF ITS INDUSTRY? WITH HARD WORK, BLOOD/SWEAT/TEARS, BACKFLIPS AND SOME SWAROVSKI CRYSTALS – THAT’S HOW.
If you have a young daughter and she’s into gymnastics, chances are you’ll have personally contributed to the inspiring and uplifting story that belongs to Brisbane local and leotard queen, Sylvia Pichler of Sylvia P Sportswear. Let’s rewind the tape back to 1992 when Sylvia and husband Anton made the huge decision to move their young family from their homeland in Austria, across the world to Australia. At the time, the Pichlers’ youngest treating Thomas suggested his condition would improve in warmer weather. Sylvia and Anton pretty much threw a dart at a map and Brisbane was the lucky target – Redland City to be exact. While it was a somewhat random decision to move themselves, Thomas and his older sisters Daniela and Sandra to Australia, this country would prove to be the land of opportunity. And it all started with one homemade gymnastics leotard for Sylvia’s middle, Sandra. ballet-style leotards - so I decided to make them myself,” Sylvia recalls. Gravatt. I borrowed an overlocker and zigzag sewing machine from the real estate agent who sold us our house and pieced it together in our living room.” Sandra’s fellow tween-aged gymnastics friends thought the leo was pretty cool and soon Sandra was the trendiest gymnast at training. It was not long before the other girls started asking Sylvia to make them some leotards too. at the then Chandler Comets Gymnastics Club,” Sylvia recalls. “Following that, I was asked to make the gymnastics club’s uniform.” But don’t think this devoted mum was any kind of expert machinist at the time. Sylvia’s career to that point had seen her working as a nanny and even a taxi driver in Austria! She took night dressmaking courses to hone her sewing and pattern-making skills. “I had no business background before starting Sylvia P Sportswear,” Sylvia admits. Just like most start-ups, the company began in the family home in Cleveland. quickly out grew. They moved to their current larger premises in Capalaba in 2012. When asked what Sylvia’s one big break was, she says there was not one. “It’s all come about through hard work, persistence and striving to be better,” she says. “We believe that creating innovative designs of premium quality can empower our customers to achieve their goals, whoever they are and whatever they pursue. The label is dedicated to creating products that respond as our customers’ physical pursuits demand and give them Interestingly, as Sylvia P Sportswear started to make its mark on the gymnastics fashion scene, so too were Sylvia’s children making their own mark on the same sport. Sandra was a state representative in both artistic gymnastics and later in rhythmic gymnastics. Thomas was an Australian winning two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. Sandra and Daniela were also gymnastics coaches. comfort of the garments,” Sylvia explains. “If my kids weren’t comfortable wearing Sylvia P garments then others wouldn’t be either.” Fast forward to today and Sylvia P Sportswear is a leader in the design and manufacture of gymnastics garments for women’s artistic, men’s artistic, majority of Australia’s gymnastics clubs. With stockists of their practice wear throughout the country, they also have distributors in the USA, Japan and Europe. The range has also been extended in recent years to include activewear, dancewear and even men’s and women’s weightlifting suits. Customised Sylvia P garments, with the gymnast’s name written in tiny Swarovski crystals or their club logo featured via sublimation printing technology, for example, are also hot property among cartwheeling kids. look great, Sylvia says the most rewarding part of the whole story “has been seeing the business turn into a family business with all of my children now part of it”. injection of the next generation,” she says. “With my children taking on with design and marketing personnel helping to improve the face and structure of the business. I have been able to focus on my strength in back-