The Upside's Jodhi Meares On Starting Her Booming Activewear Business

The lessons, the challenges, the inspiration.

jodhi meares the upside

Jodhi Meares is the founder of THE UPSIDE, the stylish sportswear label glued to every active girl’s lips (and bust and hips and thighs—literally!). Making waves on both a national and global scale, the Australian brand is best known for their statement prints, sleek leggings, signature tanks and that logo, alongside their fit and fab aesthetic which speaks to the everyday woman aspiring to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Whilst we’re tempted to name every single item on our wishlist, what we want to do here, however, is find out more about the brains behind the biz—the moment when Jodhi saw an opportunity in the booming market that was, and still is, athleisure—touch on the triumphs, the setbacks, the lessons, the inspiration, how she personally encompasses THE UPSIDE ethos and what advice she has for anyone wanting to start their own label, from someone who’s done it so damn well.

Let’s start from the beginning. What inspired you to launch THE UPSIDE?

I was living between Hawaii and New York at the time. I was deepening my yoga practice and I could see this huge movement in the wellness space happening. I knew the space needed something as fashion-forward as it was functional and so I began THE UPSIDE.

Did you have a clear business plan/strategy or did it happen in another, more unplanned way?

I had a very clear vision for the brand from conception. In business, you need to be agile and jump on opportunities as they unfold and progress but the vision was clear from day one and hasn’t altered.

Did you seek any assistance/support from anyone in any way?

I am fortunate enough to have many people that I look up to in business and have been lucky to have support and great advice from my mentors.

the upside jodhi meares
Image: @the_upside

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Just because your paranoid doesn’t mean your being followed. Always listen to your intuition.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced in the early days?

Getting the right team together without question. I am endlessly grateful to the team that are helping me grow this business.

What would you say has been the key to success in creating THE UPSIDE?

A strong vision and a strong team. Every success we have had has been through those two things.

What is the meaning behind the brand’s name, THE UPSIDE and were there any other names you were contemplating?

It was very hard to find a name that I could actually get. People make a career on registering and owning names. It was D-day and we were about to launch and I was reading Jack Kerouac’s book, The Dharma Bums, and he used it in a sentence and it jumped off the page at me.

What advice do you have for anyone who’s wanting to start their own activewear line?

When starting anything, you have to believe in what you are doing 100% because business is difficult no matter what industry you are in. You are going to have plenty of sleepless nights so you had better love what you are doing.

jodhi meares the upside
Image: @the_upside

What is one thing you didn’t realise until starting your own business?

I definitely didn’t realise how much problem solving there is. Business is a series of problem-solving.

There are a tonne of activewear brands out there all attempting to bridge the gap between gym and street. In your opinion, what differentiates THE UPSIDE?

There are many labels using this old language however I am not sure how many of them are actually achieving it. I believe that we are in the most fashionable way possible.

You donate a percentage of your sales to charity. How did you choose what charity you donate to and why is this important to you?

I was looking for a charity to get involved with and I wanted it to be helpful to children. I reach out to Charlie Teo and he told me about the incredible work that Tara Winkler was doing to improve the lives of some of the world’s most impoverished children. I was deeply moved by her story and the incredible work that she is doing to not only change the lives of children in Cambodia but also the way that the world sees orphanages and impoverished communities.

jodhi meares the upside
Image: THE UPSIDE

Tell us about your new spring collection. What can we expect to see and what was the inspiration behind it?

THE UPSIDE and myself personally are big fans of the outdoors and nature as a way to inspire us to stay healthy and fit. We were looking at references from 1970’s high school summer camps to serious hikers and mountaineres. We looked at the idea of fully immersing yourself in nature and how that might look and feel. Yellowstone [national] park was a huge inspiration to us so you will see lots of animal prints–deers, wolfs, cranes. Layered through the collection there is also a definite nod to the 70s with retro colour blocking in sweats, jackets and legwear.

Where else do you generally look for inspiration? Do you draw from trend forecasts?

I purposely steer clear from trend forecasts because I feel like a lot of the mass brands are all looking at that and there for all start to look the same. At THE UPSIDE, as creative director, I am constantly inspiring my design team to think for themselves. We are creating something truly unique here. Anything could inspire me from film to architecture, nature is a huge source of inspiration to me. I’ll get obsessed with certain countries at different times which will lead to huge amounts of inspiration.

How many staff do you have in total?

We employ 30 people.

jodhi meares
Image: @jodhimeares

What has been your ultimate best-seller product?

People have loved our muscle tank since day one. It’s a huge compliment to us that they want to wear our logo! And of course, our legwear which makes up the majority of our sales.

How many stores do you have?

Three.

Is it just you or do you have partners?

I do have a business partner.

Do you still split your time between NYC and Hawaii? In your opinion, how does the fitness/activewear scene differ between them and even more so compared to Australia?

I spend as much time as I can in Hawaii and New York however since starting THE UPSIDE I am spending a lot more time back in Sydney which has been great. Because of climate and lifestyle, what people need in their fitness wardrobe changes dramatically from New York to Hawaii or Australia however the aesthetic of THE UPSIDE works globally.
We have incredible retail partners through Europe, America, Asia and of course Australia. The girl that buys THE UPSIDE lives all over the world. Her needs for what she is doing to stay fit might change but her aesthetic is the same.

jodhi meares
Image: @jodhimeares

What does your workout regime currently look like?

I’m a yogi. I love hiking and paddle boarding when I can.

What styling advice do you have for those going from gym to street?

We have an area of our collection that we call recovery and it is designed for precisely that. If you have been at the gym or to yoga the chances are you have worked up a sweat and are wanting to get changed before heading out. This inspired us to create stylish yet super comfortable pieces to fulfil that need.

How would you describe your own personal style?

Part 60s beatnik, part rock ‘n’ roll, part bohemian hippy.

Where do you personally sit on the work/life balance scale?

I’m not sure about all this work-life balance. There is no such thing as a little bit of work. With that said I believe it is really important to plan breaks throughout the year so that when you need some serious downtime you have them booked in advance.

Do you have a specific morning routine you follow?

I head to my local coffee shop, grab a coffee and take my dog for a big walk.  

What are your top 3 priorities in life?

My family, my business and peace.
In celebration of Mardi Gras, THE UPSIDE has launched a limited edition Rainbow Dance Collection. For every tank sold before March 2, THE UPSIDE will be donating $10 to Australia’s longest standing LGBTIQA+ youth charity, Twenty10.
Visit www.theupsidesport.com to shop the range!

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